I should give credit to "Quaker Oats Live" blogger Cherice for inspiring me to write on this topic.

For the past two years I have been involved with the Christian and Interfaith Relations Committee (CIRC) of FGC. As I visited various program committees of FGC Central Committee, I found that the sorts of business and discussions being carried out by CIRC excited and nourished me deeply.

(To disclose my personal biases, I will mention that I was born a Pentecostal, converted to the Mennonite Church, before becoming a nontheist Quaker. I have a deep respect for Christianity, the peace church traditions, and the positive contribution that they can make to the world.)

A few months ago, one of CIRC's sessions worked on a response to the World Council of Churches' initial draft "Toward an Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace." This document's final form promises to be a pivotal creation of the WCC's "Decade to Overcome Violence" which was called in 2001. In it, we find the fruit of dialogue between peace church, mainstream Protestant, Orthodox, and other Christians on peacemaking as a Christian calling. Never in history has this sort of pan-Christian undertaking occurred.

One of the amazing offerings of the draft document are its reflections on "The God of Peace as Revealed in the Holy Trinity." In these passages, the ancient mystical doctrine of the Trinity is pronounced to be the essential heart of Christian peacemaking.

I quote,

"The oikos of the world and of the Church, the oikoumene of God’s design and purpose
therefore, are not arbitrary constructs. The oikos finds its meaning and purpose in the Trinitarian
perichoresis, an embrace of love, peace, and beauty. Building peace is our participation toward that
perichoresis, that eternal dance. Therefore, peace-building is not just about repairing what has been
broken, but about expanding and completing relationships that make the oikos the mirror of the
Trinity."

(The full draft text can be found here: http://www.overcomingviolence.org/en/resources/documents/declarations-on-just-peace/drafting-group/initial-statement.html )

What is being said here is nothing short of epochal in its implications for Christian peacemaking. I know the language can be obscure, so I'd like to explain the powerful message in this passage.

The Trinity doctrine describes God as three persons - as a community that is eternal and infinite. Polytheism describes a community of gods, but the gods are finite. Monotheism describes an Infinite God, but not a community. The trinity declares an almost unfathomable possibility, that the Infinite Being has always for all eternity been in love, sharing love. God the Father and Son and Spirit are not three successive beings, but three eternal persons with three wills, each infinite in their love for the other, and, as the quoted passage implies, this plural infinite love of the Trinitarian Communion (perichoresis) is also an infinite love for the World (oikos) in which we live, for each of us.

I recommend to every Christian to consider this mystical communion and its implications for their faith. If you are not a Christian, I recommend that you rejoice that Christians are trying to articulate and embody such a brilliant and explosive vision of infinite pluralistic love.

As an ex-Christian, maybe I have too sentimental of an attachment to my former beliefs. I do ask myself at times whether my religious naturalism can match the powerful beauty of this ideal Christianity. Of course, the truth is that for much of Christian history, the churches have not been very faithful to this vision of limitless love for the world. However, this document reminds me why I was a Christian for so very long and why I departed the faith so reluctantly.

I can see "love" in every speck of the universe, as the interdependent interchange of being. Every fragment of the cosmos gives itself to other fragments. Each of us are composed of uncountable zillions of fragments of being in relation and interchange with each other. While this may not look or feel like the love of the Trinity or even the everyday love we share with other humans, I submit that without the very basic physical forces at the source of existence itself, love as we know and imagine it are impossible. It may not be as powerful as the Christian vision, but then again, the Christian vision of trinitarian communion has the messy problem of evil, how could such a perfectly loving all-powerful Creator bring about a universe with so much innocent suffering? The answers of Christians to this challenge are many and intricate. Perhaps comparing naturalistic and Christian views of the problem of evil might be a future blog topic.

Peace! Charley

Views: 59

Comment by Forrest Curo on 7th mo. 17, 2009 at 5:30pm
What I mean by "physical" forces are not "at the source of existence itself."

Let's try a model universe. It consists of a chess set with two players. (From the point of view of the chess pieces...? Hmm! The point of view of the pieces of one side?-- Well, if one player is strongly identified with his pieces, he might imagine himself down there running around the board.) The pieces themselves, now... Is the source of their world in "chess forces"? If one player's cat (Ooops!) rubs against a piece so as to push it over one square, is that a 'superchessual force' at work?

