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 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

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

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Whitehead's "Philosophy of Organism" Explained

Alfred North Whitehead (b. 1861, d. 1947)

Alfred North Whitehead



Here in this last series of articles on Whitehead and Process Thought I will encourage the reader to investigate on their own an Index I've been making over the years rather than try to repeat the many specifics of process philosophy and theology. I've given a brief overview of each, both together and apart in this series, but now it's time to delve into the details.

Here, you'll find an expired link to John Cobb's instructive classes (check youtube.com as well) along with a brief intro of Whitehead's book, Process and Reality in the Wikipedia article found further below. Of third generation Whiteheadian books which I think you'll find most helpful would be from the pens of Bruce G. Epperly, C. Robert Mesle, John Cobb, Thomas Oord, along with a host of other writers whom you'll uncover through their book's indexes and notes.

I mention Epperly and Mesle as the most accessible reads by the third generation of Process Pragmaticians; Oord for his Process Theological insights to "Open and Relational Theology"; and John Cobb as the first evangelist of Whiteheadian thought (along with Charles Hartshorn, Whitehead's partner; and David Ray Griffin who was John Cobb's partner out of the University of Chicago's Divinity School in the 1950s). These are the first and second generations to Whiteheadian thought.

Reading Whitehead is something which must be done. It cannot be avoided through the thoughts of others. But to make it easier, by reading Robert Mesle especially, then John Cobb, helps Whitehead become a much easier read in its heavy sections.

What I did was start with Whitehead's Process and Reality first by reading it and rereading it until I kinda understood it. I forget the chapter when it got into the weeds - perhaps chapter 4 (I don't have my book with me to check it out) - but there was one chapter in there which was the hardest to wade through. At this point I needed help from Cobb and Mesle. However, for much easier reads I suggest the well written books Bruce Epperly and Thomas Oord who bring it home in terms of practical living and thinking through of the ramifications of process thought. One last also comes to mind in Tripp Fuller of Homebrewed Christianity podcasts and website where a newbie might find a plethora of resources!  :)

But to help with these efforts I've developed my own index of personal and outside writings to help begin to grasp Process Philosophy and Theology. I think it is a good index and quite helpful. Still, it cannot replace the rigorous studies I've mentioned above. Only to give a glimpse into the wonderous lands where the brave dare to wander, the prophet to envision, and the preacher to recapture his imagination and burning heart's burden to share God's love with all who will hear.

And with that, I'll leave these final links below as guides and help along with Wikipedia's intro article on Process & Reality to show what we're up against when attempting to digest Whitehead's astoundingly profound thoughts.

Once grasped, you'll understand as I did why our entire postmodern lives need to be turned around. From its attempted grasp of God and the theology of the bible, to very nature itself and the abounding world around us. The revival I promise will come from the balance and symmetry of the Spirit of God who intends to rain upon the land God's harmonious goodness and love. It is God's Valentine Message to the World He Made and Cares for deeply. Enjoy.

R.E. Slater
February 14, 2014
(Valentine's Day)

A Six-Session Course

Alfred North Whitehead’s


In these lectures John Cobb provides an introduction to one of the most compelling and challenging philosophical texts of the Twentieth Century. Process and Reality is a notoriously difficult text, but the goal of this course is to enable students to not only skim the surface but probe its deeper dimensions. With his decades of experience as a scholar and teacher of Whitehead, Cobb will elucidate the major themes and illuminate the major concepts in a way that is accessible to anyone.

Each week features a


We are extremely excited about both the content and the format of this class. Each of the elements are inteneded to provide all the resources necessary for the engaged nerd like yourself to wrestle deeply with a powerful text - PROCESS & REALITY.

The LECTURE each week will be given by world’s foremost living expert on Whitehead’s philosophy, Dr. Cobb. Session by session we will walk through the text, developing Whitehead's larger philosophical project.

Following the lecture there will be a DISCUSSION of the texts and themes explored in the lecture between John and Tripp.

Throughout the class everyone will be invited to join and engage each other in our private group page. In additon to all the converstion threads the community will bring, Tripp will be hosting live streamed Q/A SESSIONS within the group & have SPECIAL GUESTS join to explore thier favorite themes in Whitehead.

