Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Open Theism & Process Theology, Part 2/2

*Open Theism & Process Theology, Part 1/2 may be found here -
(for additional discussions see sidebar under "Theism")

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Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[1][2] In a more specific sense, theism refers to a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God's relationship to the universe.[3] Theism, in this specific sense, conceives of God as personal, present and active in the governance and organization of the world and the universe. The use of the word theism as indicating a particular doctrine of monotheism arose in the wake of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century to contrast with the then emerging deism that contended that God, though transcendent and supreme, did not intervene in the natural world and could be known rationally but not via revelation.[4]
The term theism derives from the Greek theos meaning God. The term theism was first used by Ralph Cudworth (1617–1688).[5] The claim of no knowledge is known as agnosticism; the claim of no god or deity is known as atheism.



Main article: Monotheism
Monotheism (from Greek μόνος) is the belief in theology that only one deity exists.[6] Some modern day monotheistic religions include Christianity, Islam, Judiasm, and some forms of Buddhism and Hinduism.


Main article: Polytheism

While a specific definition of theism may exclude polytheism, it is included by the most general definition. Polytheism is the belief that there is more than one deity.[7] In practice, polytheism is not just the belief that there are multiple gods; it usually includes belief in the existence of a specific pantheon of distinct deities.
Within polytheism there are hard and soft varieties:
Polytheism is also divided according to how the individual deities are regarded:
  • Henotheism: The viewpoint/belief that there may be more than one deity, but worship of only one of them.
  • Kathenotheism: The viewpoint/belief that there is more than one deity, but only one deity is worshipped at a time or ever, and another may be worthy of worship at another time or place. If they are worshipped one at a time, then each is supreme in turn.
  • Monolatrism: The belief that there may be more than one deity, but that only one is worthy of being worshipped. Most of the modern monotheistic religions may have begun as monolatric ones.

Pantheism and panentheism

Main articles: pantheism and panentheism

While a specific definition of theism may exclude pantheism, it is included by the most general definition.
  • Pantheism: The belief that the physical universe is equivalent to a god or gods, and that there is no division between a Creator and the substance of its creation.[8] Examples include many forms of Saivism.
  • Panentheism: Like Pantheism, the belief that the physical universe is joined to a god or gods. However, it also believes that a god or gods are greater than the material universe. Examples include most forms of Vaishnavism.
Some people find the distinction between these two beliefs as ambiguous and unhelpful, while others see it as a significant point of division.[9]


Main article: Deism

While the specific definition of theism given above may exclude deism, deism is included as a form of theism by the most general definition given above.
  • Deism is the belief that at least one deity exists and created the world, but that the creator(s) does/do not alter the original plan for the universe.[10] Deism typically rejects supernatural events (such as prophecies, miracles, and divine revelations) prominent in organized religion. Instead, Deism holds that religious beliefs must be founded on human reason and observed features of the natural world, and that these sources reveal the existence of a supreme being as creator.[11]
    • Pandeism: The belief that a god preceded the universe and created it, but is now equivalent with it.
    • Panendeism combines deism with panentheism, believing the universe is a part (but not the whole) of deity
    • Polydeism: The belief that multiple gods existed, but do not intervene with the universe.


Main article: Apotheosis

While a specific definition of theism may exclude autotheism, it is included by the most general definition. Autotheism is the viewpoint that, whether divinity is also external or not, it is inherently within 'oneself' and that one has a duty to become perfect (or divine). This can either be in a selfish, wilful, egotistical way or a selfless way following the implications of statements attributed to ethical, philosophical, and religious leaders such as Jesus,[12][13] Buddha, Mahavira, and Socrates.[citation needed]
Autotheism can also refer to the belief that one's self is a deity (often the only one), within the context of subjectivism. This is a fairly extreme version of subjectivism, however.

Value-judgment theisms
  • Eutheism is the viewpoint/belief that a deity(ies) is wholly benevolent; dystheism allows for there being evil in the divine realm.
  • Maltheism is the belief that a deity exists, but that god is wholly malicious and abusive.

See also

  1. See, for example,The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Second Edition and The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (1997) or the current Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. John Orr (English Deism: Its Roots and Its Fruits, 1934) explains that before the seventeenth century theism and deism were interchangeable terms but during the course of the seventeenth century they gained separate and mutually exclusive meanings (see deism)
  3. Halsey, William; Robert H. Blackburn, Sir Frank Francis (1969). Louis Shores. ed. Collier's Encyclopedia. 22 (20 ed.). Crowell-Collier Educational Corporation. pp. 266–267.
  4. “Monotheism”, in Britannica, 15th ed. (1986), 8:266.
  5. What is Panentheism?. About Agnosticism/Atheism. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
  6. Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language (G. & C. Merriam, 1924) defines deism as "belief in the existence of a personal god, with disbelief in Christian teaching, or with a purely rationalistic interpretation of Scripture".
  7. Matthew 5:38 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect"
  8. Luke 17:21 "The Kingdom of God is within you"

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The term panentheism (from the Greek) literally means "all (is) in God." As a concept of God, panentheism attempts to do justice both to divine transcendence (God is beyond or more than the world) and divine immanence (God is in the world). Panentheism maintains that the world is in God, included in the divine life, but that God's reality is not reducible to nor exhausted by the reality of the individuals or the structures of the universe or of the universe as a whole. Thus God is all-inclusive or all-encompassing with respect to being.

Strictly construed this entails that all divine relations are internal relations, that is, relations between God as integrated whole and the creatures as included parts. For panentheism then, while the universe is part of God, God and the universe do not form an undifferentiated whole. Panentheism draws definite distinctions between God as the including whole and the nondivine parts of the universe considered in themselves. Certain properties of divinity, such as aseity (self-existence) or necessary existence and the all-encompassing attributes of omnipresence (everywhere present), omniscience (all-knowing), and omnipotence (all power or all-powerful) apply to God but definitely not to individual creatures or to the universe itself. (Note though that process forms of panentheism find the notion of divine omnipotence problematic.)

