Quotes & Sayings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, May 20, 2024

Part 5 - Jay McDaniel - Open Theism and Process Theology

[Part 5]
Open Theism and Process Theology
A Reflection

by Jay McDaniel

click here for further erudition:



​Confessions of a Disappointed Supplicant

Maybe it's because a friend of mine, Farhan Shah in Norway, asked me why I chose process theology over open theism. My reasons are unique and most of them have more to do with style than content. Farhan wanted to know if process theologians can affirm creatio-ex-nihilo and divine self-limitation, as open theists do. I asked John Cobb to offer a response to his question: Can Process Theology affirm creatio-ex-nihilo and divine self-limitation? John's answer is "yes" and "yes." But it got me thinking about my own relation to open theism, and a kind of ambivalence I have about it. Here goes:


I remember when, as a process theologian, I first discovered open theism. I loved the name itself and I loved the ideas. I, too, believed in a God of love, revealed but not exhausted in Jesus, whose spirit pervades the world in healing and empowering ways, and for whom the future is not-yet-decided. What impressed me all the more is that they (the open theists) arrived at their views with help from scripture. Open Theism seemed to me like process theology in biblical form. Process Theology seemed like Open Theism in philosophical form.

I recognized that open theists could find other philosophies useful; and that process theologians were interested in many ways of thinking, not just Open Theism and not just Christian. Still, I was excited and looked forward to collaboration with open theists.

What did I hope for in terms of collaboration? I knew of a book or two that promoted dialogue between the two "camps" -- most specifically, Searching for an Adequate God: A Dialogue Beween Process and Free Will Theists and Theological Crossfire: An Evangelical/Liberal Dialogue. I knew some of the authors. But the authors of the essays in the books spent a bit too much time clarifying differences and arguing for their "positions."

I had grown weary of that style of theology - the kind of theology that always wants to distinguish itself from others and say But. Here I had been influenced by feminist theologies and their critiques of the male voice and also by religious literature (the writings of Thomas Merton, for example, or of Mary Oliver) that was exploratory and poetic not dogmatic -- capable of resting in insecurities because inwardly drawn by love. I now think of this kind of literature as theopoetics.

In learning about open theism, then, I was looking for something different: something less argumentative and more flexible, I hoped to co-author some things with open theists in a more contemplative and theopoetic vein that would be available to the religiously interested reader, even if not a scholar; to explore areas of commonality and difference in a friendly and playful way, understanding the power of metaphor, and perhaps using music and film as means of communication; and, most importantly, to work together to help create communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, multi-cultural, humane to animals, good for the earth, and spiritually satisfying, with no one left behind - otherwise called beloved communities with ecology added. I thought process thinkers like me and open theists were, or could be, close cousins, working together and appreciating the kinship.

I found one open theist who was indeed sensitive to metaphor and with whom I could work, although we never co-authored anything, namely John Sanders. His ongoing work in conceptual metaphor theory is something I much admire. I knew friendship was possible!

But gradually, John aside, I came to realize that many open theists were fighting battles within evangelical circles that were much more important to them than collaboration with process theologians, and that they had to distance themselves from process theology in order to have credibility in the circles that mattered to them. And I came to understand that they were not much interested in philosophical theology in the first place, particularly if it took the form of metaphysics, thereby lacking special appeals to scripture. I sensed that every time process theology was mentioned, the guards of my open theist friends went up.

"So I gave up on open theism, or, more specifically, on the possibility of collaborative work. Gradually the open theist community became, in my mind, a fairly self-enclosed vanguard of evangelical Christians engaged in internal battles against "classical theists," especially Calvinists, and primarily interested in "arguments" and "positions." I am sure that we process theologians seemed to them to be fairly self-enclosed vanguard of liberal Christians primarily interested in converting the world to Whitehead's philosophy under the rubric "Christianity.""

Of course, things have changed on the process side. And maybe on the Open Theism side, too. Today, there are many theopoetic forms of process theology, and for that matter, process theology is not simply Christian process theology. It has become a multi-faith tradition. To my mind, the most articulate and influential process theologian of our time is Rabbi Bradley Artson, author of many books including The God of Becoming and Relationship: The Dynamic Nature of Process Theology. His is a Jewish process theology. And another is the Muslim philosopher, Farhah Shah, who is developing a Muslim Process Theology. See: Islam in Process Perspective. And then there is the work of Zhhe Wang and Meijun Fan who are developing Chinese forms of process spirituality that link with an East Asian past, And the work of Jeffrey Long developing a Hindu process theology.

