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

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Hegel and Whitehead - Divine Process Panentheism & Immanency




As introduction to Classic Theism, I submit Mtabaczek's article below. Unlike process theology's approach, classic theology sees God in very Platonic and neo-Platonic ways. Whereas process theology sees God, well, in very different ways, such as openness of future, experientialism, personalism, and relationalism, to mention a few. Below you will find the classic theistic portrayal of its God in positive ways as versus process' panentheistic approach seen by classicism in negative ways. In the blog piece before this I began a discursive which may serve as introduction to this piece here.

        - R.E. Slater, November 16, 2021



Hegel and Whitehead: Panentheism

February 2, 2014


I have just posted a new sub-page on my blog, which will contain abstracts and links to my official publications. I will try to explain the content of each one of them in several steps.

My first article in English was published in May 2013 in Theology and Science, a journal edited by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley. It’s title is quite sophisticated: Hegel and Whitehead: In Search for Sources of Contemporary Versions of Panentheism in the Science–Theology Dialogue. You can read an abstract here.

First of all, what is panentheism about? It all goes back to one of the main concerns of our reflection about God, which has been the source of struggle for theologians over the centuries. On the one hand we acknowledge that God is totally different and unlike anything that we know by our sensual experience and intellectual reflection. God is totally and absolutely transcendent. He is omniscient (knows everything), omnipotent (can do everything), eternal, and above all – unchangeable. Therefore – according to St. Thomas Aquinas – while our relation to God is real and changes us, this same relation on the side of God is only a relation of thought (reason), because it cannot change God nor add anything to His essence which is pure act, without any hint of potentiality.

Comment: "Process Theology takes these same subjects and brings God near (immanent); learning experientially from creation as it recreates itself moment by moment as He had designed it; stresses all loving over power and control thus avoiding problems of theodicy and freewill; everlasting, which basically says the same thing as eternally but puts the stress on the presence of God's everlastingness into the here-and-now of His creation; and changeable in God's emotions towards His moment-by-moment immanent experience of creation even has God's character or attributes are unchanging re God's everlasting love, goodness, justness, forgiveness, mercifulness, and etc." - re slater

On the other hand we have to acknowledge that God is radically immanent, that is He is present in the world and all its aspects. Saint Thomas defines the very act of creation as a total dependence of every creature in its being on God. God is the source of the very existence of everything. Were he not present in contingent beings at every moment of their existence, they would perish at once. They actually exist because they participate in the infinite being of the Creator.


And here comes the question: how does one bring God’s transcendence and immanence together into one model of His divine action? One of the possible answers goes back to Pseudo-Dionysius (5-6th century), and was further developed by St. Thomas Aquinas. It names three ways of our speech about God:

  1. The positive way enables us to formulate positive statements about the Creator. We may say for instance that God is good, and His goodness is revealed in creation (God’s immanence).
  2. But at the same time we must acknowledge that He is not good in the way that we are good. In other words, God’s goodness is unlike our goodness. This is the way of negation. Following it we realize that it is more appropriate for us to say what God is not, rather than what God is (God’s transcendence). And yet the connection with our human categories is not totally rejected. 
  3. The third way – the way of eminence – saves it, claiming that God is good, but in an eminent way, which goes beyond any kind of goodness known to us. God is the source of all goodness, as His goodness is identical with His essence. This way of speaking about God is based on the doctrine of analogy, which I hope to explain in a separate entry.

