Archive for Process Theology

Loving the earth is not satanic

Canticle-print-smallIn the beginning when god began creating the heavens and the earths manifestations of god’s self of gods love, and god saw that it was good. And god created humans as embodied manifestations of gods consciousness, god’s glory and god’s love. God charged humanity to be stewards of the earth, to love it and care for it.

It should not be a big surprise to us that we as gods image bearers also have a deep love for the creation that we are a part of. We are hardwired to be awed and swept away by god’s creation. The forests and the oceans are part of us, or we are part of them, they are our external lungs and without them we cannot live. At the core of everything we are connected, we are one with all of creation and it’s divine source. All is one. because in the end there is only the divine source and the source is love.

How is it then, that as soon as we express this deep devotion and love for the manifestation of the divine, the Christian tribe quickly labels it as heretical, pagan, new agey and even satanic?

Wouldn’t it be natural for us to join in with saint Francis in the canticle of the sun?

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

There is a clear connection between our embodied state and our spirituality, this connection needs to be honoured if we are to truly manifest missio dei, god’s dream or god’s kingdom.

Thomas Merton makes this connection clear when he writes:

By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.

C.S Lewis also beautifully describes this heavenly music of the spheres in his space trilogy. So can we be still and hear the music of creation humming and drumming deep within us, can we feel the connection to the earth, to the sun, to the moon and stars, to all of creation, without being afraid that we are becoming pantheist, pagan, wiccan, or as some Christian tribes would have it, thereby satanist? Can I honour and love the divine in mother earth, in sister moon, in father sky and in brother wolf, without thinking or worrying about being heretical? All is one with the divine source and I want us all to have the freedom to honour the divine in all. Because loving the earth is our task, it’s in our DNA and it is a sacred connection with the divine source.

Science is not secular

machinery-of-the-stars-2We live in a secular society, which for most people means separation of church and state. We have this idea that church simply should not be political or involve itself in matters of state. In the same way we have this notion that church has nothing to do with science and that science have nothing to do with church. Christians in most peoples minds are a backwards people not interested in or even working against science.

The word secular comes from latin seculare which means temporal as opposed to eternal. So originally secular means everything inside the time and space continuum, the Christian religion was supposed to deal with things eternal, that is, things outside time and space.

As above so below

What we are finding though, is that the temporal that which is bound to cycles of birth, ripening, wilting, dying and rebirthing is the way of the eternal. Jesus, who is our image of all things eternal, was born, matured, died and ressurected. So we are finding that this earthly or temporal cycle is the way of things eternal. We are finding as we are gazing into the heavens with better and better telescopes that what we see out there is the same thing we see in our better and better microspcopes. With the advent of quantum physics we are learning that the study of our world is the study of the eternal.

The theopoesis of science

The finer detail science tries to paint the more the language of the scientist starts to sound like the language of the theologian, it is riddled with metaphors and poetic language. This because language is not adequate to express the eternal, no language, not even mathematics.

FlammarionWoodcutScience, while studying things temporal has always uncovered things eternal, science has never been secular in the sense of separation (although many scientists have tried). Science was from the very beginning the art of discovering god through studying the creation. Since “the enlightenment” science has tried to break up with religion with varying degree of success. Like disgrunted lovers, science and religion have wrestled and fought, ignored each other, engaged in heated arguments only to fall back in each others arms. Because the study of god’s creation will always lead to the discovery of the immanent divine presence.

Science is not secular

So here we are, try as we might to make clear distinction between disciplines, the lines will always be blurred because you can never analyse a pice of art without at some point take into account the artist. You can never truly digest a poem without picking up the resonance of the poet. You may do so unknowingly, but the true scientist will never stop at unconscious knowing but will always relentlessly push deeper into truth, into reality and at the very core of reality at the very center of truth, there rests the divine source, the source of love.

Autocorrected

(c) ellieericson.wordpress.com

(c) ellieericson.wordpress.com

The text was supposed to read: I Love you! But in It’s infinite wisdom my smart phone decided to autocorrect it to: I live you!

At first it frustrated me, it happened over and over again in all kinds of texts, updates, blog posts, the word love corrected to live. And then the point began to sink in. To love is to truly live. It is only when we love that we acknowledge the connection between each other, and the infinite connection with god.

But it goes deeper still, if we are connected on this deep level, if it is true that we are all made of stardust from the same source and that at a quantum level, and at an energetic level we still are connected, then it is ever so much more true that “I live you” or perhaps I live in you, you live in me, we live in god and god lives in us. It is the teaching of the eastern greeting ‘Namaste!‘ which means something along the lines of, the divine in me greets the divine in you and by that we are connected, we are one.

