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Why Theology is Important for Social Justice Pt 1

World religions, theologies and spiritualities

I think theology is a highly important topic. That’s why I write about it so much. Our theology (or lack of one) is important because it influences the way we live, and therefore it influences the way we see justice and how we take action.

Justice, or social justice, is a big topic these days. Everyone’s talking about it in some form or another, while fewer may be doing something about it, and even fewer can get to do something about it full-time.

If you’re a pantheist (the belief that God is everything, and everything is God, basically) or a panentheist (the belief that God is IN everything, and everything IN God) I think social justice will be a challenge. If God is everything, God is also the evil people of the world, and he is also that instinct, that tendency, to do evil. If God is IN everything, he is also IN that tendency, and IN evil people (and they are IN him).

Pantheism and panentheism is a very interesting and romantic way of looking at the world. But I think it can lead to problems of justice. I think Taoism is one of the most mature pantheistic philosophies out there, but a core tenet of Taoism is not to disrupt the flow of things — as the Beatles sang: “Let it be.” Evil and death can seem so natural because it’s all we’re used to, but if we believe we must not disrupt the ‘flow’ of things, then how could we be passionate about social justice? I don’t see any logical way that we could.

Now I would like to be fair to pantheism and panentheism and not write it off just like that with a few words. I’d be open to debate it as I think it would make an interesting discussion. But even pantheism’s modern cousin (a kind of spiritual environmentalism) presents the same problem. Even its strange cousin (a sort of atheist pantheism, which we’ll talk about) presents problems for justice.

Our theology influences our worldview, and our worldview influences the way we live. We’ll expand on this through a series of posts.

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Alister McGrath’s “Natural Theology” Lectures

I’ve stumbled across Alister McGrath’s website and been delighted to see that they are offering his 2009 Gifford Lectures for free in PDF format from the site. The lectures are about “Natural Theology”.

So I’ve downloaded them and started reading them. Very interesting. McGrath is better known for his criticism of Richard Dawkins and atheism. I’ve got a book of his called “The Twilight of Atheism” which I’ve only gotten about half-way through, even though I bought it some time ago. I found it a really interesting book, and am keen to actually get more into McGrath’s stuff.

I can’t say why I’ve been so interested in Natural Theology for a long time now, and finding this has actually helped me understand more that Natural Theology is probably what I’ve been looking for. I think it may be that, in recent times at least, the doctrine of Creation has not taken much of a centre stage and I have a feeling that the atheists have taken over in providing answers from/for creation – or pantheists – much to our detriment.

To counter-act this, many spiritual people have resorted to pantheism or something thereabouts (the new Avatar movie has also brought some thinking in this direction) to try and find something spiritual in creation. This is because they may find the atheist’s look at the whole ordeal lacking in depth. (I do!) The church seems to have avoided the subject in many ways, maybe because of it’s fear of Science and therefore hasn’t provided adequate spiritual answers for creation for those who are seeking. These are at least my thoughts.

If we continue down this road, we’ll have a real onslaught of both Pantheism and Atheism on people’s thinking, even on Christian thinking, simply because contemporary Christian theology isn’t providing any answers of depth in the area of creation.

I think that the doctrine of Omnipresence (God is everywhere) is a much deeper and more beautiful doctrine that Pantheism (God is in everything) as it takes God out of a box. This is only one reason why I think this. But many people haven’t really pondered Omnipresence and creation together. At any rate, I’m excited to go through McGrath’s stuff and hear his insights.

As to Avatar, as I need to mention it since I saw it last night, here’s what I think — It’s long and got a lot of cliches. Having said that, it’s a great CG fest and entertaining – but they really could have cut it shorter. I’m tired of these long drawn-out epic endings.

They should have also stuck to the score at the end of the movie with the credits rather than some random Titanic-sounding song :). At any rate, the movie isn’t the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen, even though the special effects are quite amazing, but it is entertaining and great to watch in 3D.