This way of bringing together transcendence and immanence of God saves both of them and supports the classical Thomistic model of God- world relationship which I describe on the left side of the diagram below.

click to enlarge; process theology uses the panentheism model

Aquinas’s view of God-world relation remained in a radical opposition to pantheism (the middle model on the diagram), which assumes that the world is God and God’s essence is exhausted in the world taken as a whole (an idea coming back today in the New Age and other “ecological” spiritual movements). However, commonly accepted and supported throughout the centuries, the classical model of Aquinas has been recently accused (beginning from the late 19th century) of overemphasizing God’s transcendence. God who does not have a real relationship towards His creation – says the main charge – is not the God of love. If creation cannot affect God [transcendence model], then God is not concerned with what is happening in the world. He is a [pantheist] God of the philosophers [classic theologians], but not of the Bible. [brackets are mine own - re slater]

As a remedy to this crisis, some theologians proposed a new model of God-world relationship – panentheism. It suggests that the world is in God (a link to pantheism), and yet God is more than the world (a link to classical theism of Aquinas). See the right-hand model on the diagram above. Proponents of this version of God-world relation suggest that because the world is in God, it has to affect God, therefore He is not unchangeable anymore, and His eternity is affected by time. Moreover, when creating the world God decides to limit his omniscience and omnipotence, in order to make a space for our freedom and contingent events in the world. He is not a detached ruler, but a fellow sufferer who understands. And yet – according to panentheism – God is still transcendent, because He is more than the world.


The panentheistic model has become very popular, and found many applications in contemporary theology, especially in the circles of theology and science debate, where it seems to be suitable in explaining theological implications of contingency and indeterminacy of natural events. However, at the same time, it raises some basic and crucial questions. (i) The first and the most important among them refers to God’s transcendence. If the world is in God and affects God, then it has to share God’s essence (God’s nature or substance), which challenges the truth about God’s transcendence. Moreover, (ii) if creation of the world changes God and limits some of the attributes which are substantial for His divinity (e.g. omnipotence, omniscience, eternity), it is hard to agree that He is still the [same classical] God we believe in. If this is the case, then the claim of panentheism’s proponents, who say that it gives right to both God’s transcendence and immanence, simply does not hold.

Comment: "Though I've not heard this said, still, to myself it makes more sense to say that ultimately God's "wholly Otherness" is "wholly meaningless" to creation. One may argue philosophically that its important to recognize as the "wholly Other" but ontologically it makes no sense at all as this "wholly Otherness" has no meaning to the world at large. Hence, process theology can acknowledge God's "wholly Otherness" but pragmatically God's "wholly immanence" is far, far more important, crucial, absolute, necessary, and needful in any depiction of a biblical theology." - re slater

Contemporary panentheism has many faces and versions. The truth is that it also has a long historical tradition, especially in the philosophical reflection on God and God-world relationship. It’s roots go back to ancient Egypt and Greece. In my article I concentrate on two philosophical versions of panentheism: the one which was proposed by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and the other developed by Alfred North Whitehead. The former philosopher may be regarded as the father of the modern version of panentheism, while the latter has become very popular in the contemporary science-theology dialogue. I ask the question of the possible relation between their versions of panentheism and the nuances in their understanding of God’s transcendence and immanence.

That’s it for now. It is a prelude to the main body of the article which I hope to summarize in the next episodes under the same title: Hegel & Whitehead.


- MTABACZEK

ADDENDUM 

This took me a little time to locate as a free .PDF but here is the link below. I suspect it will be very helpful in locating the difference between Hegel and Whitehead when reading Whitehead's Process and Reality. - re slater 

R.E. Slater - Essays with John Cobb: A Processual Personal God



Essays with John Cobb:
A Processual Personal God

by Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr.
May 1998

Is God Personal?

Publication Month: May 1998
Dr. Cobb’s Response

Editing of Content Structure by R.E. Slater

I.

The answer to this, as to so many questions is Yes and No, but on the whole Yes is a better answer than No. Of course, everything depends on what is meant by “personal”. For some people, the only way God can be personal is to be very much like a human being. In the extreme case this involves attributing a body to God that resembles a human body. Obviously, the answer must then be No. If we think of God having a body, that body is the universe as a whole.

More commonly, it is only the human mind or soul or spirit that God is understood to resemble. Then the answer depends on how the questioner understands the human spirit. Often it is understood substantialistically, with the relations among human spirits, and even between spirit and body, seen as quite external. When it is clear that the questioner is thinking in this way, it is still best to begin with the answer No. God is not like another human being, only greater, when one thinks of a human being in this way. But then, from a process perspective, other human beings are not like that either!