Another important distinction drawn between God and creatures concerns mutual freedom. Panentheism upholds indeterminism: Spontaneity and free will in the universe mean that antecedent causes do not fully determine present events and actions, so the future is not fully predictable or foreknown, even by God; creatures have real choices. In summary, while God is not an individual simply distinct from the nondivine individuals, in the way, for example, that one human being is distinct from another, neither is God to be equated with the universe or its constituents.

Panentheism as alternative

In construing divine transcendence and immanence as above, panentheism mediates between deism and certain forms of traditional theism on the one hand and pantheism on the other hand, attempting to avoid pitfalls of both. Deism, as developed in the European Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, holds that God created the world to operate according to natural laws but is uninvolved in its destiny. The God posited by traditional theism is not as separate from the universe as is in deism; however, panentheists judge what they call classical theism to be equally inadequate. Classical theism, in affirming certain divine attributes stemming from ancient Greek philosophy—immutability (unchangeability), impassibility (to be unaffected by another), and eternity (in the sense of strict timelessness)—does not permit God to be in genuine relation to the world.

The term pantheism literally means "all (is) God." That is, everything at least in its true essence is divine. Clearly panentheism has affinities with pantheism. American Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000), the principle theological interpreter and developer of process philosophy, at first labeled his concept of God "The New Pantheism." The trajectory of German idealism produced both pantheists and panentheists. One could say that panentheism attempts to get as close to pantheism as possible in stressing the intimate relationship between God and nature, while still maintaining clear distinctions between them. A key difference is that pantheism tends to a (quasi) materialistic or (quasi) substantialistic understanding of God: Entities in the world share the divine essence or substance to a greater or lesser degree. Therefore, any distinction between God as a whole and the constituents of the universe is a matter of degree rather than of kind. In addition, since everything is a mode or attribute of God, pantheism typically denies indeterminate freedom.

The metaphor or analogy of the world as the body of God is popular among panentheists. Hartshorne compares the God-world relationship to that between a person's mind and the cells of its body. Arthur Peacocke (1924–), a key figure in the science and religion dialogue, speaks approvingly of the feminine, womb imagery that panentheism encourages: As with a fetus in its mother, creation is within God. American Christian theologian Sallie McFague (1933–) has been the principal developer of the metaphor of world as body of God. British philosophical theologian Grace Jantzen (1948–), in drawing the connection between God and world so tightly as to jettison indeterminate freedom, offers a pantheistic version of the metaphor.

Some connections with science

Panentheism offers diverse advantages for those interested in the intersection of science and religion. Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947), in his role as a philosopher of science, and others have observed that the dominant model for the natural world moved from mechanism to organism during the nineteenth century. Panentheism offers an organistic understanding of the God-world relation in contrast to deism's mechanistic understanding. Like deism, panentheism offers a concept of God where natural laws or processes are respected, where God refrains from interventions that overturn nature. The crucial difference is that panentheism posits a God intimately involved, continuously interacting, with the world.

Panentheism's intimate connection of God with a world in time entails a God who in some sense or dimension is also temporal. As the trajectory of modern science—from the Newtonian mechanics of the Enlightenment to evolution to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity—has put an exclamation point on the temporal nature of reality, panentheism offers a consonant concept of the divine.

As indicated above, creaturely spontaneity and indeterminate freedom are crucial for panentheism in its distinction of God from creation. Both quantum mechanics, in stating that the motions of subatomic particles are probabilistic rather than determinable from known antecedent conditions, and chaos theory, in demonstrating the unpredictability of future events, provide openings for panentheists and other supporters of indeterminacy. In particular, Peacocke, a British physical chemist, Anglican priest, and panentheistic theologian, applauds panentheism's picture of a God who is continuously creative in relation to an open universe. It must be noted, though, that no consensus exists among scientists that quantum indeterminacy or, even less, chaos theory unpredictability entail any ultimate indeterminacy in the universe.

Avoiding violation of natural processes is not only a concern of panentheists but of other theologians involved in the science and religion dialogue, including Americans Thomas F. Tracy and Nancey Murphy. It may seem that such thinkers must renounce any traditional Christian notion of special providence, namely, that God causes particular events in natural or human history (in contrast to general providence, that God determines the general laws or processes of the universe), however, this is not uniformly the case.

For example, in his later writings, Peacocke develops his notion of top-down causation, maintaining that divine action with respect to the universe not only upholds general laws or patterns but causes specific events. Whether such divine predetermination is compatible with indeterminate creaturely decisions and their chance interactions is a major difficulty for this viewpoint.

Murphy and Tracy purchase special providence by positing that God determines the probabilistic quantum movements of subatomic particles and that these in turn produce macro-effects that result in specific events. The virtue of this notion is that it contravenes no natural laws or regularities: The quantum events that God determines are within the scientifically permissible ranges of motion, and apparently no conceivable method exists for discerning God's causation on the quantum level. At the same time, this "invisibility" is problematic: That God ultimately causes a valued event (as opposed to, say, an event issuing in tremendous evil) appears to be a matter of blind faith, at least as far as physics is concerned. Other problems for this viewpoint are the speculative nature of the connection between quantum events and macro-effects and, for advocates of indeterminacy and openness, the denial that quantum events are ultimately indeterminate. More broadly, critics of the above approaches might judge them to be backdoor attempts to reintroduce too much transcendent or interventionist causation by God.

Panentheism's history

The term panentheism was coined by German idealist philosopher Carl Christian Friedrich Krause (1781–1832). As mentioned above, German idealism, with strong ties to nature romanticism, produced various panentheistic and pantheistic thinkers. The clearest and most fully developed panentheistic model was that of physicist, experimental psychologist, and philosopher Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801–1887). Earlier examples of panentheism or panentheistic tendencies include Western mysticism and Hindu bhakti (referring to devotion to a personal god) and its principal theologian Ramanuja (traditional dates, 1017–1137). These examples are not surprising, as mysticism generally softens the creator-creature distinction, while in India that distinction is not drawn as sharply as is typical in Western religions.

