May 19, 2012
Process theology is a way of viewing divine action. As such, would it be more correct to say that by divine action God would deny the universe its freedom to become? Or that through divine action the universe is allowed every opportunity to become? Or that God's divine action is of no importance whether the universe becomes or not. It is of no consequence and the universe simply runs on its own with or without God?
The first view is one of bleak pessimism and cosmic austerity. Or perhaps the competing view that the universe has already attained a completed state of fullness. As such, we are living out the remaining remnants of time caught within the impersonal machinery of cause-and-effect without regard to the ideas of meaning, of poetic evolvement, or of a future hope moving towards some thing, some idea or reason.
The second view
is the more common Christian view that sees present day processes as incomplete and unfulfilled. It is a more hopeful cosmic view of progress and evolvement. While
the latter view is usually attributed to
the atheistic view in bald denial of anything divine or holy. However, the agnostic would take no position at all and leave it as a running debate.
Ideally, science as an objective discipline and methodology, could be considered agnostic to
these philosophical questions. And yet, if left in the hands of the theologian would see God
in the process. Whereas science in the hands of a disbeliever would only see natural laws without a spark of divinity to be found anywhere at all. However, it would be fair to say that most scientists apply the agnostic methodology to their work; and it is imagined that both the theistic and atheistic scientist would likewise apply this more common perspective to their labor, and
only afterwards import their personal
reflections and philosophies upon the results. Or better yet, simply leave it to the theologian and philosopher to debate.
Hence, given these introductory views could one then assume freedom to be inherent at all levels of creation, or that there is no such freedom w
ithin creation and all is deterministic? In other words, is the universe lively with creative opportunity? Or is it a cold, dark, mechanistic machine ticking away on its own clock and rhythm? Curiously, this time around it is the theist who would claim that all is determined (sic, Calvinism's theological system of austere Sovereignty). B
ut (agnostic) science has shown time-and-again that all has been indetermined, leaving the widest possible opportunity for anything to occur at any moment. Curiously, it is the theist this time that sees God, or His creation, as the machine, and the scientist who sees the universe lively with creative freedom.
But if we admit to a divine action that allows the universe a f
reedom to become, and if that freedom is
at all levels of creation, than does this mean that divine action can be regarded
as insignificant? Or, significant?
In other words, is it plausible to say that w
ithout divine action nothing can become. That all is deterministic. And that divine action is without effect? The non-theist would mostly shout, Aye! But to the process theologian this would not be the case.
For it is the premise of process theology that God, through divine action, provides the widest array of unique possibilities to the universe at each given moment on its journey towards becoming; that He will actively
encourage those creational possibilities that align with His divine will and vision to be chosen; and that He responds accordingly depending on which possibility is chosen. Hence, divine action mediates over creational opportunities inherent within the creational process of becoming. It is indeterministic but wholly significant for the accomplishment of divine will and vision.
But neither does this infer that divine action may only act in one direction. Depending on the level of complexity of a specific actuality in creation, divine action may indeed reflect a basic determinism while at other levels (such as is found in evolution, or in the human consciousness) it may be highly indeterministic. Process thought affirms variable divine action on all levels.
And most importantly, process thought affirms that God's nature changes like everything else. And yet, the better question to ask is what do we mean by this? For the answer can only be both yes-and-no. And this is the famous dipolarism that is found in process theism for on the one pole God does, and will, change in response to the universe as it evolves (and resolves) towards His holy purposes. And as it changes so God Himself will change in His experiences with the changes that are occurring. This is no less different from our own experience as imaged in God's image... as our world changes about us, so do we change in our relationship with that world. Whether from the perspective of maturing from an infant to an adult. Or in our academic prowess and acumen educationally. Or in our experiences of love and death, suffering and pain, fairness and injustice. We respond to each and every experience as God's image bearers and we should expect no less of God whose very image responds to all the universe's livelihood to all that it contains.
