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

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

Monday, December 6, 2021

Process Theology 101: Reflections of Classical Theology in a Process World



Process Theology 101

Written by Ellen Lesser
[with commentary by myself, re slater]

EXPLORING THEOLOGY


Ellen Lesser is a postgraduate researcher of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter. She is an Anglican (though identifies as more spiritual than strictly religious) and has been involved with SCM since 2016 when she became the General Secretary for the University of Exeter’s Methodist and Anglican Society.

In the 1920s, Alfred North Whitehead developed a new metaphysical system of thought called process philosophy. Across a series of lectures, which have since been published under the single title, Process and Reality, Whitehead described a reality where everything is made up of occasions – metaphysical ‘particles’ which have their own desires and experiences.

Whitehead’s student, Charles Hartshorne, took Whitehead’s metaphysics – which, while peppered liberally with explicit references to God, was by no means a work of confessional Christianity – and developed it further using the tools of more specifically Christian philosophy. Hartshorne did not turn Whitehead’s philosophy into a Christian theology himself but laid the groundwork for many thinkers who came after to do so – these thinkers are now known as process theologians.

A deeply philosophical and metaphysical theology, process theology looks very different from traditional Western Christian theologies. Following Whitehead’s description, the God of process theology is ‘dipolar’, consisting of two ‘parts’. Whitehead described these two parts as the Consequent Nature and the Primordial Nature. Whitehead described the latter as eternal and unchanging, and thus the Primordial Nature on its own much resembles the God of Classical Theism which can often be found in Christian philosophy of religion.

  • The Primordial Nature is also the ‘source of all novelty’, that is the Creator of all which is not itself God. Again, this Primordial Nature is a recognisable figure for many familiar with Christian religious philosophy. This was not, however, enough for Whitehead, and so the Consequent Nature is paired with the Primordial Nature.
  • The Consequent Nature is immanent and changing; it is shaped by the world as the world itself changes. Later process theologians attribute co-suffering to the Consequent Nature as Whitehead describes it, thus painting an image of a God who not only rejoices with God’s creation but also suffers with it as well.

Criticism 1

This view of God has not gone without criticism. A common criticism of the process God is that it, being dipolar, is inherently not Trinitarian and thus undoes much of the work of early Christian theologians who worked hard to retain a Trinitarian theology. Process theologians have attempted to rebut this criticism, most notably in the book Trinity in Process: A Relational Theology of God, edited by Joseph Bracken and Marjorie Suchocki.

Criticism 2

Yet another criticism of the process God is that of the power of God. Process theologians John B Cobb Jr and David Ray Griffin explicitly deny God’s omnipotence. This is, in part, a response to the problem of evil.

  • Process theologians hold that not only does God not coerce any aspect of reality into following God’s divine aims, but that God cannot coerce any aspect of reality into following God’s divine aims.
  • The process God is persuasive and not coercive, and everything in reality is free to ignore and/or actively defy the persuasive influence of God. A coercive God, say process theologians, is not compatible with a truly free creation.
  • [Hence, classical theology must address the problem of evil, known as theodicy. Contemporary process theology addresses the same by stating it in terms of freewill aka, the theology of Arminianism (modern day Wesleyanism/Methodism). Whereas its opposite, Calvinism, makes God accountable for sin and evil, Arminianism does not. Process Theology lines up with the latter and has lately redescribed Theodicy by the subject of "Open and Relational (Arminian/Process) Theology". - re slater]

Criticism 3

Such a God has been described as a philosophical God rather than the Christian God because, among other things, such a non-coercive God could not perform the miracles attributed to the Christian God, including raising Jesus from the dead. Indeed, the biggest criticism to process theology – in my view, at least – is that which deems the process God to be a different entity from the Christian God. Whitehead was not specifically interested in relating the God he described in Process and Reality to the Christian God, but the process theologians who have used his metaphysical framework as a basis for their own theologies are.

Much debate has been and continued to be had about whether process theologians have been successful in identifying their process God as the Christian God, or whether the process God is nothing more than a philosophical thought experiment which has no place in true Christian theology. As it stands, this remains to be seen.




Comment by R.E. Slater

Of especial importance to process metaphysicians is that of the influence of Platonism upon Christianity over the years. Earlier Semitic cultures were not as influenced by Greek thought as were later Intertestamental and New Testament authors and thinkers.

Like Isaac Newton's earlier world of mechanism and reductionism where science and math described nature as a clock-like mechanical structure, today's newer evolutionary and quantum sciences are actively removing such ingrained ideas. 

Process Theologians are doing the same by describing real-world processes not as substances or by dipolar ideas as mind v matter, but on the organic level of relationality and open-ended processes.

So when addressing the Westernization of ancient biblical cultures process ideation is getting back to seeing the world in flow and rhythm, wholeness of parts and the parts of wholeness. All more generally described as a series connecting spacetime events forming consequential possibilities.

Further, process theology sees:

(i) the Creator-God in terms of the First Order of all processes from which all succeeding processes have subtended;

Or, (ii) sees consciousness as arising from the "consciousness innately birthed into" the very organic (on inorganic) nature of creation to which man shares in his relationality backwards by inheritance of creation's innateness;

Or, (iii) in Jesus' redemption having made salvifically possible a freewilled creation's return to an empowered Imago Dei which it was birthed with (and never lost) upon the very first breath of God.

Process theology is substantially different and yet, Westernized Christianity may find many, many connecting points to the older ideations of classic theism - as well as many, if not all, world religions, through the talking points of wellbeing; connection with one another and nature; the inherent value of all things through words and acts of love, kindness, goodness, respect, equality, social justice of people and environment, etc.

It is hoped that process theology may assist dogmatic Christianity in rethinking its mission and outreach to a world which it has distanced itself from through its former institutionalized creeds and religions which have displayed division, exclusion, vengeance, the lack of love and respect for others, and so forth. 

R.E. Slater
December 6, 2021

PS - I found this a healthy review which pointed out the succinct differences between a non-processed view of Christianity vs. the process view of Christ and Christianity.