So I've proposed this universe of self-contained, lawful (via the rules of chess) & natural (for a chess piece.) Big hands reaching down to move one's left bishop to a safe square? An unnecessary hypothesis? (& of course this says nothing at all about the material the pieces are made of; they could consist of patterns of charged semiconductor in a VGA card!)
---------
It seems to me, if every speck of your universe is busy loving the others, there's something spooky about your matter, hardly what I would call "natural" at all! If you don't see all this as mechanical in its operation, we may be a lot closer in notions than either of us ever suspected!
----------
But--outside of some forms of Christianity I definitely don't share--Things are not true because they sound pretty, or might be desirable, or for any reason other than being true, in the sense of "If you test it, there it is!" There may be more than one way to know something, but doesn't the truth of it ultimately come down to that potential fact?
Comment by Charley Earp on 7th mo. 17, 2009 at 5:39pm
I am careful not to say all matter was "loving," except somewhat metaphorically. Rather all beings are interdependently interchanging their substance, similarly to Whiteheadean process cosmology. I don't go as far as Whitehead in ascribing primordial intelligence to subatomic entities, but I think he is on to something in rejected the atomistic view that all entities are ultimately isolatable. My worldview has affinities with some pantheisms, though I maintain a skeptical stance towards ontological claims about supernatural beings or happenings.
Comment by Charley Earp on 7th mo. 17, 2009 at 6:35pm
Sorry, I meant to write above that all entities are *not* "ultimately isolatable. That is, all entities are ultimately interconnected.
Comment by Nathan Swift on 7th mo. 17, 2009 at 9:29pm
Whoa! That last entry is really confusing. Let me see if I have it straight in my mind: Whitehead rejected the idea that all entities are ultimately isolable. You agree with that and meant to add that you believe that all entities are ultimately connected. Am I following?
Comment by Charley Earp on 7th mo. 17, 2009 at 10:02pm
Sorry, let me try and clarify. Whitehead proposed that all of reality is composed of entities that are dipolar, that is they are both mental and physical and the mental pole is constantly changing in response to other entities, at the subatomic level. So, yes, no entity is "an island unto itself" or ultimately isolatable, and all reality is interconnected. Where I differ from Whitehead is that I don't hold that mentality operates at the subatomic level. I believe that process does operate subatomically, but that it is not "mental."
Comment by Forrest Curo on 7th mo. 18, 2009 at 3:55pm
So here you are believing something that Whitehead proposed, which you don't know directly.

The life in you, which you do know directly, would seem a more logical starting point. (Do you palpably connect with the life you conjecture is in these particles, via the life that is you?)
Comment by Charley Earp on 7th mo. 20, 2009 at 1:49am
I know that I am physical and that all others are physical and that all but a very few disagree with that. I choose to center my concerns around that which is obvious to nearly all, this physical existence.

Others claim to know that they are more than physical, I cannot disprove that.

Whitehead is relevant here because he anticipated some of the experimental findings of quantum mechanics that the subatomic universe is not composed of inert particles. In one inadequate way of putting it, subatomic entities are constantly exchanging information. To put it more vibrantly, (vibration being pervasive in subatomic phenomena) subatomic realities are exchanging their substance in constant dance of existence.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 7th mo. 20, 2009 at 8:04pm
Well, there's obviously something that we experience in a physical mode... but we continue to experience things in a physical mode when we're dreaming, but when we wake up subsequently, we find that our teeth haven't really all shattered, the rattlesnake under the bed has vanished, and so has our ability to fly by bouncing on the air!

So the conclusion that anything we experience as physical is physical-- That's open to question, which leads to another question: "What does it mean to say that something exists physically?" I mean, it looks like we're talking about it being part of a (fairly) self-consistent & persistent system of objects we call the physical universe, but do we know that's real in its own right? A chess position is real, for people playing chess, but one player might be looking at wooden pieces and the other seeing it on a video screen; the fact that they both interact with it says nothing about what it's "made of".

Your "vibration" itself is only a metaphor that physicists apply to describe the workings of something that they can't see, that shows properties analogous to what we'd call vibration in an object we could interact with physically. It's something you "see" only if you run an experiment designed to detect wave properties. If instead you do something designed to detect particle properties (mass, velocity, momentum etc) to exactly the same stuff, you find particles. You can (I'm told) pretty much define these "subatomic realities" as "what you get if you run the right experiments."

Are you sure you've found something more obvious than your own existence as a foundation of what you know?
Comment by Charley Earp on 8th mo. 5, 2009 at 1:06am
I have had a very different experience of Christian community than some. I was actually part of a commune based on Mennonitism for almost 10 years. Some of the most loving people I have ever known.

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