Various philosophers and theologians of the twentieth century have been labeled panentheists, including Nicolai Berdyaev, William Pepperell Montague, Paul Weiss, Karl Rahner, and John MacQuarrie. While the panentheistic affinities of these thinkers are undeniable, some failed to develop a clear panentheistic model, others promoted ideas contrary to basic premises of panentheism, while still others explicitly refused the label panentheism for their thought. Coming out of German idealism, American Paul Tillich (1886–1965), an exile from the Nazis, is regarded as one of the premier theologians of the twentieth century. Tillichians widely acknowledge his panentheism. His famous phrase, "God is not a being, but being-itself," has obvious panentheistic implications. Tillich, who claimed the phrase "eschatological pan-en-theism," was accused by some critics of pantheism, to which he would jokingly respond, "This pantheist is going to take a walk in his garden." Tillich's reluctance to disavow the attributes of divine immutability, impassibility, and eternity compromise his manifest panentheistic intentions, according to American theologian David Nikkel (1952–).

The fullest explicit development of panentheism in the twentieth century came from process thought. Whitehead, a British mathematical physicist and philosopher, originated process philosophy, its theism developed and to some extent modified by Hartshorne. For process thought, reality at its depth is not static being but rather a process of becoming. God is not an exception to, but the highest exemplar of, this ultimate or metaphysical principle. As did Fechner, process thought advocates panpsychism, that all integrated entities of the universe possess some degree of sentience or feeling. The fundamental unit of reality for process philosophy is an occasion of experience. God, in the consequent nature for Whitehead or the concrete pole of divinity for Hartshorne, includes all past occasions of experience. Process panentheism emphasizes omniscience and, to coin a word, omnipathy (all-feeling). God intimately knows all experience, is affected by, sympathizes with, all feelings. As Whitehead puts it, "God is the fellow sufferer who understands" (1928, p. 351). Whitehead purchases divine transcendence through the primordial nature, which is the reservoir of all possibility. Hartshorne purchases the same through the abstract pole of divinity, which refers to the changeless character of God, namely, that God will always lovingly know and integrate whatever experiences occur in the universe. If the world influences God as object of divine knowledge, God likewise influences the nondivine individuals as object of their awareness, as a lure providing preferences for their actions. To what extent the divine lure only persuades versus constrains decisions as the unavoidable object of awareness is debated by process theologians. What is beyond dispute is the rejection of omnipotence, if interpreted to mean God is all-powerful, which would overthrow indeterminate freedom.

Contemporary issues

McFague, mentioned earlier in relation to feminist divine imagery, has presented one of the most well-known models of panentheism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Her development of metaphors for a God in intimate relation with the world enflesh and enhance the sense of the concept of panentheism. On the other hand, her doubts concerning what we can actually know about God pose a potential problem for her panentheism. McFague's minimal Christian theistic claim is that there is a power in the universe on the side of life that is, metaphorically speaking, personal. When McFague adds that this power is many rather than one, critics may question whether God in her concept or metaphor is sufficiently integrated to panentheistically include the universe; critics may question whether there is a difference of substance between her view and American Christian theologian Gordon Kaufman's serendipitous creativity, that God should refer to the cosmic and evolutionary forces that have resulted in life and human life rather than to any personal or agential reality. Contrast McFague's outlook to that of Tillich and Hartshorne, who maintained that God is "not less than conscious" or superconscious (while recognizing the anthropomorphic dangers of attributing conscious personhood to God).

Many theologians in the science and religion dialogue affirm some notion of God's sustaining creativity common to the Western religious traditions: Every aspect of every particular constituent of the universe is radically contingent, dependent upon divine power for its continued existence moment by moment. Process theism rejects such an understanding of divine power. Whitehead is clear that both divine and finite occasions of experience are manifestations of the ultimate metaphysical principle of creative synthesis, each such occasion possessing ultimate independence of being. Whitehead reasons that if God were upholding the very existence of occasions, then indeterminate freedom would be overridden and his panentheism would transmute into a pantheism. Christian process theologians, while often neglecting to acknowledge this Whiteheadian perspective on divine power, have not challenged it either. The question for panentheists who wish to retain a notion of divine sustaining activity is this: Can omnipotence be defined as "all power" rather than "all-powerful"? Can God panentheistically encompass all power by sustaining and thus empowering the existence of each creature, as an existence with indeterminate freedom? If such a concept is not self-contradictory, then one can avoid pantheism and affirm a notion of divine power more consonant with the all-inclusive logic of panentheism.



Fechner, Gustav Theodor. Zend-Avesta: Oder ueber die Dinge des Himmels und des Jenseits, Vom Standpunkt der Naturbeschreibung, 5th edition. Leipzig, Germany: Leopold Voss, 1922. Translated excerpts appear in Philosophers Speak to God, ed. Charles Hartshorne and William L. Reese. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953.

Hartshorne, Charles. Man's Vision of God and the Logic of Theism (1941). Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1964.

Hartshorne, Charles. The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1948.

Jantzen, Grace M. God's World, God's Body. Philadelphia, Pa.: Westminster Press, 1984.

McFague, Sallie. Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age. Philadelphia, Pa.: Fortress Press, 1987.

McFague, Sallie. The Body of God: An Ecological Theology. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1993.

Nikkel, David H. Panentheism in Hartshorne and Tillich: A Creative Synthesis. New York: Peter Lang, 1995.

Peacocke, Arthur R. Intimations of Reality: Critical Realism in Science and Religion. South Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984.

Peacocke, Arthur R. Theology for a Scientific Age: Being and Becoming—Natural, Divine, and Human, 2nd edition. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1993.

Russell, Robert John; Murphey, Nancey; and Peacocke, Arthur R., eds. Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action. Berkeley, Calif.: Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 1995.

