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 6 - Final Thoughts: Jay McDaniel - Learning from Process Theology and Open Theism

[Part 6]
Let the Blurring Begin

Learning from
Process Theology and Open Theism

by Jay McDaniel

God the Companion

"I rejoice that in many ways my childhood faith, while transformed, is not denied or watered down. I reaffirm the trajectory on which it sent my life. I believed then that God is Love. I believe that now. I found God then the great companion who understands. That is how I find God now. I looked to God then to direct my life. I look to God now to direct my life. I thought then that the supreme calling is to love God with all that I am. I think now that this is the supreme calling."

-- John Cobb, Theological Reminiscences

​God in Jesus

"What makes Jesus decisive for me is not just that he fulfilled his calling but that his calling was of decisive importance for human history. God called him to liberate the prophetic message from its remaining ethnocentrism, to deepen and enrich it, and to make it available to all. What a calling! And to what a remarkable extent Jesus' remarkable responsiveness led to the realization of God's purpose. Jesus created the possibility of a new kind of community. Paul brought such communities into being. Much of their distinctiveness faded with the passage of time, but some elements survive in many churches and occasionally such community is realized quite wonderfully even today. What Jesus called the Holy Spirit is real there."

-- John Cobb, Theological Reminiscences

Let the Blurring Begin

John Cobb is one of the most conservative Christians I know. I’m not talking about in politics or economics or social philosophy. He is critical of capitalism and American foreign policy, and he is all about helping build local communities in which people take care of themselves and the earth. Most describe him as a social radical. But in his attitudes toward God and Jesus he creatively conserves for himself and for many other Christians a confidence in biblical theism and in the decisiveness of Jesus for human history.

Whereas some might think of God as a force or energy, John thinks of God as a Subject in whose heart the universe lives and moves and has its being. Whereas some might think of Jesus as merely a teacher among teachers, John thinks of him as one who was called by God to help save the whole world. In John, being conservative and being radical are two sides of one coin. His conservatism comes from the future not just the past.

I am grateful to him for helping me want to become more conservative. I am still a conservative-in-the-making, but I'm working on it. I, too, would like to love God with the whole of my life. That seems a lot better than loving money, my country, or my ego.


I was sitting next to him recently at a meeting at the American Academy of Religion hearing talks about another form of conservatism for which I have great appreciation: the open theism movement. If you are unfamiliar with it, or just curious about its core teachings, I encourage you to visit the Open Theism Information website.

As you know, John Cobb is a process theologian influenced, not only by biblical traditions but also by Whitehead's philosophy. Indeed, Whitehead's philosophy has helped him be as conservative as he is.

Generally speaking many open theists draw sharp lines between open theism and process theology. The differences between open theists and process theists are important and real -- at least to theologians and philosophers. Still, they may have more to gain from becoming allies than arguing with each other. And there is a place where they really do share a common spirit: namely in their belief that God is affected by what happens in the world and responsive to its sufferings.

Is it not enough that, when so many people imagine God as a dictator in the sky, process theists and open theists emphasize God's love, God's openness? Would it not be good for the world if, at times, those of us shaped by one or the other of these traditions sing together?


Imagine a gospel choir. You do not need to have the same voice as someone next to you in order to harmonize, but in the very act of singing together something good emerges which is absent otherwise. When you sing with someone else your own voice is enriched by their voice, and the other way around. Process theologians call it relational power. Open theists might call it openness power.

Process theists and open theists think that God operates through openness power: through persuasion not coercion, hospitality not hatred, receptivity not divisiveness. Open theists emphasize that God chooses to operate this way, when God could have chosen otherwise; process theists emphasize that God acts in this way because God is Love.

Let them have these debates. But when it comes to the needs of the world and the human soul, and when it comes to the damage done to individual psyches and the larger world by dictator-minded theologies, such debates quickly become irrelevant except to the debaters. If God can work in the world through openness power, why can't process theologians and open theists do the same?

I am not alone in this interest. Thomas Oord proposed that, in the future, the boundaries between process theism and open theism need to be blurred, if open theism is to have a good future. If this happens, it will be good for process theology. We process theologians need open theism.


One of the strengths of process theology today is that it is now so multireligious. Today Whitehead’s philosophy offers a conceptual vocabulary by which Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Daoists, Confucians, and Naturalists are articulating their points of view in ways that foster respect for differences, mutual understanding, creative transformation, and, so important today, shared efforts at helping heal a broken world. A forthcoming conference in Claremont, California -- Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization -- will provide a vivid illustration of this diversity and its possibilities for mutual endeavors aimed at the common good of the world.

