God Can't by Thomas Jay Oord - Introduction, Chapters 1-4

BetteTheRed

Resident Heretic
Messages
14,446
Reaction score
7,968
I've been a bit stuck reading "Unbelievable" for the church group, and a fascinating book called Sapiens that I have less than two weeks on that I'd like to finish. And I confess to reading a Harry Potter book in the middle...

If I can find my tablet today; it went walkabout yesterday at some point; I will resume reading. I, too, though, am getting stuck on the afterlife bits. Afterlife always flashes "wishful thinking" at me.
 

Pinga

Room for All
Messages
9,816
Reaction score
5,359
Ok I'm back.
Sorry for disappearing.

I was hungup on some of the healing bits, but, am feeling better about it.
It may have hit when some other issues were hitting in my life.

It's late now, but, will add my reflections tomorrow night.
 

Mendalla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Messages
26,926
Reaction score
14,464
I finally listened to the Homebrewed Christianity where Oord discusses the book. It's pretty good and Tripp (Fuller, the host) does draw out some new discussion and expands on some of the ideas. A quote came up that I haven't gone searching for in the book yet, but it was along the lines of "Give thanks in every situation, but not for every situation." It does tie to the idea in ch. 4 that God tries to bring the Good out of suffering but doesn't cause suffering simply to bring about the Good.

Here's the page for it on the HBC website. You can stream or download at the bottom:


If you want to listen to the episode on mobile, you can find it in most podcast apps. I use Google Play Music. Just search for Homebrewed Christianity, then find the February 7 episode entitled "Thomas Jay Oord Wants You to Know 'God Can't'". Skip about the first 8 minutes unless you like listening to Tripp Fuller ramble on about upcoming events and episodes.

I have to dredge up my notes for chapter 4 but I will post them at some point in the next day or so. Rebuilt my phone last week and almost lost my Samsung Notes files.
 

Mendalla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Messages
26,926
Reaction score
14,464
The questions for chapter 4 are:

1. When has suffering produced mature character in your life or others? When has it not?

2. What’s the problem with saying “everything happens for a reason?”

3. Why might some think discipline should be abusive?

4. Why should we say an uncontrolling God does not punish?

5. Why does it matter to think there are natural negative consequences to sin and evil rather than seeing negative consequences as God-caused or allowed?

6. Why do some people think natural disasters, accidents, or illnesses are God’s punishment?

7. Why is it important to be thankful not because of evil but in spite of it?

As always, these are a guide, not something you need to answer point by point unless you want to.
 
Last edited:

Mendalla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Messages
26,926
Reaction score
14,464
Is wringing good out of suffering a form of Resurrection? I just dropped that in the thread on resurrection in R&F but worth putting it out here, too.
 

Mendalla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Messages
26,926
Reaction score
14,464
So, Thomas Oord was on Homebrewed Christianity twice this winter. Prior to the launch of the book, he was on doing a dialogue on Open and Relational Theology (the broader class of theologies that includes process) with Tripp. It's really a promo for an online study group they are doing on the subject, but it stands well on its own and does address a lot of the issues covered in God Can't as they ramble on. I'm not finished it yet, but it's actually pretty good if a bit loosey goosey in terms of an agenda.

Open and Relational Theology Throwdown with Thomas Jay Oord
 

Mendalla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Messages
26,926
Reaction score
14,464
2. What’s the problem with saying “everything happens for a reason?”
Thing is, everything does happen for a reason, ie. there is an explanation for everything that occurs. We just may not always know the full story. So the problem is not really with that statement. The problematic statement is really "everything happens for a purpose". Reason and purpose are not really synonymous, though they are often, as here, used that way. There is not a higher purpose in any, or even most, things that happen. They are simply the results of cause and effect. That is a reason for what happened, but does not give purpose to it.
 