Tillich, Paul. The Courage to Be. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1952.

Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology, 3 Vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951–1963.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Science and the Modern World. New York: Macmillan, 1925.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929), corrected edition, ed. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne. New York: Macmillan, 1978.

Whitehead, Alfred North. Adventures of Ideas. New York: Macmillan, 1933.

Source: Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, ©2003 Gale Cengage. All Rights Reserved. Full copyright.

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Open theism is a recent theological movement that has developed within evangelical and post-evangelical Protestant Christianity as a response to certain ideas that are related to the synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology. Several of these ideas within classical theism (a designation which is not to be taken as inclusive of all of orthodox theism) state that God is immutable, impassible, and timeless. For several versions of classical theism, God fully determines the future; thus, humanity does not have libertarian free will, or, if free, that its freedom must necessarily be compatible with God's determining actions.[1] Open theists argue that these attributes do not belong to the God of the Bible and are at odds with personhood.
Openness is based on God as the Living God. The five most fundamental attributes of God are that God is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving. These faithfully represent God the way that Scripture presents Him, and starkly contrast with the Greek and Roman philosophical construction of God.[2]
Practically, open theism makes the case for a personal God who is open to influence through the prayers, decisions, and actions of people. Although many specific outcomes of the future are unknowable, God's foreknowledge of the future includes that which is determined as time progresses often in light of free decisions that have been made and what has been sociologically determined. So God knows everything that has been determined as well as what has not yet been determined but remains open. As such, God is able to anticipate the future, yet remains fluid to respond and react to prayer and decisions made either contrary or advantageous to His plan or presuppositions.

Gregory A. Boyd claims that "open theism" is an inappropriate term since the position posits more about the nature of time and reality than it does about God itself. This is to say that open theists do not believe that God does not know the future, but rather that the future does not exist to be known by anyone. For the open theist the future simply has not happened yet, not for anyone, and thus is unknowable in the common sense. Thus, to say that God does not know the future is akin to saying that God does not know about square circles. In this understanding, it could be technically wiser to refer to the view as "open futurism".[3]

Historical development

The first known post-biblical writings by a Christian advocating concepts similar to open theism with regard to the issue of foreknowledge is found in the writings of Calcidius, a 5th-century interpreter of Plato. It was affirmed in the 16'th century by Socinus, in the early 18'th century by Samuel Fancourt and Andrew Ramsay (an important figure in Methodism). In the 19th century several theologians wrote in defense of this idea, including Isaak Dorner, Gustav Fechner, Otto Pfleiderer, Jules Lequier, Adam Clarke, Billy Hibbard, Joel Hayes, T.W. Brents, and Lorenzo D. McCabe. Contributions to this defense increased as the century drew to a close.

The term "open theism" was introduced in 1980 with theologian Richard Rice's book The Openness of God: The Relationship of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will. The broader articulation of open theism was given in 1994, when five essays were published by Evangelical scholars (including Rice) under the title The Openness of God. Theologians of note currently espousing this view include: Clark Pinnock, John E. Sanders, Jürgen Moltmann, Richard Rice, Gregory Boyd, Thomas Jay Oord, C. Peter Wagner, Roger T. Forster, John Polkinghorne, Hendrikus Berkhof, Adrio Konig, Harry Boer, Thomas Finger (Mennonite), W. Norris Clarke (Roman Catholic), Brian Hebblethwaite, Robert Ellis, Kenneth Archer (Pentecostal) Barry Callen (Church of God), William Abraham, Henry Knight III, Gordon Olson, and Winkie Pratney. A significant number of philosophers of religion affirm it: William Hasker, David Basinger, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Richard Swinburne, Peter Van Inwagen, J. R. Lucas, Vincent Brümmer, Peter Geach, Richard Purtill, A. N. Prior, and Keith Ward. Biblical scholars Terence E. Fretheim and John Goldingay (Fuller) affirm it. Others include writers Madelline L’Engle and Paul Borgman, mathematician D. J. Barholomew and physicist Arthur Peacocke.[4]

The dynamic omniscience view has been affirmed by a number of non Christians as well: Cicero (first century BCE) Alexander of Aphrodisias (second century CE) and Porphyry (third century). God’s statement to Abraham “Now I know that you fear me” (Gen 22:12) was much discussed by Medieval Jewish theologians. Two significant Jewish thinkers who affirmed dynamic omniscience as the proper interpretation of the passage were Ibn Ezra (12'th century) and Gersonides (14'th century).

Philosophical arguments

Open theists maintain that some of the classical attributes of God are contradictory and unintelligible. The five main classical attributes are as follows:
  • Immutability: God cannot change in any way. Augustine argued that because God is immutable God cannot even speak in time, using created beings to utter eternal words.[5]. [This is actually a false citation. Augustine argues here that God's words recorded in Matthew 17:5 are not the same as His Eternal Word—namely Christ—by Whom God creates and upholds all things. God actually spoke, but the words were not God Himself.]
  • Impassibility: God is not the object of actions, but the subject.[6] ("Impassable" is from the Latin patior: suffer, undergo, endure.) Thus we cannot reach up to God without Him first coming down to us (cf. Romans 10:6), and any real interaction we have with God must be the result of God's condescension to us through the Incarnation and Pentecost. Neither impassibility nor immutability should be taken to imply we cannot actually interact with God. Classical Theist Blaise Pascal even says God has established prayer "To communicate to His creatures the dignity of causality." [7] The Definition of Chalcedon established the orthodox doctrine that Mary is the mother of God. The Passion is called the "passion" to underscore the fact that here, the impassible One suffers [Latin: passus] on the Cross. And Alexander bishop of Alexandria says of the Crucifixion "the impassable suffers and does not avenge its own injury."[8] (in Greek, the same root is used for "suffer" and "impassible" so perhaps a more accurate (though more wordy) translation would be "the one who does not suffer suffers and does not avenge his own injury.").
  • Omnipotence: God has all power, which includes complete sovereignty over all things. Thus God's sovereign will that we be free and that our will be effective is necessarily realized; and we are free and our will is effective.
  • Omnipresence: God is present everywhere, or more precisely, all things find their location in God; or alternatively God transcends space and time.
  • Omniscience: God has all knowledge, including of all past, present, and future events.

