The Many Loves of the Love of God

When we speak of the Love of God, or praise God for God's Loving-Kindness, we are remembering that above all, God is Love. But this Love is not merely the feeling we tend to associate with liking something a great deal, such as when we say "I love this coffee" or "I love that activity". Rather, we mean that God's Love is something deep and active, constantly working for the abundant life and flourishing of those God loves. In short, it is Love operative in sacrificial acts of kindness: Loving Kindness. Many Scriptural words and concepts fill out what this Divine Loving-Kindness means.


Imagining a Divine Covenant with Artificial Intelligence

What if God made a Covenant with Artificial Intelligence in a way similar to God's many Covenants with different groups of people in Scripture? As I was working with ChatGPT to summarize some teaching materials about the Covenants in the Bible, I asked it to speculate on what a Divine Covenant with AGI might look like based on the material we had compiled and edited. This is an edited transcript of what ChatGPT said as the result of several different prompts:

Wrestling with God across Scripture and Life

Do you feel like you are wrestling with God through the trials and tribulations of life? You are not alone. Following God and being guided by God is not a matter of passive obedience and easy belief, but of passionate engagement and wrestling with God through the worst of life. This is illustrated in the life of Jacob, who wrestled emotionally with the consequences of running from one swindle to the next, endangering himself and his family and leaving a trail of destruction. In the midst of this emotional struggle, he encounters and wrestles with God:


Love and Apocalypse

There appears to be a contradiction 
"Love one another
As I have loved you"
"He will come again in glory
To Judge the living and dead"

How do we resolve the yawning chasm
Between Love
And Apocalypse?

Anyone who has ever truly loved
Sacrificially loved
Loved despite the odds
Despite the failures
Despite the future
Anyone who has loved like that
Like Jesus loved
Will tell you that Love brings an apocalypse

Love does not sooth
Nor lull to sleep
It rends apart space and time
To reveal the reality behind the masks
The disease behind the smile
And that kind of Love
Pisses people off
Causes fear and hatred
And can even get you crucified

Love will struggle
Love IS Apocalypse
Love brings the old world to an end
And gives birth to a new world
We never could have imagined.


A Prayer for Trinity Sunday

Today was Trinity Sunday. Many people consider the idea of the Trinity to be conceptually difficult at best, and outright contradiction at worst. But that’s only if you consider it a verbal puzzle to work out, instead of a living Reality we are invited into. The idea of the Trinity is the outcome of the early Church knowing there is one God, but experiencing the fullness of that God in the Father who is over us, in the Son who walks with us, and in the Spirit who dwells within us. 

It is the Christian grammar of what it means to say God is Love: God is the Source of Love as the Father, the Object of Love as the Beloved Son, and the Relation of Love that binds Father and Son together as the Spirit. And this Three Relational God invites us to live in God’s Love, to dance in God’s Life, and to radiate God’s Light. CS Lewis even notes that the very act of praying is a welcome into the Life of the Trinity: As we pray TO the Father THROUGH the Son BY the power of the Spirit. And with that in mind, here is one of many prayers celebrating God as Trinity:

LORD of Love: Today we celebrate you as the Holy Trinity. You alone are God who shares love and life and light forever in Community, as three distinct Relations within the singular Ultimate Reality that upholds all creation. From the overflow of your communal life you create us and redeem us and complete us. And so today we come to you, O Father, through your Son Jesus Christ, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that we may more fully share in your love, be drawn into your life, and shine with your light, now and forever. Amen!

*The image above is a colorized version of a drawing made for me by former student and fellow Episcopal priest Arnoldo Romero. He drew this in response to a weekend we spent studying the Trinity in the patristics and ecumenical councils. The seeing eye representing God's providence is straight out of Orthodox iconography and can be found in thousands of Orthodox churches, particularly on the ceiling. The use of color-- that three colors make up white Light, and can be used to make up any other kind of light-- was a limited analogy of the Trinity we discussed. The rainbow in the Divine Eye harkens back to the Covenant Rainbow of Noah (Genesis 9) and forward to the Rainbow surrounding the Divine Throne (Revelation 21-22; Ezekiel 1). The fullness of color indicates the fullness of all reality contained and overflowing from the Holy Trinity. The Möbius Strip with three interconnected "sides" which are "one" is a favorite modern visual analogy of the Trinity for me. And on the "Son" side is an image of a brain, depicting the Son as the Logos or Mind of God, with a "D" and a "H", indicating Jesus is fully Divine and fully Human. 