Mendalla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Messages
26,926
Reaction score
14,464
Thinking about God Can't and Easter. Possible implications for how we interpret the Easter narrative:
  • Jesus death was not preordained or a planned atonement. The decision for him to die was a human one, not foreordained. God did not want or need Jesus to die.
  • God couldn't intervene to stop it any more than he could any other event because "God can't".
  • The Resurrection, then, was God wringing good out of Jesus' suffering, driven by God's desire to heal the world.
  • IOW, Jesus didn't HAVE to die to achieve God's goals, but God used his death to achieve his goals anyway through the Resurrection.
What do you think?
 

Waterfall

Well-Known Member
Messages
9,596
Reaction score
3,614
Thinking about God Can't and Easter. Possible implications for how we interpret the Easter narrative:
  • Jesus death was not preordained or a planned atonement. The decision for him to die was a human one, not foreordained. God did not want or need Jesus to die.
  • God couldn't intervene to stop it any more than he could any other event because "God can't".
  • The Resurrection, then, was God wringing good out of Jesus' suffering, driven by God's desire to heal the world.
  • IOW, Jesus didn't HAVE to die to achieve God's goals, but God used his death to achieve his goals anyway through the Resurrection.
What do you think?
Wish I could answer but not allowed....ah well
 

Mendalla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Messages
26,926
Reaction score
14,464
Wish I could answer but not allowed....ah well
Honestly? This thread has been nearly dead. As long as it pertains to process/relational theology and the basic ideas from the first four chapters of Oord's book (see below), I'll happily look the other way. Just don't want to go too far off that theme, though.

The basic ideas so far that we are addressing (and that feed into my thoughts about Easter above):
  • God can't prevent evil/suffering, ch. 1
  • God feels our pain, ch. 2
  • God works to heal, ch. 3
  • God squeezes good from bad/evil/suffering, ch. 4
 

Waterfall

Well-Known Member
Messages
9,596
Reaction score
3,614
Thinking about God Can't and Easter. Possible implications for how we interpret the Easter narrative:
  • Jesus death was not preordained or a planned atonement. The decision for him to die was a human one, not foreordained. God did not want or need Jesus to die.
  • God couldn't intervene to stop it any more than he could any other event because "God can't".
  • The Resurrection, then, was God wringing good out of Jesus' suffering, driven by God's desire to heal the world.
  • IOW, Jesus didn't HAVE to die to achieve God's goals, but God used his death to achieve his goals anyway through the Resurrection.
What do you think?
Well I tend to believe God can do all things....but sometimes God WON'T.....if He did it all, how would that affect our humanity?
 

paradox3

WC/ WC2 alumna
Messages
9,837
Reaction score
4,174
Honestly? This thread has been nearly dead.
So is it open for comments from anyone now? I have refrained from commenting because the thread guidelines say we must have the book in order to participate. @Pinga did clarify everyone was welcome to react with Likes etc.
 

Mendalla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Messages
26,926
Reaction score
14,464
Well I tend to believe God can do all things....but sometimes God WON'T.....if He did it all, how would that affect our humanity?
The problem then becomes, and it is quite central to the whole book, why does God not act in all situations if God can do it all? Process, which is where Oord is coming from, argues that God loves the world and part of that Love is wanting, even needing, the world to be free. God's loving nature literally prevents God from acting in a controlling way in all situations. God therefore needs our freely given cooperation (which is a chapter we haven't got to yet) to achieve God's desires and goals. So it is not much God Can't, as God Can't by Godself.
 

Mendalla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Messages
26,926
Reaction score
14,464
So is it open for comments from anyone now? I have refrained from commenting because the thread guidelines say we must have the book in order to participate. @Pinga did clarify everyone was welcome to react with Likes etc.
I am suggesting that we stick to the themes of the book, per my list, but relax a bit around the book itself. I will generally refer back to the book, though.
 

Nancy

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,066
Reaction score
1,117
I haven't been participating in this, but I have been reading the book...slowly. I have to admit that some of it makes sense, but some of it I find deeply disturbing. God can 'work' towards healing, and influence goodness. Those are doing adjectives. But as for evil, and life disturbances, God seems to have no power. God can't do single-handedly, but it almost seems that anything done by humans can really be done without God's help or influence. I don't quite believe that all people without God are without good. I guess I find the book selectively limiting of God's power and influence. I'm not as intellectual as many of you, so maybe my thoughts don't make a lot of sense. I'm quite willing to be talked out of them if you come up with good arguments!
 