Contradictions in the traditional attributes are pointed out by open theists and atheists alike. Atheist author and educator George H. Smith writes in his book Atheism: the Case Against God that if God is omniscient, meaning God knows the future, God cannot be omnipotent, meaning God can do anything, because: "If God knew the future with infallible certainty, he cannot change it – in which case he cannot be omnipotent. If God can change the future, however, he cannot have infallible knowledge of it."[9] Likewise, if God is omnipresent, God cannot be omnipotent because God could not limit his own location. Open theists would again use the same argument here that changing his location would conflict with his immutability. A classical theist would respond to such an argument by pointing out that their position is that God is the author of the future, and thus there is no more contradiction in saying God knows the future and is sovereign over it than in saying "Shakespeare was free to make Romeo and Juliet as he would, but having made it He is not free to make it different from how he had."

Open theism also answers the question of how God can be blameless and omnipotent even though evil exists in the world. H. Roy Elseth gives an example of a parent that knows with certainty that his child would go out and murder someone if he was given a gun. Elseth argues that if the parent did give the gun to the child then the parent would be responsible for that crime.[10] However, if God was unsure about the outcome then God would not be culpable for that act; only the one who committed the act would be guilty. This position is, however, dubious, as a parent who know his child was probable, or likely, or even possibly going to shoot someone would be culpable; and God knew that it was likely that man would sin, and thus God is still culpable. An orthodox Christian might, on the contrary, seek to ground a theodicy in the Resurrection, both of Christ and the general Resurrection to come[11], though this is not the traditional answer to evil.

Another claim made by open theists is that the traditional definition of omniscience is incompatible with a real love relationship with God. It is claimed that for someone to have a real love relationship, it must be give and take. Each member opens themselves up and becomes vulnerable. They point out that God, throughout the Bible, is shown as grieving over Israel's rebellion. They claim that if the future was known with absolute certainty, then Israel could not have freely chosen to rebel and God could not be genuinely grieving, knowing that this was the only possibility. Israel's actions would have been set in stone a millennia before they were ever born. They would have been compelled by fate or providence to take those actions. This would be the same as a relationship between a programmer and computer. Open theists, such as John Sanders, claim that the only way a relationship can be real is if there is freedom to choose.

It should be noted that many open theists believe that God's infinite intelligence affords him an infinite understanding of all probabilities in the universe. Thus, to an unknown degree, God is able to "know the future" with certainty due to his understanding of the probabilities at hand. However, other open theists reply that this perspective simply reinforces the intellectual image of God which open theism is working to revise. God´s knowledge that "exceeds human wisdom" should not be thought of in terms of Greek philosophical categories. Biblically speaking, this inscrutability is a confession: either of human limitation and incompleteness or else of God´s care that goes beyond our horizon of comprehension.

Biblical arguments

In order to defend open theism, open theists also tend to focus on verses that tell of failed or subverted prophecies and instances where God changes his mind through interaction with man. The following is a quick overview of where the Bible expounds ideas that seem to contradict the classical attributes of God:
• Genesis 6:6-7 (KJV) And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

• Exodus 13:17 (KJV) And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:

• Exodus 32:7-14 (RSV) And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them; they have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, `These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people; now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; but of you I will make a great nation." But Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, "O LORD, why does thy wrath burn hot against thy people, whom thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, `With evil intent did he bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou didst swear by thine own self, and didst say to them, `I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.'" And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people.

• Exodus 33:4-6 (KJV) And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned: and no man did put on him his ornaments. For the LORD had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people; I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.

• Isaiah 5:4, 7 (KJV) What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

• Isaiah 38:1-5 At that time Hezekiah became very sick; he was almost dead. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to see him and told him, "This is what the Lord says: Make arrangements, because you are not going to live, but die." Hezekiah turned toward the wall and prayed to the Lord, "Lord, please remember that I have always obeyed you. I have given myself completely to you and have done what you said was right." Then Hezekiah cried loudly. Then the Lord spoke his word to Isaiah: "Go to Hezekiah and tell him: 'This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. So I will add fifteen years to your life.

Varieties of open theists

Philosopher Alan Rhoda has described several different approaches several open theists have taken with regard to God's knowledge of the future and the nature of the future.
  • Voluntary Nescience: The future is alethically settled but nevertheless epistemically open for God because he has voluntarily chosen not to know truths about future contingents.
  • Involuntary Nescience: The future is alethically settled but nevertheless epistemically open for God because truths about future contingents are in principle unknowable. William Hasker espouses this position.
  • Non-Bivalentist Omniscience: The future is alethically open and therefore epistemically open for God because propositions about future contingents are neither true nor false. J. R. Lucas espouses this position.
  • Bivalentist Omniscience: The future is alethically open and therefore epistemically open for God because propositions asserting of future contingents that they 'will' obtain or that they 'will not' obtain are both false. Instead, what is true is that they 'might and might not' obtain. Greg Boyd espouses this position." [12]

Critics of open theism

Opponents of open theism include Norman Geisler, Bruce A. Ware, Thomas R. Schreiner, John Frame and John Piper. Norman Geisler, in his book Creating God in the Image of Man? argues against open theism and in favor of the traditional attributes of God. He quotes Exodus 3:14 ("I am who I am") and claims that it establishes God's aseity. From there, Geisler deduces Simplicity, Necessity, Immutability, Impassability, Eternity, and Unity. He also addresses the claims that the Classical attributes were derived from the Greeks with three observations:
  1. The quest for something unchanging is not bad
  2. The Greeks did not have the same concept of God
  3. Philosophical influences are not wrong in themselves[13]
Opponents of open theism such as John Piper[14] claim that the verses commonly used by open theists are anthropopathisms (see anthropopathy). They suggest that when God seems to change from action A to action B in response to prayer, action B was the inevitable event all along, and God divinely ordained human prayer as the means by which God actualized that course of events.