Can't join live? Want to save the content for later? Go ahead and join.


In this intro to the course Dr. Cobb asks and answers: "Why Whitehead?"

Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr. taught theology at the Claremont School of Theology from 1958 to 1990. In 2014 he became the first theologian elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences for his interdisciplinary work in ecology, economics, and biology. He has published over 30 books including the first full length text in eco-philosophy.

In 1973, with David Griffin, he established the Center for Process Studies. In retirement he lives at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, California. Throughout his career he has contributed to Whitehead scholarship and promoted process-relational programs and organizations. Most recently, he helped found the Claremont Institute for Process Studies, and has been heavily involved in supporting work toward the goal of China becoming an ecological civilization.

This course is made possible through a collaboration between friends.


* * * * * * * * *

Process and Reality

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Process and Reality is a book by Alfred North Whitehead, in which the author propounds a philosophy of organism, also called process philosophy. The book, published in 1929, is a revision of the Gifford Lectures he gave in 1927–28.

We diverge from Descartes by holding that what he has described as primary attributes of physical bodies, are really the forms of internal relationships between actual occasions. Such a change of thought is the shift from materialism to Organic Realism, as a basic idea of physical science.

— Process and Reality, 1929, p. 471.

Whitehead's Process and Reality

Whitehead's background was an unusual one for a speculative philosopher. Educated as a mathematician, he became, through his coauthorship and 1913 publication of Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell, a major logician. Later he wrote extensively on physics and its philosophy, proposing a theory of gravity in Minkowski space as a logically possible alternative to Einstein's general theory of relativity. Whitehead's Process and Reality[1] is perhaps his philosophical master work.

The following is an attempt to provide an accessible outline of some of the main ideas in Whitehead's Process and Reality, based on the book itself, but guided by a general reading of secondary sources, especially I. Leclerc's Whitehead's Metaphysics. An Introductory Exposition.[2] Whitehead often speaks of the metaphysics of Process and Reality as 'the philosophy of organism'.

The cosmology elaborated in Process and Reality posits an ontology based on the two kinds of existence of entity, that of actual entity and that of abstract entity or abstraction.

The ultimate abstract principle of actual existence for Whitehead is creativity. Actual existence is a process of becoming, and "... 'becoming' is a creative advance into novelty."[3] It is manifest in what can be called 'singular causality'. This term may be contrasted with 'nomic causality'. An example of singular causation is that I woke this morning because my alarm clock rang. An example of nomic causation is that alarm clocks generally wake people in the morning. Aristotle recognises singular causality as efficient causality. For Whitehead, there are many contributory singular causes for an event. A further contributory singular cause of my being awoken by my alarm clock this morning was that I was lying asleep near it till it rang.

An actual entity is a general philosophical term for an utterly determinate and completely concrete individual particular of the actually existing world or universe of changeable entities considered in terms of singular causality, about which categorical statements can be made. Whitehead's most far-reaching and profound and radical contribution to metaphysics is his invention of a better way of choosing the actual entities. Whitehead chooses a way of defining the actual entities that makes them all alike, qua actual entities, with a single exception, God.

For example, for Aristotle, the actual entities were the substances, such as Socrates (a particular citizen of Athens) and Bucephalus (a particular horse belonging to Alexander the Great). Besides Aristotle's ontology of substances, another example of an ontology that posits actual entities is in Leibnizmonads, said to be 'windowless'.

Whitehead's actual entities

For Whitehead, the actual entities exist as the only foundational elements of reality, the ultimately existing facts of the world. Nothing "either in fact or in efficacy"[4] underlies or lies beyond the actual entities; rather they underlie all reality.[5]

The actual entities are of two kinds, temporal and atemporal.

With one exception, all actual entities for Whitehead are temporal and are occasions of experience (which are not to be confused with consciousness, or with mere subjectivity). This 'actual entity' idea is most distinctly characteristic of the metaphysics of Process and Reality, and requires of the newly approaching reader a philosophically unprejudiced approach. An entity that people commonly think of as a simple concrete object, or that Aristotle would think of as a substance – a human being included – is in this ontology considered to be a composite of indefinitely many occasions of experience.

