#UU Public Theology - Powers not made by human hands

The piece I put up yesterday invoked "a power at act work in the Universe, a sustaining, creating and transforming power not made by human hands."

Predictably, I was asked, in so many more words, if I was referring to the deity formerly known as God.

To which, I would answer, "yes and no, depending on whether you are a believer."

I was asked if I was channeling James Luther Adams, and of course, I am. The phrase is Adams'. And as such, I am within the tradition of Paul Tillich, and his approach to religious vocabulary.

I think that it is indisputable that there are powers at work in the world that are not made by human hands: some creative, some destructive, some of which are personified in language. Ask anybody from New Orleans about Katrina's powers.

I spend a big chunk of my life as a Marxist, and really, philosophically, I am still a dialectical materialist with a religious vocabulary and, I hope, better ethics. And so, I have long identified powers at work in the world that are beyond human creation or control: the market, technological change, history, the ocean currents and the heat trapping qualities of carbon dioxide. Although these are attributes of human social life, they seem external and objective to even those with power and privilege. The President, the Chairman of the Board, the Pope, all feel that their options are limited by the historical situation that they are in.

But there is a dialectic at work in history and in the world and in us. We can sum it up with a few words: oppression breeds resistance. Resistance inspires solidarity. Solidarity creates unity, and unity engenders hope and hope transcends cruelty and death, making them not individual defeats, but redeemable sacrifices. Maybe not now. Maybe not for me.

I don't make these things: resistance, solidarity, hope, redemption, by writing about them, by saying the words. They already exist, and are being enacted, and performed, and embodied by people all over the world. Many of them believe in that aforementioned deity; many do not.

But I firmly believe in them, genuine powers that create, sustain, transform and redeem. And I believe that they at work in the Universe. Despite all the destructive powers not made by conscious human hands that are driving us toward a grim future, I believe also that they are other powers greater than any of us, and that they will uphold us, and redeem us, when we risk our lives for love.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. My favorite JLA quote on this subject: The prophetic liberal church is the church in which persons think and work together to interpret the signs of the times in light of their faith, to make explicit through discussion the epochal thinking that the times demand. The prophetic liberal church is the church in which all members share the common responsibility to attempt to foresee the consequences of human behavior (both individual and institutional) with the intention of making history in place of merely being pushed around by it. Only through the prophetism of all believers can we together foresee doom and mend our common ways.

  3. Unknown: Are the ghost of James Luther Adams? I am honored that you would comment on my humble blog? Yes, in case it is not clear, I am writing from within the tradition that you have established, even using your words and phrases.

  4. Clyde Grubbs9:45 PM

    Dialectics updated for quantum physics and indeterminancy? The cosmos is open to creativity and intention, Marx was right, we make history but not the history we would choose. But choosing the best possible outcome is the way to use our agency, with intention and with others.


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