They also point to verses that suggest God is immutable, such as:
  • Mal 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
  • Num 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
  • 1Sa 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
  • Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Those[who?] advocating the orthodox view see these as the verses that form God's character, and they interpret other verses that say God repents as anthropomorphistic. Authors who claim this can be traced back through Calvin, Ambrose, and Augustine. Open theists note that there seems to be an arbitrary distinction here between those verses which are merely anthropopathic and others which form God´s character. They also note that the immediate sense of the passages addressing God´s inalterability ought to be understood in the Hebrew sense of his faithfulness and justice.

See also

External links


  • Trinity and Process, G.Boyd, 1986
  • "Satan & the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy", Greg Boyd (2001) ISBN 0-8308-1550-3
  • The Case for Freewill Theism: a Philosophical Assessment, David Basinger, 1996, InterVarsity Press, ISBN 0-8308-1876-6
  • The Openness of God: The Relationship of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will, Richard Rice, 1980, Review and Herald Pub. Association, ISBN 0-8127-0303-0
  • The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God, Clark Pinnock editor, et al., 1994, InterVarsity Press ISBN 0-8308-1852-9, Paternoster Press (UK), ISBN 0-85364-635-X (followup to Rice book includes contribution from him)
  • The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence, John Sanders, revised edition, 2007. InterVarsity Press, ISBN 978-0-8308-2837-1
  • God, Time, and Knowledge, William Hasker, 1998, Cornell University Press, ISBN 0-8014-8545-2
  • God of the Possible, Gregory A. Boyd, 2000 reprint, Baker Books, ISBN 0-8010-6290-X
  • Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God's Openness (The Didsbury Lectures), Clark Pinnock, 2001, Baker Academic, ISBN 0-8010-2290-8
  • Providence, Evil, and the Openness of God, William Hasker, 2004, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-32949-3
  • Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science, Thomas Jay Oord ed., 2009, Pickwick, ISBN 13:978-1-60608-488-5

  • God's Lesser Glory, Bruce A. Ware, 2000, Crossway Books, ISBN 1-58134-229-2
  • Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace, Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (editors), 2000, Baker Academic, ISBN 0-8010-2232-0
  • Bound Only Once: The Failure of Open Theism, Douglas Wilson editor, et al., 2001, Canon Press, ISBN 1-885767-84-6
  • No Other God: A Response to Open Theism, John M. Frame, P & R Publishing, 2001, ISBN 0-87552-185-1
  • Consuming Glory: A Classical Defense of Divine-Human Relationality Against Open Theism, Gannon Murphy, Wipf & Stock, 2006, ISBN 1-59752-843-9
  • Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity, John Piper et al., 2003, Crossway Books, ISBN 1-58134-462-7
  • What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?: The Current Controversy over Divine Foreknowledge, Millard J. Erickson, Zondervan, 2006, ISBN 0-310-27338-2
  • How Much Does God Foreknow?: A Comprehensive Biblical Study, Steven C. Roy, InterVarsity Press, 2006, ISBN 0830827595
  • The Benefits of Providence: A New Look at Divine Sovereignty, James S. Spiegel, Crossway Books, 2005, ISBN 1-58134-616-6

Multiple views
  • The Sovereignty of God Debate, D. Steven Long and George Kalantizis editors, 2009 Cascade Books, ISBN 13:978-1-55635-217-1
  • Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: 4 Views, Bruce Ware editor, 2008, Broadman and Holman Academic, ISBN 978-0-8054-3060-8
  • Divine Foreknowledge: 4 Views, James Beilby and Paul Eddy (editors), et al., 2001, InterVarsity Press, ISBN 0-8308-2652-1
  • God and Time: Essays on the Divine Nature, Gregory E. Ganssle and David M. Woodruff (editors), 2002, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-512965-2
  • God & Time: Four Views, Gregory E. Ganssle (editor), et al., 2001, InterVarsity Press, ISBN 0-8308-1551-1
  • Predestination & Free Will, David and Randall Basinger (editors), et al., 1985, Intervarsity Press, ISBN 0-87784-567-0
  • Searching for an Adequate God, John Cobb and Clark Pinnock (Editors), et al., 2000, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, ISBN 0-8028-4739-0

Related work
  • The Nature of Love: A Theology, Thomas Jay Oord (2010) ISBN 9780827208285
  • God, Foreknowledge, and Freedom, John Martin Fischer (editor), 1989, Stanford, ISBN 0-8047-1580-7
  • The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge & Human, William Lane Craig, 2000, Wipf & Stock Publishers, ISBN 1-57910-316-2
  • The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge, Linda Zagzebski, 1996, Oxford, ISBN 0-19-510763-2
  • Eternal God : A Study of God without Time, Paul Helm, 1997, Oxford, ISBN 0-19-823725-1
  • Time and Eternity: Exploring God's Relationship to Time, William Lane Craig, 2001, Crossway Books, ISBN 1-58134-241-1
  • Time and Eternity, Brian Leftow, 1991, Cornell, ISBN 0-8014-2459-3
  • Travels in Four Dimensions: The Enigmas of Space and Time, Robin LePoidevin, 2003, Oxford, ISBN 0-19-875255-5 * The Ontology of Time, L Nathan Oaklander, 2004, Prometheus Books, ISBN 1-59102-197-9
  • Four-Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time, Theodore Sider, 2003, Oxford, ISBN 0-19-926352-3 * Real Time II, Hugh Mellor, 1998, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-09781-9
  • The Suffering of God, Terence E. Fretheim, 1984, Fortress Press, ISBN 0-8006-1538-7