The one exceptional actual entity is at once temporal and atemporal: God. He is objectively immortal, as well as being immanent in the world. He is objectified in each temporal actual entity; but He is not an eternal object. Whitehead uses the term 'actual occasion' to refer only to purely temporal actual entities, those other than God.[6]

The occasions of experience are of four grades. The first comprises processes in a physical vacuum such as the propagation of an electromagnetic wave or gravitational influence across empty space. The occasions of experience of the second grade involve just inanimate matter. The occasions of experience of the third grade involve living organisms. Occasions of experience of the fourth grade involve experience in the mode of presentational immediacy, which means more or less what are often called the qualia of subjective experience. So far as we know, experience in the mode of presentational immediacy occurs in only more evolved animals. That some occasions of experience involve experience in the mode of presentational immediacy is the one and only reason why Whitehead makes the occasions of experience his actual entities; for the actual entities must be of the ultimately general kind. Consequently, it is inessential that an occasion of experience have an aspect in the mode of presentational immediacy; occasions in the grades one, two, and three lack that aspect. The highest grade of experience "is to be identified with the canalized importance of free conceptual functionings".[7]

There is no mind-matter duality in this ontology, because "mind" is simply seen as an abstraction from an occasion of experience which has also a material aspect, which is of course simply another abstraction from it; thus the mental and the material aspects are abstractions from one and the same concrete occasion of experience. The brain is part of the body, both being abstractions of a kind known as persistent physical objects, neither being actual entities. Though not recognised by Aristotle, there is biological evidence, written about by Galen,[8] that the human brain is an essential seat of human experience in the mode of presentational immediacy. We may say that the brain has a material and a mental aspect, all three being abstractions from their indefinitely many constitutive occasions of experience, which are actual entities.[9]

Inherent in each actual entity is its respective dimension of time. Potentially, each occasion of experience is causally consequential on every other occasion of experience that precedes it in time, and has as its causal consequences every other occasion of experience that follows; thus it has been said that Whitehead's occasions of experience are 'all window', in contrast to Leibniz's 'windowless' monads. In time defined relative to it, each occasion of experience is causally influenced by prior occasions of experiences, and causally influences future occasions of experience. An occasion of experience consists of a process of prehending other occasions of experience, reacting to them.

The causal outcomes obey the usual well-respected rule that the causes precede the effects in time. Some pairs of processes cannot be connected by cause-and-effect relations, and they are said to be spatially separated. This is in perfect agreement with the viewpoint of the Einstein theory of special relativity and with the Minkowski geometry of spacetime.[10] It is clear that Whitehead respected these ideas, as may be seen for example in his 1919 book An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge[11] as well as in Process and Reality. Time in this view is relative to an inertial reference frame, different reference frames defining different versions of time.

The actual entity, the occasion of experience, is logically atomic in the sense that it cannot be cut and separated into two other occasions of experience. This kind of logical atomicity is perfectly compatible with indefinitely many spatiotemporal overlaps of occasions of experience. One can explain this atomicity by saying that an occasion of experience has an internal causal structure that could not be reproduced in each of the two complementary sections into which it might be cut. Nevertheless, an actual entity can completely contain indefinitely many other actual entities.[12]

Whitehead's theory of extension concerns the spatio-temporal features of his occasions of experience. Fundamental to both Newtonian and to quantum theoretical mechanics is the concept of velocity. The measurement of a velocity requires a finite spatiotemporal extent. Because it has no finite spatiotemporal extent, a single point of Minkowski space cannot be an occasion of experience, but is an abstraction from an infinite set of overlapping or contained occasions of experience, as explained in Process and Reality.[1] Though the occasions of experience are atomic, they are not necessarily separate in extension, spatiotemporally, from one another. Indefinitely many occasions of experience can overlap in Minkowski space.

An example of a nexus of temporally overlapping occasions of experience is what Whitehead calls an enduring physical object, which corresponds closely with an Aristotelian substance. An enduring physical object temporally has an earliest and a last member. Every member (apart from the earliest) is a causal consequence of the earliest member of the nexus, and every member (apart from the last) of such a nexus is a causal antecedent of the last. There are indefinitely many other causal antecedents and consequences of the enduring physical object, which overlap, but are not members, of the nexus. No member of the nexus is spatially separate from any other member. Within the nexus are indefinitely many continuous streams of overlapping nexūs, each stream including the earliest and the last member of the enduring physical object. Thus an enduring physical object, like an Aristotelian substance, undergoes changes and adventures during the course of its existence.[13]

Another aspect of the atomicity of occasions of experience is that they do not change. An actual entity is what it is. An occasion of experience can be described as a process of change, but is itself unchangeable.[14]

Whitehead's abstractions

Whitehead's abstractions are conceptual entities that are abstracted from or derived from and founded upon his actual entities. Abstractions are themselves not actual entities, but are the only entities that can be real.

