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No, not Vandross. Though the silky smooth stylings of that Luther seem appropriate on Valentine’s Day, I prefer Martin Luther’s take on love.

In Thesis 28 of the Heidelberg Disputation, Luther states:

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of [humanity] comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.

In his explanation of this statement, Luther reveals the differences between the love of God and the love of humans. People, he says, love what is pleasing to us, and that which is good or attractive or beneficial to us. We orient our love toward the people or things and places that we, as products of our consumer culture, dictate to be beautiful and deserving of our love.

On the contrary, God’s love, according to Luther, turns its attention toward those things that we would not find to be beautiful, valuable, good, or deserving of our love. God’s love is oriented toward the people and things and places that our human love neglects––that which is unlovable. “Rather than seeking it’s own good,” Luther says, “the love of God flows forth and bestows good.” God redefines beauty by loving that which we would never call beautiful.

Conforming our love to God’s love means orienting our love downwards. God’s love is oriented downward toward the poor, the broken, the marginalized, and those who are invisible to us by way of a culture of denial that refuses to be inconvenienced by the suffering of the Two-Thirds world and those underneath the surface of the privileged First World.

Martin Luther fiercely challenges our understanding of love. Loving that which is (by human standards) already lovable, and loving in order to receive love in return is contrary to God’s love. Rather, imitating God means directing our love toward that which our culture does not deem lovable. This entails redefining who and what is beautiful and who and what is deserving of love. It means a allowing our love to be determined by mercy instead of personal gain, selfishness and hopes for reciprocity. For ourselves, it means fully living out of the reality that we are truly and deeply loved by God as we are, and that we do not need to constantly worry about proving ourselves and our worth to God or to anyone else. This is radically difficult in the face of a system that spends so much time, energy, and resources to convince us that we are not good enough, pretty enough, lovable enough, and that we do not have enough stuff or the right stuff to satisfy our needs. Luther claims that we are beautiful because we are loved, not loved because we are beautiful. In other words, we are all beautiful because God’s love determines beauty. And God loves a lot.

Lets actively seek to redefine both beauty and love by following God in praising and loving that which is contrary to what our consumer culture deems beautiful and of worth. What might that look like for you?

I’ve been intrigued to see Process Theology popping up in the (to varying degrees) evangelical blogs lately. I was excited to see it getting some greater attention from evangelicals, but also really confused and surprised by it.

Undoubtedly, the appeal to Process Theology from disenfranchised evangelicals has much to do with theodicy and God’s intervention–or lack thereof–in a world full of suffering and injustice. This is certainly a problem with classical theism, and evangelicalism generally does not deal well with suffering, injustice and crisis theologically. Douglas John Hall’s critique of the “official optimism” of North American Christianity calls into question the silver-lining theology of God’s glorification in all things, and rightly so. This is especially poignant today given the resurgence of Calvinism that dominates the evangelical world in North America. As the awareness of injustice and oppression awakens many young evangelicals, many millennials are reacting against this brand of Christianity and desperately trying to understand a God who they have been told their whole lives is loving and good.

I’m on my own journey of finding the good God in a world of hate, oppression of humans/earth/earth others, exclusion, inequality and greed. Process Theology absolutely offers an understanding of God and the world that addresses the problems of evil and human responsibility. I embrace the panentheism and interdependence within Process Theology. In it God is intrinsically related to the world and all creation and is deeply affected by our pain and suffering and our sin. I heartily endorse the critique of the monarchical model of God and the hierarchical structures that have emerged as a result. I love the openness of God and God’s lack of coercion towards creation, but creation’s influence upon God (I’m really excited to follow what Tony Jones is up to re: Process Theology and prayer). Whitehead called God the “poet of the world, with tender patience leading it by his vision of truth, beauty and goodness.” This shifts the emphasis from God toward those of us incorporating God’s being into our own. Additionally, I am a big fan of its heavily kenotic Christology. Most of all, though––and I think this is where Process Theology is resonating with evangelicals––is that the God of Process Theology is our “great companion” and the “fellow sufferer who understands.” This is Immanuel, God with us. A theology of the cross is deeply present in Process Theology, and God is not the cause or root of injustice. Process Theology deconstructs an interventionist God.

Evangelicalism is firmly rooted in the reality of an interventionist and personal God, which Process Theology deconstructs, making it incompatible with evangelicalism. Challenging the notion of an interventionist God is by no means entirely problematic, but what does it really mean for God to be personal, and what would it mean if we were to explore an alternative? Is evangelicalism really looking for something more along the lines of Open Theism and a theology of the cross?

I’m by no means an expert in Process Theology, so feel free to correct me if I am making false claims or assumptions about it. Help me understand this stuff better. What are your thoughts on the relationship between Process Theology and evangelicalism? Is there a future here?