Tag Archives: Control

The Uncontrolling Love of God – Lecture Notes

On 3/8/16 Thomas Jay Oord came to Fuller to give a presentation based on his new book: The Uncontrolling Love of God. The presentation was followed up with a very interesting dicussion in which participants who sympathized with Oord’s position and those who did not were both able to ask questions and press him on some issues with his proposal.

Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multidisciplinary studies who teaches at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.

Below you can see my notes from his presentation:

The Uncontrolling Love of God:

  • Most Christians want to believe God is lovingly providential, but evil and chance make this difficult…
  • Problem of evil – asks why a powerful and loving God doesn’t prevent genuine evil
    • GE – event that makes the world worse than it might have been if some other event would have occurred instead
  • The problem of chance and randomness – asks how God can be providential if genuine chance and randomness occur
  • Christians typically address chance, evil, and other matters in the doctrine of providence: 7 models represent ways Christians think about God’s activity
    • God is omincause
    • God empowers and overpowers
    • God is voluntarily self-limited
    • God is essentially kenotic
    • God sustains as a steady state force
    • God is initial creator and current observer
    • God’s ways are not our ways
  • Is God culpable for failing to prevent evil?
    • Under Essentially Kenotic view – no, he is not because God’s loving nature is incapable of intervening
  • There is something about the servanthood of Jesus that gives us some revelation about God’s nature.
    • God expresses self-giving, other-empowering love. Most theologians say God is voluntarily kenotic.
    • Oord – God necessarily expresses self-giving, other-empowering love. This love is logically primary in God’s nature and God “cannot deny himself.”
    • Love comes logically prior to election, sovereignty, power, etc.
  • Essential Kenosis says
    • God necessarily gives freedom to all creatures complex enough to express it. Consequently God cannot withdraw, override, or fail to provide freedom to a free perpetrator of evil.
    • God necessarily gives agency and/or self-organization to simpler creatures and entities. Consequently God cannot withdraw, override, or fail to provide agency to these creatures either.
    • God’s love generates both regularities and random events in nature. God cannot interrupt law-like regularities.
    • Although creatures sometimes can use their bodies to prevent evil, God can’t b/c he is Spirit.
    • Example: mermaids cannot run marathons because leglessness is an aspect of mermaid nature. Similarly an essentially Kenotic God cannot control others, b/c uncontrolling love is an aspect of God’s nature.
  • God won’t or God can’t?
    • Wont
      • God could prevent evil, but God voluntarily wont do so.
    • Can’t
      • There is some sort of external force constraining God, so God can’t prevent evil.
    • Can’t
      • God’s love necessarily gives freedom – so God can’t prevent evil
    • Biblical Witness
      • The God of essential kenosis is not weak. God is creator, provider, even source of miracles. This God is almighty
        • Mightier than all others
        • God is the one who exerts might upon all existence
        • God is the ultimate source of might for all others
      • Miracles
        • As unusual and good events that involve God’s special action in relation to creation.
        • This special action does not require God to control others
        • Miracles do not require interrupting law-like regularities of existence
          • There is always some contribution on the part of the agent in the miracle
          • See Phil 2:13
        • Summary
          • Essential Kenosis affirms that God’s self-giving, others empowering love is logically first in God’s nature
          • Because this love comes first in God, God necessarily gives freedom, agency, and self-organization to creatures and creation
          • God’s controlling love consistency gives existence to all, making possible both chance events and evil
          • God is not culpable for failing to prevent genuine evil or evil producing randomness




Book Review – Slow Church by Christopher Smith and John Pattison

Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus explores what it would look like for the church to embrace the “slow” way of life. The authors explore the possibility of doing slow church by focusing on three areas – ethics, ecology, and economy. By “ethics” they are referring to what it means to be the embodiment of Christ in a particular location. By “ecology” they are referring to their place within God’s mission of reconciliation. By “economy” they are referring to God’s provision to carry out his reconciling work. As the authors tackle each section they give us a sampling of what it looks like to live as a “slow church.” They do not provide “steps” or “instructions” or “how-to-lists” – because that would be characteristic of a “fast” way of doing church, rather they paint pictures with words, give plenty of examples of churches who practice “slow church,” and open up the reader’s imagination as to what God might want to do in each local church community.


Efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control – are four words that nail down the essence of MacDonaldization. These are the same four words that nail down the essence of (many) Mega Churches. Working in a Mega Church I know that many see these four words as “good words” but Smith and Pattison see them as “bad words.” They aren’t qualities that we as a church should strive to achieve. Nevertheless I have seen ministries built around these four concepts. As I see churches strive to achieve these things I can’t help but think to myself – Is this the way that Jesus would have done things? Is this the way that Jesus built his “little flock?” Is a MacDonald-ized (Supersized) church the church that Jesus envisioned? I don’t know. Either way, I know that this is the Church that Jesus loved and died for. Whether it’s a “fast church” or a “slow church” Jesus loves his church. However because Jesus loves his church he desires to see his church flourish. I honestly (along with Smith and Pattison) think that the “fast church” isn’t flourishing. Humans can’t thrive and flourish on a fast food diet – neither can the church thrive and flourish with a “fast church” mentality. Change is needed – the church needs to slough off its industrialized and Macdonald-ized approach to church. It needs to embrace a holistic, interconnected, organic, and local way of life grounded in a grand gospel. Slow Church helps us imagine what it would look like if the church were to do that.

A Personal Note

I believe that I have embraced (or at least have tried to embrace) a holistic, interconnected, organic, and local way of living out the gospel. Of course, being a fallen human being, I am tempted to Macdonaldize my ministry. I am tempted to value efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control over and above relationship and God’s sovereignty. However Jesus helps me to recognize my sin and repent of such things. One area in which the Lord has been helping me to do that has been in the area of discipleship. I want people to grow in Christ, I desperately want that. I want the college students I work with to grow into a Christ-centered community of missional disciples. But my temptation has been to try to systematize that growth. However as I read this book I came to realize that much like a political revolutionary I wanted, no I demanded, instant change. However (as the authors say) “unlike human revolutionaries, who demand instant change, God is not impatient.” I am impatient – I want growth to happen now – on my time and my conditions. As this book has forced me to rethink how people grow I have come to realize that God’s primary means of growing people is through the slow process of intentional one on one and small group relationships. Spiritual Growth takes time and effort, it’s a slow process, it’s a messy process, its a relational process, and I am certainly not in control of it. Spiritual Growth cannot be “Macdonaldized” – it’s a slow and organic process.

(Note: I received this book courtesy of IVP in exchange for an impartial review.)