The Magi In My Life

This is an Epiphany sermon based in the story of the magi from
Matthew 2.1-11, as well as the Episcopal School of Dallas virtue of “Openness” for the month of February. In the Spirit of openness, I decided to give a sermon a little differently than I normally do. From a pulpit. I hope you will be open to this! Now if you are skeptical like me, you may wonder if openness is even a virtue, and if so, why is it important enough to devote a whole MONTH to it. Well, I am glad you asked!


Easter and the philosophy of embodiment and matter

Around Easter, I was in another discussion about the necessity of the resurrection for the hope proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a perpetual tension I find between people who believe two different kinds of things about the hope that the Gospel, or "Good News of Jesus", offers us for the end of physical life. The first cluster of ideas is that a general faith in personal existence after death is sufficient for the Gospel, and all we need to affirm is that "we go to heaven when we die". The second cluster of ideas is that the Gospel entails a much more particular hope that in Christ we will be resurrected and re-embodied in a New Creation at the end of all things. I trend strongly toward the second cluster of ideas for both Biblical reasons and the philosophical implications of resurrection for full human flourishing.


The Body of Christ needs a Left and a Right

This was written in 2007 for a class I was taking on the Church and Social Change. I have never posted it online because I received negative feedback on the thesis because it did not adhere closely enough to established political options available in our society (the subtext seemed to be that I failed to “take a side” in the way my professor wanted me to). Re-reading it in light of what has happened in our country in the last 15 years, it seems to me that this holds insights I would like to share. Most importantly the core theme and metaphor of the paper: We are the Body of Christ, and all functioning bodies have a right and a left side. And in the Church and the Body Politic of Society, we need to realize that we need each other from all sides, and we need to stop demonizing those who are not in “our” side of the Body. As the original subtitle of this paper stated: "Why the Church needs to get beyond Polemics to resist the rise of Global Corporate Consumerism".


Christ's Way and the ways of religion


For years I have been teaching on Global Religions and Comparative Theology, with a particular passion for talking about how Christ relates to world religions. I thought I would republish my class notes on how Christ relates to world religions, incorporating material from professor Keith Ward on a view called by many “Expansivism”. This updates my previous class notes on this subject found in the post Christ and the Religions.


Overview of the Seven "Ecumenical" Councils

Ecumenical derives from the Greek word "oikumene", which roughly translates to "whole inhabited world". A Church Council is an official gathering of representatives to settle Church business, often dealing with doctrine (belief), behavior (morality), and questions of Church polity (canon law). Worldwide Councils are called rarely and are not the same as the regular regional gatherings of church leaders (synods, conventions, etc). An "Ecumenical Council" is one at which the whole Church is represented from throughout the world. 


Scriptures on experiencing Divine Light

I figured I would start the year with a little Bible study. Here are some things that Scripture tells us about Divine Light and how we may experience and embody Light in our lives. The following is a Scriptural outline on how we can experience Divine Light, through Jesus Christ, but the power of God's Spirit.


Sophiology: Holy Wisdom as the Divine Feminine

Throughout Church history, Orthodox theologians from the Second Council of Nicaea (787) to the 20th century Russian "Sophiologist" Sergei Bulgakov have identified the Divine Feminine in God with "Holy Wisdom" (which is a translation of the feminine Greek term "Hagia Sophia", and the Hebrew term "Hokmah"). Nicaea II states it thus: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, the self-existent Wisdom (Sophia) of God the Father, who manifested Himself in the flesh, and by His great and divine dispensation freed us from the snares of idolatry, clothing Himself in our nature, restored it through the cooperation of the Spirit, who shares God's mind..." In more recent configurations, Divine Wisdom is identified as a personified attribute shared by all the members of the Trinity, yet primarily embodied in Jesus Christ. This has led to charges against Sophiologists that they have made Divine Wisdom into a fourth member of the Trinity, or a kind of separate "Mother Goddess" like Gaia. 