Similarly, residing on the other ontological pole of God is His eternal character and divine vision that remains resolute
providing to the universe the infinite possibilities of being and becoming
opportunities of aligning with His divine vision of full and uncharted freedom to become grounded in His eternal being. So that, on this half of the equation, God remains the same in His essence. He remains creative, loving, persuasive, redemptive, eternal in all that He is. But because of
this dipolar arrangement, even God Himself is becoming like everything else in the universe and is no more static, nor no less dynamic, than creation i
And so we see instances of the variableness of God's mind to Moses as He repents of the destruction He would bring upon His people Israel. O
r revokes, and then invokes, His covenant with Israel as they disobey at one moment and then repent at the next. Causing God to be angry one moment, while at the next He relents in response to Israel's
rent heart at their sin and repentance laced with grief and pain
. Like a loving parent, God acts and reacts to His children. He grows up with them as they mature in their faith, trust and hope. Each experiences the other in new ways unthought and unprecedented. From experiences of slavery to becoming a federated group of bonded tribes. From a promising nation-state to an impoverished exilic people. From the joys of liberation from the bonds of a conquering enemy to the remorseful renewal of covenantal faith. From the rejection of God's Son, Israel's hoped-for Messiah, to faith in the hope of salvation that God's Messiah brings. Dithering from experiences of oppression and persecution, to great joy and triumph. Even as the early church responded to God's salvation by its own experiences of great joy and spiritual redemption later attested by its historic charters, popular confessions and public admissions
. At every moment God experiences the pangs and joys of His people (and, generally, of the world in the throes of sin and death, life and recreation).
Thus we should expect no less in our (post)modern times of civilization as societies from around the world are bound closer together in renewal of all that it means to be humanity. By accepting and embracing the turmoil that will come
within the ever-expanding worlds of multi-ethnic globalism, the rich and variegated experiences of pluralism coupled with societal individualities, and the technological solidifications rapidly expanding globally throughout all the regions of the world.
Whether we admit this or not, the reality for the Christian is that there is a God. That He has not left us to ourselves. That there is a divine purpose in all things. Just as there is an inherent rebellion in all things towards His purposes because of sin and sin's darkness. That in the chaos there is order. That through chaos order is being restored even though it is similarly left in place.
That we live in a uniquely free universe that is allowed choice at every level. A choice of freedom that is inherently indeterministic but following patterns of regularity-and-form within each of those same levels. That the eternal God who is Creator of this universe is likewise experiencing with us the chaotic renewal of divine purpose and plan within the creative order of blessing and shalom. A God who is maximizing
the potential for every discordant possibility to find eternal completion within His own eternal being, presence, and fellowship.
In part 2 we will examine process theology through the lens of science by examining quantum physics from a renowned physicist who states quite flatly that divine action is not needed in the functioning of the universe. That it has within itself its own order, freedom and inherent possibilities. That natural laws require no God. No divine action. No holy word from the divine. That all is set from within itself. And that humanity is the temporary beneficiary of a grand cosmogony started on its own, ending on its own, and transforming on its own. With no singular beginning. And with infinite possibilities of becoming through the infinite arrangement of simultaneous multi-universes. To that quantum world of being we'll travel. One that I look forward to thinking through and reviewing. Stay tuned....
continue to -
Index to past articles on "Particle Physics, Quantum Science, and the Universe"
Other related articles that I've written may be found here:
QUANTUM PHYSICS, INDETERMINACY & MULTIVERSES
Stephen Hawking: The Strangeness of Quantum Physics and Cosmic Indeterminacy, 6/27/12
Stephen Hawking, Indeterminacy, God & Quantum Physics, 5/30/12
Stephen Hawking, Multi-Universes, and God's Grander Design, 5/24/12
Process Theology - "Divine Action, Indeterminancy, and Dipolarism", 5/19/12
Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design of God and the Cosmos, 4/26/12