II.

In somewhat more sophisticated imagery, questioners sometimes are asking whether the I-Thou relationship exists between us and God. Addressing God as Thou has been so central to the Abrahamic traditions that to rule out such language would mean a serious rupture. Process theology allows and affirms its use.

But the language of I-Thou suggests an over-againstness or externality that is inadequate and misleading. In Tillich’s terminology it seems to imply that God is one being alongside other beings. We need to claim the language but free it from this externalistic interpretation. Paul himself helps us to do so. He says of human beings that we are members one of another and jointly members of the body of Christ. We are in Christ and Christ is in us. The Holy Spirit is also found within. Process thought interprets this to mean that we participate in constituting the very being of one another and that the divine reality participates in constituting our being as we participate in constituting the divine reality. We are quite literally in God, and God is quite literally in us.

I-Thou language by itself does not capture this. But this is not because the relationship process thinkers affirm is less personal. The mutual immanence of all things only makes the personal character of relationships deeper, more inextricable. Process thought in this way enables us to appreciate the meaning of some of the language of the New Testament that has previously been toned down because of the metaphysical assumptions of interpreters.

Even so, this emphasis on the immanence of God seems to some to count against the idea of God as a personal being. In human interpersonal relations, we transcend one another as well as participating in one another. Does God transcend us? Of course. But is the way that God transcends us similar to the way other human persons transcend us?

No, there are differences. Other people are spatially separated from us. The locus from which they experience the world is different from the one from which we experience the world. But God is equally everywhere. Where we are, God is there, too. Or else, God as transcending creatures is “nowhere” in the sense that spatial language may not apply to God. In this way God is very different from another human person.

III.

Nevertheless, God, like other human persons, is a subject who acts and is acted upon. In Whitehead’s terminology, God is an actual entity, distinct from all other actual entities. This does not make God any more like humans than like creatures in general. On the other hand, we suppose that some human characteristics, shared with some but by no means all other creatures, are shared by God. Consciousness is an important example.

As to how much further we should go in attributing human-like characteristics to God, process theologians divide. Charles Hartshorne encourages us to think of God as a closely unified succession of actual entities in which all the past ones are fully included in the present one. Since such a succession of actual entities is just what Whitehead defines as a “living person”, Hartshorne gives a clear positive answer to the question of whether God is a person. Whitehead, on the other hand, proposes that we think of God as a single everlasting actual entity. That is extremely different from any creature, including the human one. In his terminology, then, God is not a person. Yet much of what believers have in mind when they ask whether God is a person, is present in God for Whitehead as well.


* * * * * *

My Process Observations
on a Processual Personal God

by R.E. Slater
November 16, 2021

I.

Behind the subject of "Theology Proper" (e.g., the "Study of God") in systematic language comes process theology to add or take away important details. Classical language built on Platonism necessarily covers us what non-Platonic process language is speaking to.

In order, God is not a thing no more than we are. The divine soul, like the human soul - or even the "cosmic" soul - are (living and non-living) processes in motion with one another. In Platonic imagery God is a God-like entity and humans are our own kind of entity. Separate entities yet deeply connected as between Creator to Created or God, as the First Process, to creation (or us) as the successional orders of subtending processes.

Further, the divine/human emotion of love is not a thing but a resulting feeling between Creator to His creation, or between one person to another. Love is not a thing but a feeling. I believe neo-Platonism might circumscribe such secondary interactive processes as a kind of thing or substance as well (someone correct me on this if I've strayed too far). The point being, Platonism sees creation as a world of (external and secondary) objects even as it would see God as a divine object. Thus, in a literal bible, we read of God, angels, demons, humanity, heaven, hell, etc, in objectified ways rather than as interconnecting, if not metaphysical and ontological, (divine and creaturely organic) processes.