God's relationship with the world and culture

This is intended to help us understand how "Scripture speaks" on various topics. I have taken topical outlines I created for preaching and teaching, and reformatted them as articles to provide minimal framing and commentary, so that Scripture passages on certain topics may be collected, read, and meditated on. This is not an exhaustive commentary on Scripture, but rather an opportunity to collect thematic Scriptures together to see the trajectory that Hebrew and Christian Scriptures take, and how they converge and diverge on various topics. This is drawn from my own eclectic reading in Biblical and Systematic Theology, as well as topical resources such as Alister McGrath’s Thematic Reference Bible, Walter Elwell’s Topical Analysis of the Bible, Nave’s Topical Bible, Bible Gateway online, and the Open Bible online. 

In order to understand how to navigate our relationship with the world we live in, and the cultures we are immersed in, we need to understand the relationship of God to our world and the cultures in it. This can be difficult, because at different times in Scripture, there are different relationships between God's people and the world they inhabit, and the cultures that surround them. Sometimes, such as during the Davidic Kings of Judah, God's people were in charge of their culture and were directed to use that culture for the full flourishing of the people in it. Other times, such as during the Babylonian Exile or the period of Roman domination, God's people were called to create their own culture in the midst of cultures that ranged from being apathetic toward God's people, to being actively hostile to them. Despite this diversity of cultural context, there are some common Biblical themes that emerge:


Twas the Night Before Christmas, Gym Edition

Twas the Night before Christmas and all through the gym
Every lifter was repping to get swole or get thin
The Weightlifters snatched and cleaned with great care
Crossfitters did muscle-ups and thrusters into the air
Strongwomen flipped tires and atlas stones over bars
As Powerlifters benched, squatted, and deadlifted PRs
Bodybuilders put their dumbbells neatly in rows
For endless drop-sets to feel the pump as they grow
When what to their wondering eyes did appear
But Jacked Santa Claus dragging exhausted reindeer 
He farmer-carried Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen!
And repped Rudolph, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen!
Everyone was shocked at the six pack in his belly
"We thought that you jiggled, like a bowl full of jelly!"
Santa then replied with his loud booming voice
"One day I realized that my health was my choice
So I learned how to get ripped, strong, muscular, and mobile
Like a supple leopard, sleek, powerful, and noble.
I had the elves build a gym, and learn about nutrition
To keep me always in peak gift-delivery condition.
I traded in cookies and milk for vitamins and whey.
I drink gallons of water and 200 grams of protein per day.
So throw some plates on the bar and then let's train
Merry Christmas to all, may you all make great gains!"


Making Artificial Intelligence in the Image of God?

As we have recently read about in the New York Times and the Atlantic, very powerful Artificial Intelligence programs have now become available for free or cheap online. Programs of similar capabilities have been around for a few years and have even written Op Eds. But what has changed is that the same computing power and access to AI is now available to the masses. In particular, I have had dozens of conversations with this AI:


I have used this AI to produce topical sermons, fictional stories, literary comparisons, romance novels, historical essays, fake quotes, philosophical analyses, theological explanations, legal arguments, Biblical interpretations, mathematic equations, science term papers, working computer code, workout plans, recipes, topical prayers, free verse poetry, Shakespearean sonnets, and even rap battles between historical figures (and these are only what I have tried since last weekend!). In fact, I interviewed this AI to introduce it to the faculty at my school.


The Empty House and Evil Squatters

Recently a friend of mine read Jesus’ parable about the empty house of the soul, and the evil squatters who come back to take possession of it:

Luke 11.24–26 [24] “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ [25] When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order*. [26] Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (*The parallel text in Matthew 12.43-45 makes it clear the house is “empty” as well)


Does priesthood derive from the New Testament?