An abstraction is a conceptual entity that involves more than one single actual entity. Whitehead's ontology refers to importantly structured collections of actual entities as nexuses of actual entities. Collection of actual entities into a nexus emphasises some aspect of those entities, and that emphasis is an abstraction, because it means that some aspects of the actual entities are emphasised or dragged away from their actuality, while other aspects are de-emphasised.

Whitehead admitted indefinitely many eternal objects. An example of an eternal object is a number, such as the number 'two'. Whitehead held that eternal objects are abstractions of a very high degree. Many abstractions, including eternal objects, are potential ingredients of processes.

Relation between actual entities and abstractions stated in the ontological principle

For Whitehead, besides its temporal generation by the actual entities which are its contributory causes, a process may be considered as a concrescence of abstract ingredient eternal objects. God enters into every temporal actual entity.

Whitehead's ontological principle is that whatever reality pertains to an abstraction is derived from the actual entities upon which it is founded or of which it is comprised.[15]

Publication data

The several originally published editions of Process and Reality were from New York and from Cambridge UK. There were many textual errors, partly due to Whitehead's imperfect handwriting and lack of interest in proof-reading. A largely corrected scholarly redaction was eventually prepared and published as Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (1929). 1979 corrected edition, edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne, Free Press, ISBN 0-02-934570-7.

See also


  1. Jump up to:a b Whitehead, A.N. (1929). Process and Reality. An Essay in Cosmology. Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927–1928, Macmillan, New York, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.
  2. ^ Leclerc, I. (1958). Whitehead's Metaphysics. An Introductory Exposition, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London, and Macmillan, New York.
  3. ^ Whitehead (1929) p. 42.
  4. ^ Whitehead (1929) p. 64.
  5. ^ Whitehead (1929) pp. 41, 116.
  6. ^ Whitehead (1929) p. 135.
  7. ^ Whitehead (1929) pp. 269–270.
  8. ^ Siegel, R.E. (1973). Galen: On Psychology, Psychopathology, and Function and Diseases of the Nervous System. An Analysis of his Doctrines, Observations, and Experiments, Karger, Basel, ISBN 978-3-8055-1479-8.
  9. ^ Whitehead (1929) p. 114.
  10. ^ Naber, G.L. (1992). The Geometry of Minkowski Spacetime. An Introduction to the Mathematics of the Special Theory of Relativity, Springer, New York, ISBN 978-0-387-97848-2
  11. ^ Whitehead, A.N. (1919). An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.
  12. ^ Whitehead (1929) p. 195.
  13. ^ Whitehead (1929) pp. 52, 87, 285.
  14. ^ Whitehead (1929) p. 52.
  15. ^ Whitehead (1929) pp. 48, 64,68.

Secondary literature

External links

Examining Process Philosophy & Process Theology, Part 2


Examining Process Philosophy
& Process Theology

Part 2/2

As I begin this morning I would like to reflect on Alfred North Whitehead himself when connecting his nearly synonymous work of process philosophy with process theology. And though I haven't included his past partner, Bertrand Russell, into my commentary, nor his future partner Charles Hartshorne, we should be mindful that both these figures were highly instrumental in Alfred's life as firstly, a mathematician, and secondly, a process philosopher picking up the ideas of cosmological metaphysics left since GWF Hegel in the late 1700s to early 1800s.