It is to acknowledge god in everything and everyone, to know that every place I visit is a holy place and every person I meet is a holy person. And this god, the source of divine love, the source of all is connecting us all so that my life is not my own but truly belongs to everyone as does everyone else’s, this makes your health and wellbeing my private business and vice versa. I will care for you, and love you because in doing so I am also loving myself, and when I care for me and love me I am also caring for and loving you. When you find your soul, your unique place in the universe and hold the largest conversation with the world that you can possibly have. Then I am also being realised and set free to do and be all that I was created to be.

So I stand corrected: I Live You!

 

Why are we so afraid?

fear-not1Those of you who have heard me teach have probably heard me say that joy is the Christian trademark, well that and or grace. While there are a lot of really awesome teaching in most of the world religions, the idea of grace, the completely undeserved, unconditional gift that inspires a no holds barred kind of joy in the believers life.That said, I have to ask, Why are we so afraid?

When I hear Christians speak both amongst themselves and from the pulpit. We are afraid, afraid of other religions and what they might do to us, afraid of the devil and demons, afraid that god will punish us, afraid that we have gotten it all wrong, just afraid.

Isn’t it funny that gods messengers in the scriptures always starts with “do not fear”. Isn’t it funny that Jesus always speaks of love, grace and joy. There simply is nothing to fear. If god is so great then what could possibly scare us? If our god is all that, why are we afraid of Muslims, Mormons, Jehovas, Hindus, Wiccans, of Yoga, of Astrology, of secular music, Harry Potter books, of tattoos and any alternative anything.

Do we not have faith in Christos Victor?

It seems to me that Christians should be able to walk through life, and partake in all of life, fully,  without any fear; Without the fear of condemnation; Without the fear of contamination; Without the fear of the devil and most importantly without fearing god.

“Perfect love casts out all fear”

I think we need to quake with love, we need to be shaken down to our roots with love. So filled with love that wherever we go we bring love to that place, into that which we are doing transforming it in the process. Guided by the spirit of divine love I will transform anything I do into sacrament and worship whether it is a handshake or an embrace, yoga or martial arts, whether it is in a synagogue or a mosque, church or an oak grove.

Greater is the divine source within me than any opposition. If you dare greatly, you may recognise the same divine source of love operating out there in the wild just as it is inside of you and your church.

 

Peace is not a circumstance

peaMost people have had this thought, I know I have, If I could just find some peace and quiet, then I could sort out my issues and get on with it. Most people wait for the circumstances to be right, or work frantically to make the circumstances right to achieve peace.

This need for quiet and rest is a deep human need, we must have peace so that we can hear the soft inner whisper of divine love. But what if we just got it all backwards?

Could it be that we have peace, that the place of our soul, our unique space in this universe, is always at peace. Could it be that when we make that inward journey (you know the one we think requires peace to start) we actually start journeying towards the peace that was always there?

If it is true that we are all connected, that we all are part of this divine in an all encompassing interdependent network of energetic clusters, then as part of the divine source that is what we will find when we journey inwards. If we are all part of the divine source, if love is what we are at our core, then peace is what we have. The inner most truest part of us is resting in the divine source of love and is at peace, always.

If this is true then we never have to wish for peace, go look for peace or try to create peace, because peace is not a circumstance it is not dependent on external circumstances but rather a state that we are already in, if we can relax deeply into the core of our being where we will find god, where we will find peace.

Conspiracy theory

images-4I posted a short update to Facebook a few days ago that was accused of being to new agey. Why? Because instead of thanking god for what is happening in my life right now I said: isn’t it great when the universe conspires to give you your deepest desire.

Have I started worshipping the universe?

Of course not!

I also do not subscribe to the dualistic view that every good thing that happens to me is given by god and every bad thing is the devils fault. Because frankly I don’t believe that the concept we name the devil have any power we don’t grant it ourselves.

We live in this universe, this kosmos, where everything and everyone is connected. According to quantum mechanics the entire universe is one big energetic organism. Life is made manifest by all the processes, natural, personal, relational, societal, around us. And sometimes these processes converge in patterns that produce our deepest desires.

Why would I not attribute this good turn to god? Well it simply depends on what we mean by god and how we imagine gods involvement. I do not believe that god meddles in every detail in our lives, as in I do not think god makes all the little things happen, I do believe that god is present in every moment of my life and in every little thing that happens. I believe that god lures me forward in every moment with a vision of love, evolution, complexity and connectedness. There is an important difference between god making things happen and god being present in things that happen.