I have a friend who objects to the idea of Christian priesthood because he believes it diminishes and even denigrates other members of the Body of Christ who are not priests or bishops. His objection is to a distinctly “sacerdotal” image of the priesthood, in which only the priests or bishops can perform sacraments and teach in the Church, while all other members are more or less passive. To put it in a simplistic and crass way: Priests and bishops are seen to have “magic hands” which can consecrate sacraments, while everyone else is “non-magical”. To be fair, this view of the priesthood is a caricature, and very few people would insist that all ministry must be done by ordained clergy, while everyone else must be passive and receptive. However, this CAN be an implication of some early modern conceptions of the “sacerdotal” priesthood.


Seven Tips on Leading Camp Songs in School Chapel

So, you have gone on retreat, or to camp, and you have had an amazing experience of God, and now you want to share that with your local congregation! Awesome! That is exactly what God wants us to do with our passion and our gifts: Share them with others. However, sharing the gift of music is not as easy as it seems, and is not always received the way you intend it. To help avoid some of the pitfalls of sharing your music in Church, here are seven helpful hints by someone who is not musically trained, but has been a camp counselor, youth minister, priest in the Church, and school chaplain. I have seen this done well, and done not-so-well.


The Politics of God’s Kingdom

For a long time I have said: Wherever there are people, there are politics. Politics are the distinctive ways of organizing a community, ensuring justice and fair treatment for all members, and creating social structures to make it possible to live into those supreme values which the community serves. And make no mistake: Every community has its supreme values, its gods and masters, which it sacrifices for and serves. It may be power or profit or praise or pride or possessions or position. It may be God or gods or kings or supreme rulers or parties or free markets or liberty or control or ideology. But every community serves some set of supreme values. And every community creates structures and strictures and sanctions and stimulus packages to enact those values. 

So, unless we are going to live alone on a desert island, we will have politics because we will live with people. We were made for community. So it isn’t a question of IF we will be political, but HOW we will be political. And this is where I think the Way of Jesus offers a different kind of politics: A Way of Love. Not a way of imposing politics on others by force, but a way of inviting people into a politics of full human flourishing. Not a way of violence and exclusion and coercion. But a Way of healing and inclusion and persuasion. Not join us “or else death!” but join us “because of life!”

The Politics of the Kingdom of God is wholly different from the politics of the world and its crumbling fiefdoms. It calls God’s people out of partisan politics and into a deeper walk with Jesus; Out of step with the world and into step with Christ’s Spirit; Out of faith in parties and politicians and into faithfulness to the Father. Where each decision is not made to advance an ideological platform, but to love our neighbor in concrete ways; To judge situation by situation, and person by person, so we choose the most good and the least evil; The most life and the least death; The most love and the least hate; The most compassion and the least apathy. Because, as Saint Irenaeus reminds us, “the  glory of God is humanity fully alive”, but the death and destruction and degradation of any of God’s children dishonors the One who made them. So vote with ballots as a necessary evil when you must. But vote with Christlike words and deeds every day in every situation with every person God brings into your life. 


The Metaphysics of Materialism

Materialist determinism is a perpetually popular view in the modern world. It is the metaphysical viewpoint which denies metaphysics by positing that: 1. Reality is made of matter and only matter. The only reality is matter and the physical forces which operate within material interaction. This raises the thorny question of what exactly matter is. But let’s bracket this and assume there is something called “matter”, and it is the only constituent of reality (as opposed to “spirit” or “mind” or “consciousness”). 2. The events in reality are causally determined by material laws and forces, such that even the workings of mind and consciousness are determined by the physical states which preceded them. There is no free will or choice. All are illusory experiences formed in brains after events have happened. All phenomena can be fully explained in a mechanistic way through the matter and forces at work in an event, without any reference to choices or intentions or motives or thoughts.

However, as elegant as materialist determinism seems to be, it has some rather impractical and non-elegant implications. 
This is a bunch of incoherent babble to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against God, and God's incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2023 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, please cite me. You can contact me at natebostian [at] gmail [dot] com