I read Tripp Fuller’s book Divine Self-Investment on Tuesday. It is excellent, and eventually I will nerd out and do a full book review. If you’ve never tuned in to Tripp’s podcast, Homebrewed Christianity, I highly recommend it, if you’re a theology nerd.

For now, I want to visually explore an Open and Relational Theology. This is core to Tripp’s theological imagination. Much of his language has been shaped by John Cobb.

My own training in missional ecclesiology used the language of relationality and relational ontology. I believe these ideas are very connected. However, I think I will prefer to use the language of Open and Relational moving forward.

I took the time to draw these images today because I am working. on a sermon for next week from Genesis 50:15-24 where I will try to summarize not only Joseph’s story but also our entire Fall series through Genesis.

Joseph said to his treacherous brothers, “You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good.” This story begs the question, “Why would God allow all the terrible things that happened in Genesis if God is a good and loving God?” An Open and Relational theology offers a hopeful vision.

Here goes…

God has a dipolar nature. On one pole is the primordial nature which orders eternal objects for the attainment of value in the temporal world. On the other pole is the consequent nature which receives the temporal world.

In other words, God invites all things into being, not by coercing or compelling existence, but by persuading it into a co-creative process. God invites all things into the good and the beautiful.

God said, “let there be…are there was…”

God stands in relation to the present as the eternal now that is constantly unfolding and then refolding upon itself. The present is all that exists.

The past is the collective memories of everything that has happened. The past no longer exists, but it shapes the present and propels it into the next moment.

God opens up space and invites all things into the good and the beautiful; love for all things. This is God’s desire for the universe.

However, true love must be freely chosen. God opens up a free space. If the love and the good and the beautiful are able to be chosen, then so, too, is the opposite. It is possible to move into destructive patterns. For humans we can move into the self: self-exaltation, self-indulgence, self-protection, self-loathing. This inward turn isolates and cuts off the flow of life and love, thus causing death and destruction.

The consequence of every choice, and every genetic mutation, feed back into the past and add to the story that shapes the next present moment. Loving choices create loving environments which foster the good and the beautiful. This is what Jesus called the Kin-dom of God (Tripp drops the “g” to make it less about a dude on a throne and more about a family, which is really the point of Jesus’ teaching).

Every choice that turns toward self, or genetic mutation that becomes cancer, creates a hostile environment in which death and destruction reign.

The former can be called Heaven. The latter Hell.

The future never actually exists. It remains the potentiality for whatever the present steps into.

This is probably the most helpful piece of the image for most people. A common question, in light of evil in the world is, “If God knew this would happen, why did God let it happen.”

God doesn’t know the future, because there is not a future to be known. God knows every single thing in the universe at every moment, because God is that in which it exists. God, like a good parent, can persuade and nudge and invite into the good and the beautiful, but God does not compel it.

Therefore, we co-create the next present moment with God.

This final image adds my own contribution to the picture. I owe this to one of my professors, Dr. Gary Simpson. He told us that God is not in “control” of the universe as if God is a script writer or a grand chess master. The Open and Relational God does not have a Plan that is dictated. Rather, God has a Promise to persevere with the universe for as long as it takes us all to co-create the good and beautiful kin-dom of God.

This is my pastoral word to any who have read this far in the post. I trust the promise of God and that God is faithful to God’s promise to be with us and never forsake us.

Joseph’s brothers may have reckoned/imagined their actions for evil. The consequences of their actions were horrific. Yet, God unfolded new possibilities in each moment and Joseph stepped into the good and the beautiful to allow God to reckon/imagine them for good.

We are invited into God’s preferred and promised future every day.

View these images as a slide show below.

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