Let's begin with metaphysics, where we can see quite readily its appeal the Whitehead from his past development of Principia Mathematica as it strove to lay a logistical foundation to the discipline itself:

[Wikipedia] "Metaphysical study is conducted using deduction from that which is known a priori. Like foundational mathematics (which is sometimes considered a special case of metaphysics applied to the existence of number), it tries to give a coherent account of the structure of the world, capable of explaining our everyday and scientific perception of the world, and being free from contradictions. In mathematics, there are many different ways to define numbers; similarly, in metaphysics, there are many different ways to define objects, properties, concepts, and other entities that are claimed to make up the world. While metaphysics may, as a special case, study the entities postulated by fundamental science such as atoms and superstrings, its core topic is the set of categories such as object, property and causality which those scientific theories assume. For example: claiming that "electrons have charge" is a scientific theory; while exploring what it means for electrons to be (or at least, to be perceived as) "objects", charge to be a "property", and for both to exist in a topological entity called "space" is the task of metaphysics.

"There are two broad stances about what is "the world" studied by metaphysics. The strong, classical view assumes that the objects studied by metaphysics exist independently of any observer so that the subject is the most fundamental of all sciences. The weak, modern view assumes that the objects studied by metaphysics exist inside the mind of an observer, so the subject becomes a form of introspection and conceptual analysis. Some philosophers, notably Kant, discuss both of these "worlds" and what can be inferred about each one. Some, such as the logical positivists, and many scientists, reject the strong view of metaphysics as meaningless and unverifiable. Others reply that this criticism also applies to any type of knowledge, including hard science, which claims to describe anything other than the contents of human perception, and thus that the world of perception is the objective world in some sense. Metaphysics itself usually assumes that some stance has been taken on these questions and that it may proceed independently of the choice—the question of which stance to take belongs instead to another branch of philosophy, epistemology."
Even as process philosophy would not hold to a strong, classical view of metaphysical independence of the object to the world (sic, Descartes "Mind v Matter" dualism), so too does process theology takes the same stance. Rather than perceiving God in the Classic Christian tradition based upon a Hellenistic (sic, Plato, neo-Platonist) view of being independent from the world, the process Christian view of God is One whom is deeply involved and connected with the world. One who is affected by the world as much as He is affecting the world in goodness and love.

Enter the process world view of panentheism (not pantheism). A more mature view of God's interactivity with the world, not in occasional relationship to His creation as is the classic view of theology, but in God constant, moment-by-moment interactivity with creation. So much so that God's Self is bound up in nature and identity with creation. That is, without God's presence in creation we could not know Him. And though one could argue God is independent of creation it would serve only to argue for God's "God-ness" even as creation would "eclipse in an instant" without God's presence.

But though this last argument might provide solace to the non-process Christian (or religionist) for the thorough-going process theologian there is yet another distinction to be made. An important distinction in which the classic "creatio ex nihilo" statement may be rejected. An assertion which says "From God all came." That is, God ever was, is, and will be yet creation, the world, the universe, came from God from nothing.

Here's the problem.... Quantum Cosmological Science says "nothing cannot produce something." There must always be something from which something may come. This has proven difficult for many Christians to imagine. Especially when trying to defend God as being independent of all else. The Greek world of Hellenism demanded in its philosophies that there were "eternal objects" to be juxtaposed with "temporal objects." And it is in the fallacy of Greek cosmology which process-based panentheism says "No. Not so fast."

Enter the term "creatio continua" meaning that creation always was, is, and will be. It didn't come from nothing now can it return to nothing. Quantum science is quite firm in this. There must be something for something to be built or destroyed. "Creatio ex nihilo" is conceptually inaccurate.

So how to resolve these conundrum and how might its implications affect how we think of God and this life?

First, consider the Genesis void. Though metaphorical in the poetic sense of the Semetic verse, let's posit filling its metaphor with quantum physics. In these terms the "biblical void" is not nothing but something. A hot, dense, plasmic void, crushed down into one dimensional space without time, or quantum elements, boundary or edge. Where in Einsteinian space-time terminology, where space defines time and not time, space, there is nothing but void. Without irregularity, wrinkle, or asymmetry. It is contiguous throughout and throughout.

In process terms of (quantum) creation, God is considered the first process of all future processes, infilling, informing, creating, ordering through chaos and randomness, the Big Bang universe which we live in today. This then resolves the first conundrum. What about the second? What are the implications - in process terms - of God's relationship to the world?