One of the weaknesses of process theology is that, in its offering of a common vocabulary, it simultaneously fails to speak in the more particularized languages of existing, historical traditions, including conservative evangelical Christian traditions. These particularized languages contain wisdom that is more than, and often not found in, more abstract philosophical prose.


If there has been a problem in relations between process theism and open theism, part of the problem lies with the process side of things. Too often, articulations of process theology are overly abstract, disengaged from lived experience, unrelated to pastoral life, overly bold, and tone-deaf to metaphor and story. You can see my own critiques of Christian process theology in What is Missing in Process Theology? I think it has not been orthodox enough. Perhaps not Trinitarian enough, too. See The Space within the Trinity: All Beings Included.


One of my aims in developing this website has been to offer a platform for many process-oriented writers and artists who can articulate anew what is important to process thinkers in engaging ways.

And yet, as I have done this, I have truly missed having a strong voice for open theism, because I admire and am moved by so much of what it says. John Sanders explains that open theists want to affirm at least two kinds of openness in God: openness to the world and openness to the future.

We process theologians want to affirm the same, not for the sake of process theology, but for the sake of the world. We truly believe that the world can be more compassionate, more just, more creative, and more respectful of the more-than-human world, if people are open to a God who is open to the world, and join God in the work of Tikkun Olam. And we very much believe in God's dynamic omniscience,

Happily, open theists have been successful in promoting these two kinds of openness in conservative evangelical circles. Moreover, there are people in other religious traditions who, slowly but surely, are discovering and building upon the openness tradition. And open theists are exploring the implications of open theism for how we live in the world and interact other human beings: being open to our differences and honest about our uncertainties. This is only the beginning. Open Theism, whether understood as a distinct movement in its own right or as extension of the historical free-will tradition in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is in process.


So let us imagine the blurring. Maybe even pray for it. In God's dynamic omniscience, we know that God knows our needs even before we pray them. But we also know that, in the very act of prayer, something touches God that had not touched God before.

God the Open One

"Recently Christians in the United States and other parts of the world have begun to think about God in new ways. One of the most promising of these new ways is called Open Theism. Its critics believe that Open Theism runs contrary to biblical teachings, but its advocates believe that it is more consistent with biblical teachings than many alternatives. The issues revolve around the idea of “openness” itself.

Open theism affirms that the God of love works with creatures in order for them to share the love inherent in the trinity and to love one another. In this view God is “open” in two important senses. First, God is open to and affected by what creatures do; and second, God is open to the future in that, even for God, there is more than one possible future. God’s plan is not a blueprint but a broad intention that allows for a variety of options regarding precisely how these goals may be reached. God has “dynamic omniscience” meaning that God knows all the past and present as definite and God knows the future as possibilities. Because God has chosen to rely upon creatures for many aspects of life and humans do not always do what God wishes they would do, it follows that God takes some risks. Consequently, God adjusts divine plans and implements flexible strategies in order to try to achieve the divine purposes."

-- John Sanders

What would it look like if Christians influenced by process theology and open theism developed a common statement of belief? It might look something like this:

​God as Omnipotent Love

​When we consider that our own Milky Way is but one of a billion galaxies, each with a billion stars, we gain a sense of the inexplicable grandeur of the One in whose heart we live and move and have our being. Who cannot experience awe? Let our faith have cosmic leanings and not just terrestrial prejudices. Let us walk in wonder, knowing that God is always more than our concept of God. Let the stars be our witness.

But we trust that somehow the grandeur of God has a tenderness to it, too. Sometimes people can think of God in terms that are too big, and, for that matter, too authoritarian. Inspired by Jesus, we believe that God is big enough to be small -- big enough to pay attention to each living being, anywhere and everywhere, and say "You matter, I love you." Yes, we believe that the One by whose love the universe unfolds is infinitely tender and infinitely patient. We believe in an omnipotence of love.

We encourage fellow Christians to believe in omnipotent love, too. There's something deeply relational -- dare we say deeply Trinitarian -- about it. It's almost as if in God, long before the advent of our cosmic epoch, there was a great compassion, an infinite empathy, that made God "God." God did not choose to be loving, God was born loving, albeit in a beginningless way. God is always being born loving, again and again, out of empathy for and responsiveness to the world. Call it essential kenosis.

How to dwell in this world? We need metaphors. Some people imagine the world on the analogy of billiard balls: that is, entities that are separated from one another and collide. As Trinitarians we believe the world itself is made in the image of the Trinity: that is, profoundly relational from the get-go. No, we do not really think there are three distinct agents in the godhead, each with a will of his or her own. We can't go there. But we do think the idea of a divine trinity is a metaphor for relationality. So we find ourselves imagining that the world is relational, too: not so much a collection of objects as a communion of subjects. Collisions are real, but interconnectedness is still more real.