Imagine this, imagine I pray for a weekly day of (I have been working seven day weeks since October 2013 with roughly one day of a month, although not every month). And suddenly the circumstances arise that I can start taking a weekly day of. I rejoice and give god the glory, but then, what if on my day of I get hit by a car and I am hospitalised. I wouldn’t be if god hadn’t granted me a day of I would not now be hospitalised… I now need a devil to blame the accident on. Or I would have to say that god wanted me to be hit by a car so I would slow down (I have heard both cases made in similar circumstances whithin the church). Both these explanations make for some bad theology. If I instead of believing that god (or the devil) made these things happen, believe that my choices and the processes (natural, psychological, relational, societal) I am a part of led me here, then I can also believe that god is present in my circumstance, both the good and the bad, working for love, growth and connection.

So I believe in the weakness of god. I believe that love, justice, mercy, truth are all weak forces or rather of the vocative order. They call to us and inspire us, they lure us and tell us that there is a greater way to be and to live. They are not strong forces that can make us do anything. Let’s use marriage as an example here. The institution of marriage is a strong force, it has a real consequence in my life, there are legal (and for me personally, professional) implications that comes with marriage. Love however, is a weak force, there is no legal bond, no real implications. Love cannot force anything. And yet, I think we would all agree that love trumps marriage anytime. Love inspires us to care, to forgive, to serve, to adore, to be our best in ways that marriage could only dream of. So do we do away with marriage? God no! We make sure to fill our marriage with love.

So here I am, there is something I have wanted to happen in my life for years and now it is happening. At first I tried to make it happen and when I did it moved further away. Then I decided to slow down and try to be more present every moment, to live in love and believe that it will happen when it happens and now it is happening. There is also a specific thing I wanted to do and whenever I tried to make it happen, make room in my schedule, it would turn out to be impossible. I had to let it go and when I did, out of the blue I was presented with an opportunity to do this very thing within the parameters of my already hectic and crazy life.

So here’s my crazy conspiracy theory.

When we present our case to the universe, the universe will respond. How do I do that? I pray to god. I put myself in a position where it could happen by making space for the change and living as if it was true. It becomes a cooperation between me, god and the world around me (including people).

If we truly believe, and I do, that all are connected, we are all one, one with each other and one with the divine. Then it is simply logical to assume that, as in any large organism, when I place myself in the position that Is uniquely mine, then the rest of the organism will conspire to further that which I am purposed to do.

God is not a belief system

IMG_1117It is a simple truth really: god is god. God is not what we believe of god. God is not our theology or our doctrines. Since the dawn of time humans have had various ideas, religions, doctrines, theologies about god. God has remained god all that time. I will not say that god is unchanging, because I believe that god is love and love is a relational term, any living relation involves anyone involved in the relation changing in response to the other. So have we changed in response to the divine source, so has the divine source changed in response to our devotion, love and creativity. But having said that, our theologies and doctrines do not change the nature or the will of the divine.

Augustine said: If you have understood it, then it is not god. Anselm described god as always being more, greater, deeper than anything that we can imagine. Scripture supports this and shrouds the divine into mystery making sure that we can never nail down god (the popular joke is that we tried to nail god to a cross and he walked away). Faith and what the author of John calls eternal life (aionos zoe) cannot be grasped with the mind or the intellect. Forever it eludes even our most creative attempts.

No matter how much we would like to have god in a box, so that we could explain the divine, so that we can master the ultimate reality and explain the metaphysical in scientific terms, Jesus simply asks us to believe and follow. To believe is not as many people think to have a set of propositional statements that you hold true, rather believing is the act of trusting, loving in the absence of hard proof. You simply cannot believe with only your mind, you must be/love with your heart and your spool and your strength (body?) and your mind.

It is not up to me to tell you how it is, but I take this time to try to point at how it isn’t. The finger pointing to the moon must not be mistaken for the moon. In the same manner our theology, our doctrine, our tradition, our religion must not be confused with the divine. The divine is love, the divine is free the divine is not, in the words of C.S. Lewis, a tame lion.

The things Pope Francis did not say…

francisThe last couple of days there has been a post circulating on the internet with a bunch of statements allegedly made by the current Pope. People are upset that a pope would say such things (although he didn´t) and what it would mean for Christianity at large. Other people are praising the Pope for these statements sharing their relief that, here we have at least one pope that makes sense.

