Theology 101 Updated – Still Speculative, Progressive & Universalist
Now that I have some time, it is time to rethink my “Speculative Theology” as posted on the website way back when.
Here’s the beginning of the my new speculative theological thinking (which is in need of more thought and better wordsmithing):
When the word “speculative” is applied to “theology,” all theology then becomes speculative. The thing about speculative theology is that our theology can change, and will change, as we experience God.
The following addresses changes in my thinking that relate to points 8 & 9 in my “Speculative Theology 1.0.”
The other day I was asked about whether I could sign a particular statement of faith that included the concept of redemption. I struggle with that word, as for me at least, it implies that Jesus in his death and resurrection was victorious over sin, and that in his death paid the penalty for our sins and redeemed us from eternal spiritual death.
For me, the emphasis of the Christian faith is on incarnation—God with us—rather than redemption and our need to be forgiven before we can gain eternal life. In the birth of Jesus, it is as St. Francis said, already Easter. In his coming in the flesh God affirms that it is good to be human. The incarnation affirms that we are created in the image of God, whole holy people with the potential to live as such.
With the emphasis on the incarnation there is no need then for a sacrificial atonement. In Jesus’ death and resurrection we are shown (as Fr Richard Rohr puts it) the infinite and participatory love of God, and non-exclusive, not only in our life, but also in all of creation.
God’s participatory love reveals to us how we can become fully human (wholly holy), fully reconciled on our part to God. God has never left us, or tuned his back on us—an impossibility for a loving God. Therefore, God has no need to be reconciled to us, as the idea of a sacrificial, penal atonement implies.
With the Christian faith rooted in incarnation, the Christian life becomes about striving to live a life that participated fully in the incarnation. The God who participates in this life—who is fully present in this life—is also the God who continually draws us, without exclusion, into his presence now and upon death.
If Christianity is rooted, as I believe, in God’s fully non-exclusive, participatory love rather than some sort of penal atonement there is no need for eternal punishment in hell (although we humans are quite capable of creating our own hell on earth as we struggle against God’s all-embracing love), nor is there a need for some sort of afterlife remediation. Simply put, all upon death without exception, will enter into God’s Love and Presence.