Still, I am Christian, and it troubled me that sometimes open theists caricatured Christian process theology as "merely" a philosophical form of theology lacking a pastoral dimension, as if it were but a system derived from the philosopher Whitehead. I cringed and still cringe when I hear the word derive, as if process theology is primarily axiomatic. This was not the process theology I knew and loved. I loved process theology because process theologians say much the same as open theists about God, take lived human experience as a source of wisdom in its own right, and speak very strongly about other matters of importance in religious life: spirituality, beauty, our connectedness with the web of life, the need for ecological civilizations, interfaith cooperation, the listening side of love, music and the arts, the aliveness of nature. I see process theology, not as a system, but rather as an attitude, an orientation toward life, that is influenced, but by no means enslaved, to the philosophy of Whitehead. As I see things, the process way has twenty key ideas, only two of which explicitly concern God. If you take, say 15 of them seriously, you are, in my mind, a process thinker, if you want to be. (See Twenty Key Ideas in Process Theology.)

Make no mistake. I appreciate the process view of God. It seemed and [continues to] seem to me to offer a slightly clearer way than open theism of imagining how God is truly present as a guiding force and comfort in the human and more than human world, even to the point of "feeling the feeling' of all living beings with tender care. I wasn't hearing this intimacy as strongly in the open theists My intuitions were that the God of process theology was actually more personal than the God of open theism: more like the Abba of Jesus.

​I believed that I had the leading process theologian of our time, John Cobb, on my side, who likewise sees the God of process theology as Abba-like. Not that he or I want to engage open theism in battle; we recognize the good that it offers. But we want process theology as it has evolved to be adequately represented. Hence this page. And truth be told I still yearn for what Thomas Oord calls a blurring of the lines between open theism and process theology, because I think open theism has gifts process thinkers lack. But I try to keep quiet on this, except when I momentarily slip and reach out anew in small and quiet ways, as in this page and a few others on this website.

​To date, I have had no takers, but the future is open.

​-- Jay McDaniel

Meet John Cobb

Meet Greg Boyd

from Greg Boyd's website ReKnew
Among the Frequently Asked Questions​

​Are you a “process” theologian?

​"I think process philosophy has some good things to teach us, but I’m not a process theologian. Among other things, process philosophy typically denies creation ex nihilo (creation from nothing), denies God’s omnipotence, denies God can respond to prayer and intervene in miraculous ways in history and denies God will once and for all overcome evil in the future. I disagree with all of these points. 

On the other hand, process philosophy holds that the future is partly comprised of possibilities, and I agree with this. But this doesn’t make me a process theologian. This is like calling Calvinists "Muslim" simply because they happen to share the Koran’s belief that God determines everything.

​Do you consider yourself an “Evangelical Christian”?

I hold to a high view of biblical inspiration and most of my theological views are in line with what would be considered “evangelical.” So in this sense, I consider myself an “evangelical.” But the word “evangelical,” as well as the word “Christian,” has become associated with many things that are radically inconsistent with the example of Jesus’ life, which we are to emulate. So I’m very hesitant to identify myself with either term until I know what my audience means by them.

Do you deny that God knows the future?

This is the most common misconception regarding Open Theism. I believe God knows everything, including the past, present and future. But I also believe the future is different from the past in that the future contains possibilities while the past is irrevocably settled. So I hold that, precisely because God’s knowledge is perfect, God knows the future exactly as it is – that is, as containing possibilities. Some things about the future are “maybes,” and God knows them as such.


​Wait a Minute, Greg

by Jay McDaniel

​​Open Theists and Process Theologians point to a God who is creative, social, loving, and embodied in our actual universe.  Both propose that the future is open, even for God, because it is not-yet-decided.  In another page on Open Horizons I have encouraged a combining, indeed a blurring, of the two types of theology.  I still think that would be good.  But if I had to choose between the two, I would choose Process Theology.


So what are the differences?  Some open theists say that a primary difference is that process theologians arrive at their conclusions via a metaphysical system, namely that of the philosophy of Whitehead or Hartshorne, whereas open theists arrive at their conclusions from a careful reading of Christian scripture. (Sanders and Haskers)  

​As a process theologian myself, this does not ring true.  Ideas in process theology began to make sense to me, not by derivation from a system, but because they spoke to my experience: experiences of beauty, suffering, knowing people of other faiths, the experience of growth and change, and the value of the natural world.  Process theology was, and still is, an outlook on life and a way of living, not a system, and the philosophy of Whitehead was an invitation to recognize and appreciate what I know from experience.