Rather than holding God to the classic theistic aspects of being non-temporal (eternal), unchanging (immutable), and unaffected by the world (impassible), process theology says that in some aspects God is this but in other aspects God is not. Surely, the Prince of Life cannot die (eternal), nor is changeable (God is always loving and good), nor desirous of not sustaining creation as it evolves (impassibility) but in other aspects God is temporal, mutable, and passible. God, like process creation, changes and evolves with creation, moment-by-moment, and through all matters feels with it in all aspects of energy and life. In other words, process theology refers to all forms of theology that emphasize event, occurrence, or becoming over substance.

It is in this aspect then where "open and relational theology" may take flight. Open, in that the future is always open to God and to the world. Nothing is determined (or, based upon Newtonian physics, like human freedom, we may describe each as "limitedly determined" or "limitedly free"). God has imbued His God-ness into the very creation He "ordered" by the laws of quantum and biological evolution. Thus described as "process-based physics and evolution." The freedom comes in how life processes interactive with each other in future possibilities, permutations or perambulations, of itself. And where there is process so there is God. In God's goodness, love, novelty, creativity, responsiveness, feeling, sustenance, wholeness, essence, and eternal Self.

How then does process theology not describe a more better world or provisionally good world than the Greek view of divine retribution, distance or uncaring? Where at the last even the Greek gods themselves were subject to the wheels (weals?) of fate or fortune? To some force larger than themselves? The Christian process God who imparted Himself FULLY into a process creation is the summa cum laude of all being, essence, definitions, and values. And through love, and because of love, God gave to creation its agency to do with as it chooses. For good or for evil. For misadventure or nurturing benevolence. For nourishment, creativity, enjoyment or bondage, cruelty and evil.

I leave then with the fuller Wikipedia article below speaking to the details of process theology along with some quotes from myself, Russell, and Whitehead.


R.E. Slater
February 14, 2021

"I am attracted to  Process Theology for its positive apprehension of God, ministry, and service. For its placement of wonder and mystery back into the divine, into creation, into very mankind itself and nature all around. To speak of the past day as it unfolds into the present day portending toward the future day is to speak of movement towards love, freedom, mercy, and forgiveness. For without these qualities there can be no future day. Nor a present of wonder and fellowship with all around. Nor a past day where goodness was displayed instead of cruelty and dogmatic legalism." - R.E. Slater

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are
always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."
- Bertrand Russell

"To be happy in this world, especially when youth is past, it is necessary to feel
oneself not merely an isolated individual whose day will soon be over, but part of
the stream of life flowing on from the first germ to the remote and unknown future."
- Bertrand Russell

"God is in the world, or nowhere, creating continually in us and around us. Insofar as
man partakes of this creative process does he partake of the divine, of God, and that participation is his immortality." - Alfred North Whitehead

"The essence of Christianity is the appeal to the life of Christ as a revelation of the nature of God and of God's agency in the world. The record is fragmentary, inconsistent, and uncertain. . . . But there can be no doubt as to what elements in the record have evoked a response from all that is best in human nature. The Mother, the Child, and the bare manger: the lowly man, homeless and self-forgetful, with his message of peace, love, and sympathy: the suffering, the agony, the tender words as life ebbed, the final despair: and the whole with the authority of supreme victory". - A.N. Whitehead

* * * * * * * *


Everyone is a philosopher. Not everyone is good at it.

How the past perishes is how the future becomes.

The ultimate metaphysical ground is the creative advance into novelty.

Fertilization of the soul is the reason for the necessity of art.

Religion is the reaction of human nature to its search for God.

The purpose of education is not to fill a vessel but to kindle a flame.

- Alfred North Whitehead

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Process theology

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Process theology is a type of theology developed from Alfred North Whitehead's (1861–1947) process philosophy, most notably by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000), John B. Cobb (b. 1925) and Eugene H. Peters (1929-1983). Process theology and process philosophy are collectively referred to as "process thought".