These first two paragraphs then get to what Dr. Cobb is referring to externalistic interpretation, that is, reading the bible Platonically rather than in its process sense. One leans on an older Greek philosophy, the latter on Alfred North Whitehead's more recent observations of the world we live in, known as process philosophy. Philosophy is a way for humans to explain the world around them. In the 21st Century, given the evolutionary and quantum sciences, we are beginning to see the world not in Newtonian terms of substances but in terms of processes. 

Whitehead had observed this early on as he interacted with Hegel and other earlier ideas contemporary with his own (including much earlier non-Platonic Greek ideas of process speculation) as well as at Einstein's work both on a personal level as well as on an academic level (ahead of the idea of Niels Bohr's quantum mechanics by some 20+ years).

Process thinking was a relatively new way of looking at the classical cosmology and viewing it as a living,  feeling, organic process highly interrelated between the whole to its parts and its parts to the whole. Whereas classical science had viewed creation as a clock-work mechanism reducible to its parts, contemporary (process) science was looking at the motion and movement of those process-driven EVENTS as forming the "cosmic organism" it was looking at more in terms of energy particles and quantum forces interacting with each other rather than in terms of external , "atomic" objects interacting with one another.

II.

Next, the I-thou relationship between God and creation or God and man takes on the more broader area of panentheism v classical theism. The former centers on the immanence or "nearness" of God with creation or mankind whereas the latter concentrates on the transcendence or "farness" of God away from creation or mankind.

One of the more discussed theological ideas on the topic of God's nearness with us can be found in the subject matter of open theology and relational theology. When I came to these subjects myself based upon my study of Arminian (Wesleyan, qua Methodist) theology over that of Calvinistic (Reformed) theology, I brought both ideas together without hesitation. Thus, Open AND Relational theology, as neither should stand alone without the other.

My reasoning stood along the lines that the future is unknown and therefore as open to us as it is to God. God does not know the future even as God is intimately (or immanently) involved in the future's future as both its image-maker as well as it's designer. What I've done is go over-and-beyond classical theism's imagery of God "directing" the future in a deterministic (or controlling way) to the imagery of God being "in" or "inside" the future which is unfolding in its own process way as given to it by its process Maker. Hence, the teleological edge of creation is imbued with God's own process Image which urges a freewill creation of forces, energies, and creational "souls" forward towards "becoming" in its being, and striving for its own "wellbeing" in its "becoming." Thus, the future is open because God is open in His Love and divine freewilled Soul. God IS the process (process theology qua Arminianism) more than just being its Determiner (Calvinism)

Secondly, relational theology speaks to the freewill "soul" of the cosmos, creation, and sentient creatures. God cannot "direct" or "control" or "determine" freewilled processes but God has IMBUED freewill processes to strive towards surviving, to living (or being), to becoming beyond what it is. There is this very mystical divine urge towards the struggle of becoming. It cannot be controlled but it is this (divine) urge which propels all energies, forces, and "souls" towards interactivity with one another is a processed way in finding wellbeing within its synthesis.

Thus, to speak of Open Theology and Relational Theology is to speak of both processes working together in an intimately (or better, immanently) panrelational, panexperiential - even panpsychic - kind of way. This then begins to describe the idea of an immanent world of God and creation in a divinely intimate process way of being and becoming together. It recognizes the "otherness" of God but states God's "otherness" has no meaning to us unless God is deeply - immanently - connected with us into the very fabric of our being as God is with all of the process-based order. Transcendence then becomes both an unnecessary idea as well as a very hollow, empty Platonic idea of classicism which can immediately be jettisoned from our bible-based theological categories.

III.

Here, Dr. Cobb wishes to further explain Whitehead in terms of process immanency. Let's leave this subject matter to another time. Just know the further you go into Whitehead, the further you will go into the obscuratus and arcane linguistic semantics of the process philosophical language (aka, Process & Reality). And to the degree I've read Whitehead and been involved in it's study with John Cobb is the degree that its finer detail makes process process.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
November 16, 2021