Still, I recognize that open theists had the impression that process theologians were system-preoccupied.  Perhaps it was this impression that led some open theists -- Greg Boyd, for example -- to sharply emphasize the differences, indeed the incompatibilities, between process theology and open theism. Here is what Greg Boyd in his website, ReKnew:
"I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Process thought (Trinity and Process) where I critiqued the metaphysics of Charles Hartshorne and tried to demonstrate that one can adopt a system that has all the explanatory power of Process Thought (PT) without its unorthodox implications. The unorthodox implications are these.
  1. 1. In PT, God exists eternally in relation to a non-divine world. So PT denies “creation ex nihilo”
  2. 2. In PT, God is bound to metaphysical principles that govern both God and the world. So God isn’t able to really interact with the world as a personal being. God must always, of necessity, respond in ways that the metaphysics of the system stipulate. This means…
  3. 3. In PT God can’t intervene in unique ways, like personally answering prayer
  4. 4. In PT God can’t intervene and perform miracles
  5. 5. In PT God can’t become uniquely embodied, as he is in Christ.
These are pretty serious shortcomings. I hope it’s clear that PT has got little in common with Open Theism other than that we both believe the future is partly comprised of possibilities. But even here there is a major difference. In Open Theism, God chooses to create a world with an open future, while in PT God has created of necessity."
Boyd’s remarks may be true to Charles Hartshorne, but they are not true to John Cobb, so I’d like to put in a word for Cobb-influenced process theology.  I think Cobb would disagree point by point:
  1. Cobb explicitly says that Process Theologians can affirm creatio-ex-nihilo if they wish, and notes that some have.  See Can Process Theology Affirm Creatio-ex-nihilo and Divine Self-Limitation?
  2. Cobb thinks of God in deeply personal terms.  God is, for Cobb, the Abba of Jesus.  Understood in this way, God feels the feelings of all living beings, humans much included, with tenderness and care and responds by offering fresh possibilities for responding to the situations at hand, otherwise called initial aims. See God as Abba: John Cobb's Proposal.
  3. Cobb thinks that when people pray, Someone is truly listening (feeling their feelings) and responding through initial aims. Cobb has written an entire book on intercessory prayer: Praying for Jennifer
  4. Cobb affirms God’s miraculous work in the world.  See What is a Miracle?
  5. Cobb has written an entire book – Christ in a Pluralistic Age – arguing for the unique way in which God was embodied in Christ.  See Christ in a Pluralistic Age
Boyd may not appreciate Cobb’s approach to these matters, but I am sure that he can understand why a process thinker like me would find his articulation of the differences overly sharp if not misleading.  Boyd is not describing the process theology I know.

So why would anyone choose Process Theology over Open Theism?  It is certainly not that Process Theology is “right” and Open Theism “wrong.”  Both are valuable. For me it is that process theology speaks to aspects of life that I don’t hear as clearly in the Open Theism I know, which are important to me and, I believe, important to God. Process theology offers me a vocabulary and set of concepts to appreciate:
  1. The value all living beings have in and for themselves, in their subjectivity.
  2. The value of the web of life on earth itself, within which we are small but include.
  3. The value of emotions (subjective forms) as part of what makes us human.
  4. The need in our time to develop ecological civilizations, consisting of communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, multi-religious, and multi-cultural, with no one left behind.
  5. The value of the many world religions as containing wisdom worthy of respecting and learning from.
  6. The power of music and the arts to provide “lures for feeling” for human well-being.
  7. The importance of listening: feelings the feelings of others, and sharing in their subjective states.
  8. The possibility of multiple dimensions of existence in which life-after-death might unfold.
  9. The importance of forms of religious experience which are not theistic, and which partake of the horizontal sacred.
  10. The mutual immanence and interconnectedness of all things.
  11. A full-fledged appreciation of the power of decision in human (and non-human) life
  12. An appreciation of the subconscious realms of human and non-human life.
  13. Openness to the possibility of multiple dimensions of existence.
  14. The value of metaphor and embodied experience.
  15. ​The importance of beauty as a guiding ideal in human life, of which love is one form.
I realize as I list these that some (perhaps many) open theists speak of these matters.  But my impression is that they have been so preoccupied with matters concerning God that they have underemphasized other matters such as these.  
Thus, for me, their theology is limited, lacking a cosmological and phenomenological dimension.  This is why I prefer process theology to open theism, even as I think their similarities may ultimately be more important than their differences, and even as, I am sure, they can enrich one another.
Like I said, I would choose process theology over open theism, but I don't think it's necessary.  I think they can be combined.  But I'm sure anybody's really interested.  May it all be reconciled in the wider arms of God's loving embrace.

-- Jay McDaniel

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