For both Whitehead and Hartshorne, it is an essential attribute of God to affect and be affected by temporal processes, contrary to the forms of theism that hold God to be in all respects non-temporal (eternal), unchanging (immutable), and unaffected by the world (impassible). Process theology does not deny that God is in some respects eternal (will never die), immutable (in the sense that God is unchangingly good), and impassible (in the sense that God's eternal aspect is unaffected by actuality), but it contradicts the classical view by insisting that God is in some respects temporal, mutable, and passible.[1]

According to Cobb, "process theology may refer to all forms of theology that emphasize event, occurrence, or becoming over substance. In this sense theology influenced by Hegel is process theology just as much as that influenced by Whitehead. This use of the term calls attention to affinities between these otherwise quite different traditions."[2][3] Also Pierre Teilhard de Chardin can be included among process theologians,[4] even if they are generally understood as referring to the Whiteheadian/Hartshornean school, where there continue to be ongoing debates within the field on the nature of God, the relationship of God and the world, and immortality.


Various theological and philosophical aspects have been expanded and developed by Charles Hartshorne (1897–2000), John B. Cobb, Jr.Eugene H. Peters, and David Ray Griffin.[5] 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.[6] 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 KadushinMilton 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. KaufmanHarold Kushner, Anson Laytner, Michael Lerner, Gilbert S. Rosenthal, Lawrence Troster, Donald B. Rossoff, Burton Mindick, and Nahum Ward.

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

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

God and the World relationship

Whitehead's classical statement is a set of antithetical statements that attempt to avoid self-contradiction by shifting them from a set of oppositions into a contrast:

  • It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent, as that the World is permanent and God is fluent.
  • It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.
  • It is as true to say that, in comparison with the World, God is actual eminently, as that, in comparison with God, the World is actual eminently.
  • It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God, as that God is immanent in the World.
  • It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God.
  • It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that the World creates God.[7]


  • 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.[8]
  • 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 willSelf-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.[9]
  • 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 (goodnesswisdom, 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.[10]
  • 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).[11]

Relationship to liberation theology

Henry Young combines Black theology and Process theology in his book Hope in Process. Young seeks a model for American society that goes beyond the alternatives of integration of Blacks into white society and Black separateness. He finds useful the process model of the many becoming one. Here the one is a new reality that emerges from the discrete contributions of the many, not the assimilation of the many to an already established one.[12]

Monica Coleman has combined Womanist theology and Process theology in her book Making a Way Out of No Way. In it, she argues that 'making a way out of no way' and 'creative transformation' are complementary insights from the respective theological traditions. She is one of many theologians who identify both as a process theologian and feminist/womanist/ecofeminist theologian, which includes persons such as Sallie McFagueRosemary Radford Ruether, and Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki.[13][14]

C. Robert Mesle, in his book Process Theology, outlines three aspects of a process theology of liberation:[15]

  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.[16]

Relationship to the doctrine of the incarnation

Contrary to Christian orthodoxy, the Christ of mainstream process theology is not the mystical and historically exclusive union of divine and human natures in one hypostasis, the eternal Logos of God uniquely enfleshed in and identifiable as the man Jesus. Rather God is incarnate in the lives of all people when they act according to a call from God. Jesus fully and in every way responded to God's call, thus the person of Jesus is theologically understood as "the divine Word in human form." Jesus is not singularly or essentially God, but he was perfectly synchronized to God at all moments of life.[17] Cobb expressed the Incarnation in process terms that link it to his understanding of actualization of human potential: "'Christ' refers to the Logos as incarnate hence as the process of creative transformation in and of the world".

Debate about process theology's conception of God’s power

A criticism of process theology is that it offers a too severely diminished conception of God’s power. Process theologians argue that God does not have unilateral, coercive control over everything in the universe. In process theology, God cannot override a person’s freedom, nor perform miracles that violate the laws of nature, nor perform physical actions such as causing or halting a flood or an avalanche. Critics argue that this conception diminishes divine power to such a degree that God is no longer worshipful.[5][18][19][20][21]

The process theology response to this criticism is that the traditional Christian conception of God is actually not worshipful as it stands, and that the traditional notion of God’s omnipotence fails to make sense.[22]

First, power is a relational concept. It is not exerted in a vacuum, but always by some entity A over some other entity B.[23] As such, power requires analysis of both the being exerting power, and the being that power is being exerted upon. To suppose that an entity A (in this case, God), can always successfully control any other entity B is to say, in effect, that B does not exist as a free and individual being in any meaningful sense, since there is no possibility of its resisting A if A should decide to press the issue.[24]