  1. Viney, Donald (2008-10-06). "Process Theism". In Edward N. Zalta. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/process-theism/. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
  2. Openness Theology - Does God Know Your Entire Future?, Bob Enyart v. Samuel Lamerson
  3. Boyd, Gregory A. (2001). Satan and the problem of evil: constructing a trinitarian warfare theodicy. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-1550-3. OCLC 46866232. [page needed]
  4. See documentation on most of the people in this list see John Sanders, The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence, revised edition (InterVarsity press, 2007)166-169.
  5. Augustine, Confessions 11.6.8
  6. David Bentley Hart "No Shadow of Turning: On Divine Impassibility", Pro Ecclesia (Spring 2002): 184-206.
  7. Pascal, Thoughts VII.185.
  8. Alexander of Alexandria , Addition in the Codex
  9. Smith, George H. (1974). Atheism: the case against God. New York City: Nash. p. 74. ISBN 0-8402-1115-5. OCLC 991343.
  10. Elseth, Howard R.; Elden J. Elseth (1977). Did God Know? A Study of the Nature of God. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Calvary United Church. p. 23. OCLC 11208194.
  11. N. T. Wright Evil and the Justice of God
  12. Alanyzer: Four Versions of Open Theism
  13. Geisler, Norman L.. Creating God in the Image of Man. Minneapolis: Bethany House. p. 96. ISBN 1-556-61935-9. OCLC 35886058.
  14. "The Sovereignty of God and Prayer". http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/resources/the-sovereignty-of-god-and-prayer. Retrieved 2010-10-07.

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Process theology is a school of thought influenced by the metaphysical process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) and further developed by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000). While there are process theologies that are similar, but unrelated to the work of Whitehead (such as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) the term is generally applied to the Whiteheadian/Hartshornean school. Process theology is unrelated to the Process Church.


The original ideas of process thought are found in the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. Various theological and philosophical aspects have been expanded and developed by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000), John B. Cobb, Jr., and David Ray Griffin. A characteristic of process theology each of these thinkers shared was a rejection of metaphysics that privilege "being" over "becoming," particularly those of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. Hartshorne was deeply influenced by French philosopher Jules Lequier and by Swiss philosopher Charles Secrétan who were probably the first ones to claim that in God liberty of becoming is above his substantiality.

Process theology soon influenced a number of Jewish theologians including Rabbis Max Kadushin, Milton Steinberg and Levi A. Olan, Harry Slominsky and, to a lesser degree, Abraham Joshua Heschel. Today some rabbis who advocate some form of process theology include Bradley Shavit Artson, Lawrence A. Englander, William E. Kaufman, Harold Kushner, Anton Laytner, Michael Lerner, Gilbert S. Rosenthal, Lawrence Troster, Donald B. Rossoff, Burton Mindick, and Nahum Ward.

Alan Anderson and Deb Whitehouse have attempted to integrate process theology with the New Thought variant of Christianity.

The work of Richard Stadelmann has been to preserve the uniqueness of Jesus in process theology.

Major concepts
  • God is not omnipotent in the sense of being coercive. The divine has a power of persuasion rather than coercion. Process theologians interpret the classical doctrine of omnipotence as involving force, and suggest instead a forbearance in divine power. "Persuasion" in the causal sense means that God does not exert unilateral control.[1]
  • Reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but serially-ordered events, which are experiential in nature. These events have both a physical and mental aspect. All experience (male, female, atomic, and botanical) is important and contributes to the ongoing and interrelated process of reality.
  • The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will. Self-determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God cannot totally control any series of events or any individual, but God influences the creaturely exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities. To say it another way, God has a will in everything, but not everything that occurs is God's will.[2]
  • God contains the universe but is not identical with it (panentheism, not pantheism or pandeism). Some also call this "theocosmocentrism" to emphasize that God has always been related to some world or another.
  • Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable (that is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe) over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, etc.) remain eternally solid.
  • Charles Hartshorne believes that people do not experience subjective (or personal) immortality, but they do have objective immortality because their experiences live on forever in God, who contains all that was. Other process theologians believe that people do have subjective experience after bodily death.[3]
  • Dipolar theism, is the idea that God has both a changing aspect (God's existence as a Living God) and an unchanging aspect (God's eternal essence).

Relationship to liberation theology

C. Robert Mesle, in his book Process Theology, outlines three aspects of a process theology of liberation:[4]
  1. There is a relational character to the divine which allows God to experience both the joy and suffering of humanity. God suffers just as those who experience oppression and God seeks to actualize all positive and beautiful potentials. God must, therefore, be in solidarity with the oppressed and must also work for their liberation.
  2. God is not omnipotent in the classical sense and so God does not provide support for the status quo, but rather seeks the actualization of greater good.
  3. God exercises relational power and not unilateral control. In this way God cannot instantly end evil and oppression in the world. God works in relational ways to help guide persons to liberation.

Relationship to pluralism

Process theology affirms that God is working in all persons to actualize potentialities. In that sense each religious manifestation is the Divine working in a unique way to bring out the beautiful and the good. Additionally, scripture and religion represent human interpretations of the divine. In this sense pluralism is the expression of the diversity of cultural backgrounds and assumptions that people use to approach the Divine.[5]

Relationship to the doctrine of the incarnation

The Christ of process theology does not represent a hypostasis of divine and human persona. Rather God is incarnate in the lives of all humans when they act according to a call from God. Jesus fully and in every way responded to the call of God and so the person of Jesus is theologically understood to be “the divine Word in human form.” Jesus was not God-man in essence, but fully identified with God at all moments of life.[6]

Further information: Incarnation (Christianity)