Back to the question. How to live? Perhaps metaphors from the world of music can help further the idea. We can imagine the world on the analogy of aimprovisational jazz concert not yet complete. We ourselves are among the concert's creators, and God is One who calls us to create music that is conducive to the well-being of life. Our lives are our instruments, and the decisions we make are the music we make. God's hope is that we will make music that helps us become fully alive in this life and in any life to come.

So often we fall short of the music we are beckoned to make, and this falling short is painful to God and painful to us. If we want to speak of divine wrath, then let this wrath be the flip side of divine pain. Even wrath is rooted in love.

But we also play music that is delightful to God, giving God pleasure. After all, we are made in God's image and can bring about goodness and beauty in the world, too. The good news is that, whatever decisions we make, God never gives up on us. God is faithful to us, even when we are not faithful to God. This is part of what was revealed in the healing ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The healing ministry showed God's love for the marginalized and forsaken, the abandoned and despised. The death showed that there is a vulnerable side of God: a side that shares in and absorbs the suffering of all living beings, animals included. And the resurrection showed the creatively transforming side of God: the side that never gives up, always offering possibilities for new life, no matter what crosses befall the world. Jesus is our window to God.

This resurrection continues even today. It takes the form of a healing spirit at work in the world, comforting the afflicted and, of course, afflicting the comfortable, all for love's sake. It also takes the form of Jesus himself, who was resurrected from the dead, who dwells with God, and with whom we can have a personal relationship. We believe that there is a continuing journey after death for all human souls and this well includes our companion in faith, Jesus of Nazareth. Our aim is to be faithful to Jesus, not by placing him on a pedestal so high that nobody can relate to him, but by sharing in his faith. To repeat: Jesus is our window to God.

He is also our window to the world. We cannot separate our love of Jesus from our love of the world. When he taught us to pray that the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven, he was sharing with us God's deepest hope for the melody we might play. It is that we grow as individuals in community with others and that we build communities of love, of shalom, in which all can share. Practically speaking, this means to help build communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, multicultural, humane to animals, and ecologically wise -- with no one left behind. It also means having the courage to lovingly critique ourselves, our communities, and principalities and powers that obstruct the building of these communities, doing great harm along the way. As we walk with Jesus, sharing in his journey, we must speak truth to power, including capitalist power.

We do not ask that these communities come into being all at once or even once and for all. And we know that a walk with God is more than community building. We know that a walk with God includes interior movements of the heart and soul that are solitary, isolated, private, painful, and beautiful. We know that there is a mystical dimension to life that is never fully understood by overly-extroverted Christians, including evangelicals. We know that there is a liturgical dimension as well that cannot be reduced to muscular impulses aimed at 'saving the world' or 'saving the planet.' There is a quiet side to the Christian life: a side that sits at the feet of Jesus and anoints him with oil, even if the dishes need washing.

Still, we do seek to try to approximate these communities, and we trust that, in working in these ways, we are doing God's will. We have no idea whether, in some cosmic scheme of things, we are 'right' or 'wrong.' We are pretty sure we are wrong about a lot of things; the only thing certain is that we are uncertain. But we do step forward in hope, guided by our faith that in the end, the very God of the universe -- the very Soul in whose heart we and all things live and move and have our being -- will bring us to that peace for which our hearts, and all hearts, yearn.

-- Jay McDaniel


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

Back to the Basics, Part 4 - Open Theism v Process Theology


Back to the Basics, Part 4:
Open Theism v Process Theology

by R.E. Slater

I thought I would review a few past articles beginning with ReKnew's 2019 and then two 2015 articles by Tom Oord.


In contrast to Reknew's theological "barriers" in the first article below, the process position states:

i) God positively interacts with creation because God is present in creation;

ii) prayers, of course, request a partnership between God and the petitioner;

iii) miracles are "common" everyday happenings whether we recognize them of not (I call them synchronicities); and,

iv) much like the Holy Spirit infilling the Christian believer, so too did God's Spirit infill Jesus.

Consequently, I have little sympathy towards any Open theist's misstatements about process theology....


And when reviewing Dr. Oord's 2015 early thoughts between Open and Process theology I can only say much, much, much has changed since then.

The process community certainly spans the evangelical and post-evangelical church but the latter post-evangelical distinction will grant the greatest flexibility and "openness" to theological thought.