Mindful of this, process theology makes several important distinctions between different kinds of power. The first distinction is between "coercive" power and "persuasive" power.[25] Coercive power is the kind that is exerted by one physical body over another, such as one billiard ball hitting another, or one arm twisting another. Lifeless bodies (such as the billiard balls) cannot resist such applications of physical force at all, and even living bodies (like arms) can only resist so far, and can be coercively overpowered. While finite, physical creatures can exert coercive power over one another in this way, God—lacking a physical body—cannot (not merely will not) exert coercive control over the world.[26]

But process theologians argue that coercive power is actually a secondary or derivative form of power, while persuasion is the primary form.[25] Even the act of self-motion (of an arm, for instance) is an instance of persuasive power. The arm may not perform in the way a person wishes it to—it may be broken, or asleep, or otherwise unable to perform the desired action. It is only after the persuasive act of self-motion is successful that an entity can even begin to exercise coercive control over other finite physical bodies. But no amount of coercive control can alter the free decisions of other entities; only persuasion can do so.[27]

For example, a child is told by his parent that he must go to bed. The child, as a self-conscious, decision-making individual, can always make the decision to not go to bed. The parent may then respond by picking up the child bodily and carrying him to his room, but nothing can force the child to alter his decision to resist the parent's directive. It is only the body of the child that can be coercively controlled by the body of the physically stronger parent; the child's free will remains intact. While process theologians argue that God does not have coercive power, they also argue that God has supreme persuasive power, that God is always influencing/persuading us to choose the good.

One classic exchange over the issue of divine power is between philosophers Frederick Sontag and John K. Roth and process theologian David Ray Griffin.[28] Sontag and Roth argued that the process God’s inability to, for instance, stop the genocide at Auschwitz meant that God was not worthy of worship, since there is no point in worshipping a God that cannot save us from such atrocities. Griffin's response was as follows:

One of the stronger complaints from Sontag and Roth is that, given the enormity of evil in the world, a deity that is [merely] doing its best is not worthy of worship. The implication is that a deity that is not doing its best is worthy of worship. For example, in reference to Auschwitz, Roth mocks my God with the statement that “the best that God could possibly do was to permit 10,000 Jews a day to go up in smoke.” Roth prefers a God who had the power to prevent this Holocaust but did not do it! This illustrates how much people can differ in what they consider worthy of worship. For Roth, it is clearly brute power that evokes worship. The question is: is this what should evoke worship? To refer back to the point about revelation: is this kind of power worship consistent with the Christian claim that divinity is decisively revealed in Jesus? Roth finds my God too small to evoke worship; I find his too gross.[28]

The process argument, then, is that those who cling to the idea of God's coercive omnipotence are defending power for power's sake, which would seem to be inconsistent with the life of Jesus, who Christians believe died for humanity's sins rather than overthrow the Roman empire. Griffin argues that it is actually the God whose omnipotence is defined in the "traditional" way that is not worshipful.[28]

One other distinction process theologians make is between the idea of "unilateral" power versus "relational" power.[29] Unilateral power is the power of a king (or more accurately, a tyrant) who wishes to exert control over his subjects without being affected by them.[30] However, most people would agree that a ruler who is not changed or affected by the joys and sorrows of his subjects is actually a despicable ruler and a psychopath.[31] Process theologians thus stress that God’s power is relational; rather than being unaffected and unchanged by the world, God is the being most affected by every other being in the universe.[32] As process theologian C. Robert Mesle puts it:

Relational power takes great strength. In stark contrast to unilateral power, the radical manifestations of relational power are found in people like Martin Luther King, Jr.Mahatma Gandhi, and Jesus. It requires the willingness to endure tremendous suffering while refusing to hate. It demands that we keep our hearts open to those who wish to slam them shut. It means offering to open up a relationship with people who hate us, despise us, and wish to destroy us.[29]

In summation, then, process theologians argue that their conception of God’s power does not diminish God, but just the opposite. Rather than see God as one who unilaterally coerces other beings, judges and punishes them, and is completely unaffected by the joys and sorrows of others, process theologians see God as the one who persuades the universe to love and peace, is supremely affected by even the tiniest of joys and the smallest of sorrows, and is able to love all beings despite the most heinous acts they may commit. God is, as Whitehead says, "the fellow sufferer who understands."[33]

See also