Posts Tagged ‘theology’

Our need to give love

Friday, June 5th, 2015
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, love/belonging, self-esteem and self-actualization come as soon as the basics of food, shelter and safety are met.
For adult human beings, belonging comes from sharing a common purpose; self-esteem comes when I know that what I do is valued; even self actualization, which seems to be about me, only works if the self that I become is recognised and respected by a social world.
This gives us some primary data through which we can interpret what we meet in our world, which celebrates a spectrum of values, some in line with these needs, and some at odds with them. We will find that we are going with the grain of human nature if we open pathways for self-bestowing, self-giving creativity. We have a lens through which to understand the superficial appeal of stories about life that offer shortcuts: the self-realisation through consumerism lampooned by the Rolling Stones in Satisfaction on the one hand; the promise of ‘systems so perfect that no-one needs to be good’ on the other.
Process thought gives the best theological framework for understanding this. It sees our human journey as a response to the divine call to creativity. That this is ‘hard-wired’ into us is no surprise for process theologians, who do not locate God in an transcendent otherness, but in the processes of this world. In process thought, it is the Holy Spirit whose allure to true creaturely fulfilment is at work in the basic needs that Maslow describes.
All of this changes the task of ‘mission’. Liberal Christians feel embarrassed by this word — they think it means answering a question that hasn’t been asked, providing a finished picture of the world on the assumption that I know more than the one I am talking to. They easily shrink from the task, forgetting the reality of call and response which is at the heart of human experience of the spirit.
If the longing to creaturely fulfillment is already there in every human being I meet, even if it is covered over, I do not need to insert something that was not there before, but open a channel for my friend to experience what slumbers within him. I will not convey the sense that I know better, because all I know is that the spirit is beckoning this creature into the unique journey of its unfolding. 

Working with the angels

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

In my discussion group at the New Lanark Communiities Conference I tested a hypothesis that we could get in touch with the Third Hierarchy through three questions:

    How am I? Leading onto the question of my life’s purpose, as revealed by Stephen Covey’s funeral visualisation exercise, and the question what would make me truly happy.
    How are we? In whatever level of ‘we’ one chooses – in the group, in the Conference, in the UK.
    How is the world? What are the challenges we’re struggling with as present-day humanity?

Working with a mixed ability group made this easier, as the people with learning difficulties are often better at speaking directly from their experience here and now, even if sometimes their comments needed a bit of interpretation.
It worked quite well, for a first attempt. Interestingly the final question led quite naturally to the further question of what we could do. Spontaneously the group wanted to sing ‘Deep peace…’
I am interested in how to find the questions beneath the questions. It’s so easy to recoil in horror from world events, and to get numbed. Also easy to go through a pattern of What can I do? Realistically, nothing – feel guilty about that, so feel nothing. Thinking with the Archangels and Archai allows me to check whether my personal purpose is in line with the world’s purpose, and so feel I am contributing.

Bread and Wine in John’s gospel

Friday, April 6th, 2012

I’ve always wondered why John, the most spiritual gospel, doesn’t have the words of institution at the last supper. I’ve heard interesting theories about this. Yesterday it impinged on me for the first time that there is a sharing of bread and wine with one person: Judas, with whom Jesus shares the ‘sop’. This feels like a window onto the profoundest mystery.

Philo’s theology of the logos

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

For there are, as it seems, two temples of God;—the one is this Cosmos, in which there is also the High Priest, His First-born Divine Word (Logos); the other is the rational soul, whose [High] Priest is the True Man, a sensible copy of whom is he who rightly performs the prayers and sacrifices of his Father, who is ordained to wear the robe, the duplicate of the universal heaven, in order that the cosmos may fulfil the divine service for man, and man for the cosmos.
(De Som., § 37; M. i. 653, P. 597 (Ri. iii. 260)., adapted from Willhelm Kelber’s translation in Die Logoslehre)

Wired to connect

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Neuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person.
Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman

The neural physiology of koinonia?


Deepest desire

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is that perfect good which entirely satisfies one’s desire; otherwise it would not be the ultimate end, if something yet remained to be desired.  Now the object of the will, i.e., of man’s desire, is what is universally good; just as the object of the intellect is what is universally true.  Hence it is evident that nothing can satisfy man’s will, except what is universally good.  This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone, because every creature has only participated goodness.  Therefore, God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of the Psalms (102:5): “Who alone satisfies your desire with good things.”   Therefore, God alone constitutes man’s happiness.” (Summa Theologica Part 2. Q.1. Article )

Obituary of John V. Taylor

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

I have been reading around Process Theology again, and once more I’m struck by the power and vision of John Taylor’s The Go-Between God. This led me on to reading his obituary for the first time. It’s here. Here’s a taster:

John Taylor, who has died aged 86, was Bishop of Winchester between 1975 and 1985, chairman of the Church of England Doctrine Commission from 1978 until 1985, and one of the great missionaries of his generation. Convinced that Christians should leave their church boundaries to listen and think much harder, he pleaded with a startled General Synod to “go into no man’s land, for the strange meeting, as Wilfred Owen would have described it”.Taylor’s God was cosmic and also worshipped by non-Christians. He felt that there were many, like the novelist George Eliot, who saw that God was to be experienced outside the church.

Ways of seeing God

Monday, August 30th, 2010

If the theology of substance saw the Father-God, now Process-theology sees the Son-God. What kind of looking does the Spirit-God need? Self-reflexive, because he is the looking itself. Is the Trinity like quantum mechanics – you see the God you’re looking for. That would explain why merely saying the name Jesus a lot doesn’t make us ‘Christian’ – ie very static ideas about God are propagated in Jesus’ name.

Process – becoming and change in God

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Here’s an excerpt from Tenebrae by Celan that fits incredibly well with the theme of my next article, on images of Atonement in the Advent to Epiphany period. I realise that I’ll only be able to cover a small part of the ground in each article – the rest will have to wait for the book!

We are near, Lord,
near and at hand.

Handled already, Lord,
clawed and clawing as though
the body of each of us were
your body, Lord.

Pray, Lord,
pray to us,
we are near.

Leadership and the Trinity

Friday, August 27th, 2010

In Free from Dogma I talk about the Trinity as an image for leadership. Pure monotheism justifies an image of hierarchical power: ultimate power resides in a single, isolated authority which is quite other. If the ground of existence is relational and communal, structures of leadership should model this.

This is not the same as saying that there should be no differentiation, or that we should have structures where no-one is ever confronted with their own relationship to their own and others’ roles, which can be painful. The three divine persons of the Trinity are involved in very different activities, so different that it’s sometimes hard to think of them as one God. What unites them? Classically theologians talked about the one divine substance. They share a common nature. Perhaps more enlightening is the image of the perichoresis, the perfect dance of the Three. We can perhaps imagine a dance so perfect that from a distance the distinctions between the people dancing are blurred, and yet when we look closely we see there are indeed three, perfectly attuned to each other. What unites them is the common purpose of the dance; what keeps them in their perfect movement is that each watches the others, and attunes what he does to their place in the dance.

This brings us closer to the mystery of leadership in the spirit of the Trinity. No role is supreme; there is a strong differentiation, but the purpose is clearly articulated and everyone is accountable to each other. When this is in place, we can start to dance!

One organisation that worked with these principles described a fascinating problem: once they really committed to working in this way, their work became so effective that meetings could be very short. They realised that the drama of sorting out misunderstandings had been important to them as it gave them a reason to meet. Now that they didn’t have the drama any more, they were free to decide how they wanted to nourish their relationships even when the work was going well.