Now let me be clear, the Pope did not say these things, the statements are said to have been made at Vatican III a convention that has yet to happen.

So why write anything about something that is not real? Well, the contents of the Popes speech echo what is already going around in many Christian circles and for some this is fundamental Christian faith. In other Christian circles it is the ultimate heresy. So regardless of the veracity this “speech” that never happened lands in the middle of the current theological discourse.

There is no literal hellfire

“Through humility, soul searching, and prayerful contemplation we have gained a new understanding of certain dogmas. The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God.”

This is not a novel idea and has been circulating in Christian discourse as long as there has been a Christian faith. The idea of a literal hellfire is a medieval idea based more on the works of Dante and Milton then the bible. Please note that the statement does not in any way dismiss the reality of hell but rather dispels the belief in hellfire and hell as a place of punishment, like C.S. Lewis wrote and Rob Bell, N.T. Wright and many others have echoed, hell is not a flaming furnace but the isolation from god, something that is not only an issue of the afterlife but a reality in the here and now.

Adam and Eve is a fable

Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God.

Here the article touches on the idea that the first narratives in our scriptures are not historical facts but mythical narrative written to teach us about who god is, what it means to be human and what our relationship to the divine is and can be. The use of the word fable is apt as we indeed have a talking snake in Genesis 3. I will return to the idea of biblical authority further down in the article. We need to at least face the fact that our two creation stories in Genesis do not line up neatly and cannot both be literally true. We would do well to recognise that the creation myths of the Judeo-Christian scriptures are not factual historical documents and does not answer the question “how?” but rather tries to give us a hint at “why?”

God changes constantly

“God is changing and evolving as we are, For God lives in us and in our hearts. When we spread love and kindness in the world, we touch our own divinity and recognize it.

The idea of a god that changes and evolves is very much presented in scripture in fact it is more present than the idea of the “changeless one”. As evangelicals we are prone to say things like it´s not a religion it´s a relationship as we believe in the idea that we can have a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. Furthermore we believe that god is love and love also implies relationship. How can we believe in a relational god if we do not believe that both parties in this relation can change. Only death is static, changeless. Life is constant change and growth, why can this not be true of god as well? How can we at the same time argue for a literal reading of scripture and then ignore the countless passages in the bible where god changes gods mind and gods plans?

All religions are true

“All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them. What other kind of truth is there? In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful. Today, we no longer judge. Like a loving father, we never condemn our children. Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us. We all love and worship the same God.”

I think this is the most upsetting statement of all the ideas presented in this short text. And while I agree in principle I would have liked the statement to read “there is truth in all religions”. C.S. Lewis famously said “Just because we are right, does not mean that everybody else is wrong”. To believe that Christian faith and doctrine is the only truth is a fallacy as there are countless variations of Christian belief and various different truth claims. If there was only one truth and Christians possessed it, then all Christian churches would preach and teach the same thing. However the reality is that we are sometimes so varied in our description of this truth that we may as well be different religions. I think we need to be at least a little suspicious when we believe that there is only one truth and we (as in our little group of Christians) have it. The text actually makes clear that the church’s mission or mandate is to include all, including the ones that have a different take on truth than us.

The Authority of the Bible

The Bible is a beautiful holy book, but like all great and ancient works, some passages are outdated. Some even call for intolerance or judgement. The time has come to see these verses as later interpolations, contrary to the message of love and truth, which otherwise radiates through scripture. In accordance with our new understanding, we will begin to ordain women as cardinals, bishops and priests. In the future, it is my hope that we will have a woman pope one day. Let no door be closed to women that is open to men!

In my opinion this is the key issue, the question that we all come back to over and over again. If there is one question that the church must face, wether Catholic or Protestant, Orthodox, evangelical or emergent, it is this one. The place of the scriptures in our faith community. If we cannot re-evaluate how we have historically interpreted some passages to be literal and others not, then we can never as a church or faith community grow. In many conservative circles we have come to worship our tradition (and/or the bible) rather than god. And we state blindly that god does not change neither does our understanding of scripture. The reality looks different, we have time and time again revised our understanding of scripture and tradition and changed how and why we act and believe in certain ways. In some liberal circles we have gone the other way and tossed out all tradition and historical understanding, changing things that may not have needed revision, just to make a clean break with the old.

It is my opinion that we need a far more sensitive and humble approach where we tread softly, recognise that we have always interpreted our scriptures and our faith through cultural lenses, some good and some bad. It must be the work of every generation to return to these scriptures and traditions and carefully re-evaluate and re-imagine what it is to be a follower of the way in our time and place.

