Input and Feedback from Rev. Bill Phipps


Rev Bill Phipps, Canadian church leader and social activist; Moderator of the United Church of Canada, 1997 to 2000, and author of “Cause for Hope: Humanity at the Crossroads,” for which David wrote the forward. (July 10 and August 23, 2012)

This is an important contribution for a badly needed conversation. As you have probably guessed, I offer similar analysis when giving presentations and workshops on an integrated, holistic understanding of life. I just returned from Indonesia for a meeting of the World Council of Churches project on "Poverty, Wealth, and Ecology", where I was arguing that the pursuit of social justice, including closing the obscene gap between rich and poor, needs to be seen within the embracing context of a "Whole Earth or Living Earth" theology. As you know, my little book hinted at this as well.

So I like what you are doing here. My only real critique has to do with the distant God in the 1st cosmology. Although your comments are correct as far as they go, there is much in the Bible and beyond about a God intimately involved with creation and the people. In fact the Older Testament cares more about justice among people and nations in this world than it does about heaven or afterlife. And mystics and theologians from Hildegard of Bingen, through Teilhard de Chardin, to Sallie McFague and Bruce Sanguin in our time (just to mention a few) express a creation cosmology far more contemporary and relevant than you may think.

So I think for the purposes of your paper (which, after all, is not a complete theology or cosmology) you should acknowledge the variety, complexity, and even relevance of PARTS of the ancient story. I think you want to undercut from the outset any criticism that you are stereotyping or setting up a straw person that is easy to knock down. No doubt the distant, judgmental God is there and still present. But he is not the only reality in the first cosmology.

The other thing of course is that some of the people pointing in the direction you are pointing are Jewish and Christian (I don't know enough about Islam) theologians and writers, Thomas Berry being one. …

The Older Testament particularly is concerned with life on Earth, and ethical behaviour of the collective, either community or nation. Both the Older and Newer Testaments know a God that is BOTH distant AND intimate. I realize that too often the institutional church and the media do not recognize this basic understanding of the patriarchal God. But it is fundamental to Biblical faith.

The Bible also is clear that building justice and peace ON EARTH is a primary ethical responsibility for people of faith. Again, institutional religion and the media, as we know it, too often ignores this, but it is fundamental to "salvation".

Good work. You are giving this whole complex discussion some real meat. Thank you.

In terms of the discussion guide, it is important that people be encouraged to probe their own cosmology, their own experience or understanding of the 3 cosmologies. THEN asked to struggle with your analysis, and what it means for their own faith/behaviour, AND what it means for us collectively. People are usually surprised by what they REALLY think or believe.

I will be happy to see where this discussion takes us. Be well.


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