Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective

Earlier in the week I posted the first part of a review of Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction. In that post I talked about the introduction by editor Tom Oord. I also promised to talk about the four sections of relational perspective that divide the book.

Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective is the first and largest section of the book, comprised of 12 essays. As I read through them I found that I like all of them and underlined most of each for quotes to use here. If I were to do that this review would be longer than the book and I would violate some copyright law by quoting almost the entire section. So, what I have decided to do is to select a couple of the fine essays, ones that stand out, to me. I hope that you will find them as interesting as I did.

Relational theologies don’t tell you how to think about God, but open doors of possibility for thinking about God, opening the doors of exploration. Well, at least that’s how I see them.

In his essay Relational Theology and the Holy Spirit, Amos Yong tells us that, “The Holy Spirit lies at the very heart of relational theology.” I think that he has something here, God in Trinity is by nature a relational being, the Holy Spirit brings us into that relationship.

If the Spirit is at the center of the relational life of God, the Spirit is also central to God’s relationship with the world….Ireneus held that the Father created the world with his “two hands”–the Word and the Spirit. If the Word of God structures the world and its creatures, the Spirit of God is the dynamic life force that infuses creativity and novelty into the rhythms of creation.

I love that last line, “the dynamic life force that infuses creativity and novelty into the rhythms of creation.” It is packed full of possibility.

Human beings find meaning, fulfillment, and significance precisely in relationship one to another, bonded together by the common creator Spirit.

In a fallen world, the bonds of human communion have been broken and people alienated from themselves, others, and their natural environments. But God’s redeeming work consists of healing the estrangement of our hearts, reconciling human beings with one another, and restoring harmony between humanity and the cosmos.

This is a brilliant little essay, so full of possibility based in the redemptive power of God.

The Image of God by Samuel M. Powell talks about how our Imago Dei  relational.

Because we are created in the image of God, our existence is marked by relationships. To be the creaturely image of God is to be essentially and unavoidably related to God, to fellow humans, and to the rest of creation.

Because we are created in God’s image we are afforded certain rights and responsibilities of relationship.

Because we are created in God’s image, each of us is due the highest moral consideration in every respect.

To be created in God’s image is to be a member of a human community in which everyone should receive respect, dignity, and consideration.

Everyone, not just a chosen elite, everyone, isn’t that how Jesus treats people?

I am going to quote from one more essay in this section.

Faith in Relations by Wm. Curtis Holtzen.

Relationship, like “faith”, is a multifaceted notion and not easily defined. When we explore relationship through the notions of love and trust, however, we see that faith and relationship become inseparable.

If faith is a relationship or communal bond, shouldn’t we think of God as someone of faith? … “Yes!” Faith is relational and relationships are reciprocal, two-sided. Because God is relational, God has faith. God’s relationship with us is not only loving but also trusting.

There are nine other essays in this section. They talk about love in relational terms, sin, and salvation in relational terms. They all open up the possibility of thinking about God and ourselves, theology in new ways, relational ways.

The  third part in this series, Biblical Witness & Christian Living in Relational Perspective is up.

Again the book is Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction,  (2012), Eds. Brint Montgomery, Thomas Jay Oord, and Karen Winslow, Point Loma Press, San Diego. It is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.


Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction

Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction is a collection of short essays on relational theologies. There are 31, each about three pages long. Short, concise very good for those of us with short attention spans. Short, concise yet packed full of information.

In the introduction, What is Relational Theology?,  Thomas Jay Oord tells a little about what relational theologies are and the need for them in the Christian theological landscape. Dr. Oord tells us that in the biblical descriptions of God, by His very nature He is relational.

God instructs, expects, and responds to creatures–all of which are relational activities.

Dr. Oord goes on to explain, and even show graphically, how several other theologies fall under the umbrella of relational theology. Theologies such as process, liberation, feminist, and missional all are relational theologies.

The essays are then broken down into four sections of relational perspective: Doctrines of Theology, Biblical Witness, The Christian Life, and Ethics and Justice. In future posts we will explore each of these sections.

If you don’t want to wait Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction is available from Amazon. It is a very good book, well worth the read.