So whether Pope Francis said these things or not is rather irrelevant (at least outside of Catholic circles), I for one would have loved to hear this speech made by a Pope or any other religious leader. We need this conversation in all of Christendom, and we need to be able to converse with love and charity, humility and grace.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6.8 NRSV)

All living things are my teacher

5415984_-039039-kosmos-039039--1In John 3.16 we read that god so loved the world (kosmos) that he gave his only begotten son…. And it seems to me that all through scripture we are reminded again and again that kosmos, that is all of creation, is longing for redemption.

When god creates the world, as we read in Gen 1, god looks upon creation and pronounces it good. There is an inbuilt original glory to creation that holds and proclaims the glory of god. Every piece of creation has this original glory and shows it off by being truly itself. A tree sings of this glory in the rustling of it’s leaves, a tiger whispers of this glory in it’s graceful but deadly prowl.

Yes there is brokeness to, all is not what it should be, but god did not break it, we did with our machines and pollution. However much be screw things up, we are not able to break god’s imputed goodness. It is still there, it sneaks through in waterfalls and sunsets, cats and seahorse, birch trees and mountain ranges, in kisses and caresses, in you and me.

We are all part of this kosmos, we are all made of the same stuff and so we all carry within us part of the glory and goodness that god drew out and still creatively draws out in this evolutionary process.

We are all part of this big living organism glued together by life and quantum mechanics and so whomever you meet whether human, animal or plant, celestial or spiritual phenomenon, there simply is no other, there is only being. As such we can learn, if we are open and willing, from all of god’s glorious creation. Every moment can be a learning moment, every place a Solomon’s porch, a temple of divine growth. Every person place or object holds something sacred and holy if we are willing to open our eyes, ears and minds to the voice of god luring us to greater beauty and complexity.

Every day is an adventure and: Life is my religionBeing alive is my daily spiritual practiceLove is my ruleHumankind is my familyAuthentic friendships is my churchThe kingdom of god runs through my veins.Jesus is my brotherBecoming and being all that I am is my callingHelping you become and be all that you are is my ministryMy deepest feelings is my guideAll living things are my teacher.

Subverting the norm

Pete Rollins and Tony Jones at the Coffe Ethic in Springfield

The last couple of days I have spent at Subverting the norm II, a conference about radical theology, postmodernism and the church. It has been three days of deconstruction, radical thought and repentance.

It has been such a privilege and honour to spend three days with some of the greatest theologians involved in this ongoing conversation.

The tile of the conference “Subvert the norm” points to the fact there there is this thing, called “the norm” or normal and that it needs to be subverted. I love the idea of subversion, there is no correlating term in Swedish. So the closest I get to translate the title Subvert the norm to Swedish is normkritik – norm criticism, which of course is not quite the same.

To critique something is to stand on the outside and have an opinion about it, giving the appearance of objectivity, to subvert something is in my oppinion to engage in it and change the rules.

The conference itself was a wonderful gathering of great minds. To explore wether or not post-modernism can live in the church or maybe if the church can survive post-modernism. Here is an excerpt from the subverting the norm webpage:

Can the actually existing churches speak meaningfully and persuasively to those who aren’t so sure about the supernatural or the magical or the metaphysical, which includes the fastest growing religious demographic in North America, the “nones,” those with no formal religious affiliation?

Can the church retain a viable role in a world where God is often viewed as a relic of the past, or as a grand Santa Claus in the sky, or perhaps even as a narcotic or neurosis that we’d do well to get rid of?

And if the churches are to be faithful to the revolutionary event that gave birth to Christianity, or if they are to recover their theological voice in a compelling and transformative way, is it possible to do so by listening to voices on the margins of the church, or outside of the church, including even those who might rightly pass for atheists? And perhaps more to the point, why are voices on the fringes of the church, or outside of the church, becoming more influential on church leaders and practitioners than the traditionally “orthodox” voices inside the churches?

It has been three days of thought provocing, challenging and subverting experiences. With me home I have the strong conviction that if the church is to include post-modern thought and radical theology, then it must transform into a differnt structure than the traditional structures we see today.

Our liturgies must be transformed to allow for a radical liturgy that gives voice to a broader spectrum of human experience than todays often happy clappy evangelical liturgy.

I find that I will need some time to internalise the experience before I can capture it in words, but I want to take the time to thank all of you who made STN2 such a great experience for me. Thank you for your generosity, your hospitality, your humility and your love for a wayward Swede, lost in the bible belt.

 

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