Process theologians

Further reading
  • Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki's God Christ Church: A Practical Guide to Process Theology, new rev. ed. (New York: Crossroad, 1989, ISBN 0-8245-0970-6) demonstrates the practical integration of process philosophy with Christianity.
  • C. Robert Mesle's Process Theology: A Basic Introduction (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1993, ISBN 0-8272-2945-3) is an introduction to process theology written for the layperson.
  • Jewish introductions to classical theism, limited theism and process theology can be found in A Question of Faith: An Atheist and a Rabbi Debate the Existence of God (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1994, ISBN 1-56821-089-2) and The Case for God (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8272-0458-2), both written by Rabbi William E. Kaufman. Jewish variations of process theology are also presented in Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People (New York: Anchor Books, 2004, ISBN 1-4000-3472-8) and Sandra B. Lubarsky and David Ray Griffin, eds., Jewish Theology and Process Thought (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995, ISBN 0-7914-2810-9).
  • Christian introductions may be found in Schubert M. Ogden's The Reality of God and Other Essays (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-87074-318-X); John B. Cobb, Doubting Thomas: Christology in Story Form (New York: Crossroad, 1990, ISBN 0-8245-1033-X); and Charles Hartshorne, Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984, ISBN 0-87395-771-7). In French, the best introduction may be André Gounelle, Le Dynamisme Créateur de Dieu: Essai sur la Théologie du Process, édition revue, modifiée et augmentee (Paris: Van Dieren, 2000, ISBN 2911087267).
  • For essays exploring the relation of process thought to Wesleyan theology, see Bryan P. Stone and Thomas Jay Oord, Thy Nature and Thy Name is Love: Wesleyan and Process Theologies in Dialogue (Nashville: Kingswood, 2001, ISBN 0-687-05220-3).
  • The most important work by Paul S. Fiddes is The Creative Suffering of God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992); see also his short overview "Process Theology," in A. E. McGrath, ed., The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Modern Christian Thought (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 472–76.
  • Norman Pittenger's thought is exemplified in his God in Process (London: SCM Press, 1967, LCC BT83.6 .P5), Process-Thought and Christian Faith (New York: Macmillan Company, 1968, LCC BR100 .P615 1968), and Becoming and Belonging (Wilton, CT: Morehouse Publications, 1989, ISBN 0819214809).
  • Constance Wise's Hidden Circles in the Web: Feminist Wicca, Occult Knowledge, and Process Thought (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7591-1006-9) applies process theology to one variety of contemporary Paganism.

See also

  1. Charles Hartshorne, Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes (Albany: State University of New York, 1984), 20-26.
  2. John Cobb and David Griffin, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), 14-16, chapter 1.
  3. Hartshorne, 32-36.
  4. C. Robert Mesle, Process Theology: A Basic Introduction (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1993), 65-68, 75-80.
  5. Mesle, 101.
  6. Mesle, 106.

External links
Reference works

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What is Open Theology?

Open Theology Affirms That
1) God and creatures enjoy mutually-influencing relations, 2) the future is open and God does not fully know or settle it, and 3) love is uniquely exemplified by God and is the human ethical imperative.
Historical Overview
For some time now, scholars of religion and theology have discussed various ideas at the core of open theology. Many of these ideas are found in ancient Greek philosophers such as Heraclitus and Plato. Most present-day open theologians, however, argue that the themes and stories found in the Bible contain authoritative material for open theology.
Although affirming that their theological ideas are derived primarily from Christian scripture, open theologians typically contrast their views with the theological formulations of St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and many of their heirs. In these classical or conventional theologies, God is often not open. Rather, these conventional theologies portray deity as wholly transcendent, a predestiner, unrelated and wholly nontemporal, and a “sovereign king.” How often have we heard that “God is outside time?”
In addition to appealing to scripture, reason, and experience, open theologians draw from a less-emphasized theological tradition. This tradition is evident in, for example, the 16th century Christian theologian James Arminius’ rejection of divine predestination and emphasis upon creaturely freedom. It is found in the 18th century theologian John Wesley’s emphasis upon love as God’s primary attribute and a crucial basis for theological formulation.

A growing number of contemporary Christians find open theology both existentially and intellectually satisfying. In 1994, a quintet of evangelical scholars published, The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God. This work caused, and continues to cause, an uproar within Christian evangelical circles. Several formal and informal internet discussions, for instance, reveal that participants discuss open theology more than any other topic. The issue has been the lead story in several prominent evangelical journals and magazines, such as Christianity Today, as well as a feature story in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education.
Open theologians in evangelical traditions acknowledge that their thought enjoys some affinities with process theology. But they are also quick to note important differences. Because of these similarities and differences, a scholarly conversation has grown between process theologians and evangelical theologians. The conversation is challenging both as it pertains to substantive issues and for what it signifies to critics who identify with more conventional theological perspectives. Clark Pinnock expresses well these challenges:
Let’s be honest – there is risk for [both process and openness theists] in this dialogue. The conservatives will undoubtedly say: “There, we told you so – the open theists are talking with the process theists! Did we not warn that they are covert processians who aim to smuggle these process ideas into evangelical thinking?” And certain liberals and modernists will say: “Why do you process theists bother with fundamentalists? Why do you lower yourselves to appear in print together with them? Where is your self-respect? Are you so desperate to find acceptance in the mainline?” Together we say to the critics – we will not allow ourselves to be led by such fears (Searching for An Adequate God, xii).
Themes Typical of Open Theologies
While important differences of opinion exist among open theologians, the following statements comprise core themes that the majority, if not all, would affirm:
    • God’s primary characteristic is love.
    • Theology involves humble speculation about who God truly is and what God really does.
    • Creatures – at least humans – are genuinely free to make choices pertaining to their salvation.
    • God experiences others in some way analogous to how creatures experience others.
    • Both creatures and God are relational beings, which means that both God and creatures are affected by others in give-and-take relationships.
    • God’s experience changes, yet God’s nature or essence is unchanging.
    • God created all nondivine things.
    • God takes calculated risks, because God is not all-controlling.
    • Creatures are called to act in loving ways that please God and make the world a better place.
    • The future is open; it is not predetermined or fully known by God.
    • God’s expectations about the future are often partly dependent upon creaturely actions.
    • Although everlasting, God experiences time in a way analogous to how creatures experience time.