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The Holy Spirit is Kicking My Butt Right Now

October 19, 2005

In a class that I’m taking on Theological Anthropology I presented a draft of a paper I’m writing attempting to find points of contact between John Wesley and Process Theology, specifically in their doctrines of humanity. I am not exactly sure why this theological project intrigues me, and the first draft of the paper is mostly an outline of Wesley and Process without my own thoughts and feelings about the matter.

The truth is, I’m not exactly sure what my thoughts are. My prof said that “the Holy Spirit has you interested in Process Theology for a reason,” as though there is something that I’m supposed to learn. So I’m attempting to examine my thoughts and feelings in order to discern why I’m interested. My paper did uncover the fact that I’m not really a process theologian – I’m a Wesleyan with an interest in Process thought.

So what is it that I find attractive in Process thought?

  • For starters, the metaphysics makes sense. I love the idea that we are not so much “being” as “becoming.” I definitely see the universe as constituted by moments and relationships rather than from matter.
  • I love the radical humanization of Jesus, and that this humanization makes us related to him in a very real way.
  • I love the assertion that the supernatural and the natural are not two separate realms, and that God springs forth in and through real life.
  • I love the process doctrine of death – that in this life we participate in the life of God only partially and in death we are fully incorporated into God’s life.
  • For Process Theologians, prayer really does make a difference both in the life of the pray-er and in the life of God.
  • The idea that all things and lives are interrelated is very attractive to me. This doctrine affirms that by taking care of each other we are also taking care of ourselves and ultimately participating in God’s life.
  • Interrelatedness also affirms that Christian piety (prayer, spiritual formation, Bible study) are necessarily interwoven with Christian ethics and action.
  • Process theology takes God off the hook for evil and catastrophies in the world.
  • I strongly desire a God who is relational, personal and moved by our lives. Our lives, our prayers and our actions matter to God — a God who loves us with passion, intensity and desire.

I seem to like it for political reasons as well. The dominant theological paradigm in our churches seems to be actually far to the right of neo-orthodoxy. Barth and Niebuhr would be considered raging liberals in most of the churches I’ve attended. The Good News and Confessing Movement seem, in my opinion, far more conservative than even the hardest of the hardcore neo-orthodox theologians. The “Union Steward” in me wants to embrace the most liberal of liberal theogies just to swing the pendulum back this direction a little. Not exactly a pure motive, I know, but I am utterly offended by some of what passes for theology these days. I would rather our churches be engaged in true conservative theology rather than the sort of selective Biblical literalism intermingled with nationalism, individualism and triumphalism evident in the landscape of church life. And don’t get me started on “prosperity gospel,” — ugh!

And as intrigued as I am with Process thought, I am equally intrigued by neo-orthodoxy. Probably because I have a low doctrine of humanity myself. It is my firm belief that humans are just one horrible circumstance away from “The Lord of the Flies.” If that wasn’t evident in post-Katrina New Orleans, we should at least see it in the popularity of “reality TV.” Our world is filled with systemic, corporate AND individual sin. Our need for God’s grace is laid bare in the midst of these realities.

This anthropoligcal statement is more in line with Wesley than it is with process theology. Yet with the restoration of imago dei through God’s salvation, there is hope that we can become, in Wesley’s words, creatures “capable of God.” There is, indeed, a balm in Gilead for the sin-sick soul.

So tonight I find myself restless, seeking to understand how God can work in and through someone like me. And yet I believe we all have the potential to become somthing like a Gandhi or a Dr. King.

Anyway……..Good night.

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