The first section Doctrines of theology in Relational Perspective and the second & third sections, Biblical Witness & Christian Life in Relational Perspective are now up.

I wish the sound was better, but even as it is this is a remarkable poem, performed very well.

Dispatches from the Underclass

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Drawn Beyond the Lines of Reason

A few weeks ago I was standing in a group of 3 or 4 after church, amongst whom was my friend Carol, our Pastor of Families, Children, and Youth, was telling one of the Sunday school teachers about Godly Play. Carol said something that intrigued me. She said that the point of Godly Play is to tell the children the biblical stories in a language that makes sense to them. Then have the children create a project. Now, oft the project doesn’t seem to be related to the story, but that is okay, because it is what the story does within the child’s heart that is being expressed, a heart affected by the story.

This idea, that so intrigued, me floated around in my mind for some time. As I related this event to another friend she said something about connecting our story to the project, I almost rejected this in the context that was in my pre-conscious. But, it is kind of hard to unhear something.

I read Peter Rollin’s Orthodox Heretic some time ago. It is a collection of parables that he created. I don’t really recall the parables so much as I recall what he tells us about parable in the introduction.

hOW tO speak Of sOmethIng that cannOt be

In the parable, truth is not expressed via some
detached logical discourse… it emanates
from the creation of a lyrical dis-course —a dis-course being
that form of (mis)communication that sends us
spinning off course and onto a new course.

A parable …will change our
world—breaking it open to ever-new possibilities….
(Rollins, Peter, Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales, 2009)

Also, of late I’ve been listening to Lateralus by Tool. The lyrics have been spiraling ’round in my head.

I imagine
drawn beyond the lines of reason.
Push the envelope. Watch it bend.

Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must
Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.

Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
Red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
Let’s me see there is so much more and
Beckons me to look thru to these infinite possibilities.

Feel the rhythm, to feel connected enough to step aside and weep…
To feel inspired to fathom the power, to witness the beauty,
To bathe in the fountain,…To swing on the spiral ….                             With my feet upon the ground I move myself between the sounds      I’m reaching up and reaching out.

I’m reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.
We’ll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one’s been.

And one more piece that fits into my recent thinking. The opening soliloquy of the movie Crash:

Its the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.

All of these elements started coming together yesterday as I pondered ecclesiology, something else I have been doing a lot of lately.

Again  I digress, well slightly.

So, yesterday the above mentioned elements started coming together and connecting in my mind. They began a dance, an intricate dance, dancing together. Clumsily, at first, but each beginning to find the rhythm of the other as they danced ’round my mind “beyond the lines of reason”.

So, we have parables and stories, even gathered from the culture at large  that reflect the biblical narratives, the biblical story or some aspect thereof, some theme, idea, maybe even the biblical stories themselves recast. A story teller tells the story to a group of creative adults. The biblical story, the parable crashes into the listener’s story and hopefully shatters reality,or at the very least begins to crack it open. This begins a process of some type of transformation within the listener. A transformation that may not be able to be put into coherent words to make logical sense. The listener struggles with the dissonance, the shattered reality. Now, we give the listener the chance to express herself artistically.

This seems to me to be worship. Can it work that way? Can it be?

Beginning in January our Monday Night Group is going to experiment with this crashing of the biblical story into our stories, cracking open our realities, and finding artistic expression. I think that there are infinite possibilities when we reach for whatever may come. Maybe we will find that the cracked reality expressed will shatter reality for the others in the group. Hopefully all will grow together, learning from one another, experiencing this story of God.

If you are in the Sacramento, CA area and might be interested contact me on Twitter, or here in the comments.

Untitled pair

Now you ask me how I am doing

When you see me.

Where were your questions

When my world exploded?



Your concern: a feint

Asked me how I’m doing

“Haven’t tried to fly, yet,”

I reply,

“How ’bout a ride to the Foresthill Bridge?”

You walk away.


You pretended to be my friends:

I let you.

You initiated, I trusted.

Noticed inconsistency

Saw the path logic carved,

But I pretended.

You still think we are friends.

Dance of Time

The intricate dance of time

Future present past

Entwining, indwelling

Moving each in rhythm

to & with the others

Change in one changes all.