I have spent four weeks reading, studying, and participating in an Open and Relational Theology seminar with Dr. Tom Oord. Even though I cannot buy into the open aspect of Oord’s theological reasoning, I found out that I have been in the relational camp for a long time. I believe the relational aspect of Oord’s theological approach has a lot to offer spiritual direction.
Without trying to create a summary of synthesis of my last four weeks of work or offer a critique of what I cannot accept from Oord’s viewpoint, I will focus on what I believe aids in my understanding of spiritual direction. First and foremost, Oord believes that a loving God is not a controlling God. To this, I scream, Amen. God does not want to control our lives. God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives, wants to influence our decisions without overt manipulation or any form of coercion.
God is love. Love requires freedom. Love requires risk. Love is vulnerable, accepting, forgiving, intimate, and choice honoring. God’s movements toward us can be accepted or rejected. God’s love is always faithful, even when we are not. God is always forgiving and accepting, even when we are not. God’s love does not depend upon us but is for us and with us always. This is why the Holy Spirit is always speaking to our hearts in times of consolation and desolation. Even while we are listening to our own willfulness and to the demonic spirits that are seeking to pull us away from God stays with us.
I also believe that the future is not set. I believe the future is comprised of possibilities and that God knows each possibility, of each possibility, of each possibility ad infimum. A love God is always working to lead us to good and is always seeking to influence our decision of what possibilities are open to us. God always desires the best for us even when we blow it. Therefore, we can trust that all things will work for good for those who love the Lord. God has an ultimate goal. God works with the infinite number of possibilities through a loving influence that will bring about the result that God desires and which also is in line with what love is. Therefore, sometimes miracles do happen to keep the possibilities open.
I also fully agree with Oord that God can and does change God’s mind. I fully agree that our relationship with God does influence God and can influence God’s work in our world. There are plenty of examples in the Scripture that verify this. God has no limitations other than God’s own nature of love. God is not time full but is truly timeless. When one’s theology is limited or controlled by time, be it by Calvin or Oord, it gives time a power that is controlling of God. If God is controlled, then God is not God.
In spiritual direction, time is simply a path chosen. We seek to discern what is best why we journey on the pilgrimage of life. God is always present, seeking to influence but never to control. Spiritual directors join us to help us see the possibilities and to be cautious about the deceptions. Thus, I believe that a relational theology does aid in our understanding of the world we cannot see with our eyes but which we can perceive with our hearts.