BetteTheRed

Resident Heretic
Messages
14,446
Reaction score
7,968
I'm having a hard time with this, in contrast with Spong's latest/last book, which I am reading/discussing quite happily under someone else's leadership on Tuesday nights.

Sometimes I think that Process (Oord, et al), Mystic (Rohr, Fox), Eco (Dowd et al), Post-Theistic (Vosper), De-Constructionist/Reform (Spong) are all talking at cross-purposes, and I don't know where to go next. I lean to the eco-mystic vision myself, with maybe some deconstruction help. I can't honestly say I'm finding process helpful, except that God is totally screwed up/gone in my own life, so I'm not feeling "pulled"/"evolved" to anything but despair at present. I am horrified at what God allows to exist, and mournful about what God has allowed to die/sicken.
 

Mendalla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Messages
26,926
Reaction score
14,464
But as for evil, and life disturbances, God seems to have no power.
See, a process theologian would disagree. Process God has power, but it is not coercive power. That is, God cannot force us to accept God's preferred outcome. Things do not happen simply because God wills it. Rather, God has persuasive power, God can use "lures" to lead us towards an outcome. And those lures can be quite powerful, e.g. Jesus Christ.
 

Nancy

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,066
Reaction score
1,117
I'm having a hard time with this, in contrast with Spong's latest/last book, which I am reading/discussing quite happily under someone else's leadership on Tuesday nights.

Sometimes I think that Process (Oord, et al), Mystic (Rohr, Fox), Eco (Dowd et al), Post-Theistic (Vosper), De-Constructionist/Reform (Spong) are all talking at cross-purposes, and I don't know where to go next. I lean to the eco-mystic vision myself, with maybe some deconstruction help. I can't honestly say I'm finding process helpful, except that God is totally screwed up/gone in my own life, so I'm not feeling "pulled"/"evolved" to anything but despair at present. I am horrified at what God allows to exist, and mournful about what God has allowed to die/sicken.
See? You are so much more knowledgeable than I am about all of this! All of those schools of thought are not on my radar on a daily basis. I guess Process is, now that I'm reading this book. But, that aside, I feel sad that God is gone from your life. Because, no matter what I agree or don't agree about with all the -isms and theologians, I feel God's presence. Life is better because of it. I wish something like that for you....
 

PilgrimsProgress

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,078
Reaction score
1,372
I can't honestly say I'm finding process helpful, except that God is totally screwed up/gone in my own life, so I'm not feeling "pulled"/"evolved" to anything but despair at present. I am horrified at what God allows to exist, and mournful about what God has allowed to die/sicken.
My problem with the book is largely the style of writing -the writer comes across to me as being rather smug - not so much "walking humbly with the Lord".......

I think what attracts me to Process Theology is the logic.
S*** happens (ain't that right, Bette?) Clearly, a God of love, who had the power to prevent it, would.
But, that's not to say, a God of love can't work -behind the scenes as it were - to improve our situations.

We would all prefer a happy contented life, but that is not the nature of the beast. Question is, where do we turn to when we run out of options to discover our resilience and strength when the need arises? (In Mission churches many folks have no family or close friends for support - only their concept of God.)
The God of Process Theology supports you in your sorrow and will continually do what God can to lure you from despair - often through friends, books you read, therapists, etc.
I have had to face a lot of despair in my life and I've learnt that you can't avoid feeling your despair -as it's a necessary first step in healing. Eventually I seem to come out of it - usually through friend's support and care.
When this happens, I think it is the work of the God of Process.....

Question is - is this a convenient explanation I give myself?
Perhaps, but if it works for me in my life, why not accept the reality of my restoration to well-being as the God of Process?

Oh, and if you're not open to God working in your life, God never gives up on you and will give you as many chances as you need until you're ready to accept the lure.
God, as defined in Process Theology, cares deeply about us all.
 
Top