That is because Whitehead's process philosophy is allergic to anything analytically Western, inorganic, non-relational, and non-open. The Continental position helps to bridge the gap between the Westernized philosophical camps but Process Philosophy is it's own thing.... One might even say the British philosopher AN Whitehead picked up where Continental philosopher GWF Hegel had left off re cosmological metaphysics a hundred+ years later.

Further, Process theology requires Open theology to be combined-coupled-integrated with Relational theology. The proper description then is a process theology which is open and relational. It is never one or the other. All relationships are open... and anything which is open is relationally dependent.

More to come...

R.E. Slater
May 20, 2024

* * * * * *

Process Theology & Open Theism:
What’s the Difference?

March 19, 2019

Question: When ReKnew talks about Open Theism is it a mistake for people to equate it with Process theology, and if so what are the defining differences?

Answer: Thanks for the kind words of affirmation. 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. In Process Thought (PT), God exists eternally in relation to a non-divine world. So PT denies “creation ex nihilo”

  • 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…
  • In PT God can’t intervene in unique ways, like personally answering prayer
  • In PT God can’t intervene and perform miracles
  • 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.

I am very concerned that so many progressive thinking evangelicals are flirting with Process Thought. It’s really not a friendly home for anything like orthodox Christianity. While many find the dynamic and relational ontology of process thought, compelling—I can see how this is attractive— the intrinsic nature of the system is hostile to the Christian faith.

If you want to go deeper on this topic, my book Trinity and Process seeks to clarify all that’s positive with PT while avoiding all that’s negative. For a succinct summary of some of the shortcomings of PT, see chapter 9 in my book Satan and the Problem of Evil.

* * * * * *

The Future of Open Theology

by Thomas Jay Oord
January 2, 2015

Open theology has matured in many ways since the ground-breading publication of The Openness of God book twenty years ago. I’ve been thinking about what the next twenty years might be for open theology.

At an Open and Relational Theologies group session at the recent American Academy of Religion meeting, I joined three of the authors of The Openness of God for reflection on the book’s impact. It seemed like the right time to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the book’s publication.

I am deeply grateful to the five authors of The Openness of God: David Basinger, William Hasker, Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, and John Sanders. The book has been powerful in my own life and in the lives of many Christians like me who were not satisfied with what Clark Pinnock called “conventional” theism.

I encountered the book not long after it was published in 1994. It confirmed many of my own intuitions, as one raised in the Arminian/Wesleyan/Holiness tradition. Since reading the book, I’ve encountered many others who after reading it said, “That’s something like what I’ve been thinking, but I thought I was the only one!”

Openness writers expressed their ideas in biblical language typical of the Christian tradition in general and my own evangelical-Wesleyan tradition in particular. And as Dave Basinger has said, The Openness of God created more space for Evangelicals like me to deny classic views of God’s foreknowledge.

Now that 20 years have passed, I’ve been thinking about the future of open theology. Of course, open and relational theists like me who think the future is not yet knowable by God should be the first to admit we don’t know what the future will be! But I want to look at the present state of open theology, as I see it, and speculate about what the future might be.


Open theology has made an impact in a variety of academic disciplines, schools of thought, and ways of thinking. Some of its greatest success has been in analytic philosophy circles. Thanks to the efforts of many, including two of The Openness of God authors, David Basinger and Bill Hasker, it is common for an openist philosopher to be given hearing at philosophy of religion conferences. Some do not specifically self-identify as openist philosophers, but their views of God’s relation to time and foreknowledge place them in the openist camp.

In the future, I speculate that openness ideas will continue to expand in analytic philosopher circles but grow more rapidly among theistic philosophers of religion captivated by Continentalist philosophy. Such philosophers may not embrace the label “openist” philosopher, but the fundamental drive of Continentalist philosophy, as I see it, is overturning oppressive structures, systems, and ideas. An open view fits naturally with such liberating concerns, because liberationist philosophies seem to presuppose agency, potential novelty, a measure of iconoclasm, and forward movement though time.


Speaking of liberation, open theology seems to have enjoyed less influence among the wide swath of theological perspectives I put under the general category of liberationist theologies. Whether such theologies have gender, ethnic, or political concerns, I know only a few self-identifying openness theologians thinking through openness implications for liberationist theologies.

I think this lack of influence has more to do with the sociological and cultural positions of prominent opennist thinkers thus far and not anything inherent in liberation theology. But TC Moore is right when he talks about Open theology’s need for greater ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity.

My hunch is that the future of openness theology will be strongly influenced by liberation theologians of various types. I think this in part because of the inherent openness intuitions of liberationist thinking. I also think openness thinking will expand because of blossoming interest in liberationist theologies among peoples of diverse cultural, sexual, and political orientations.


The open view of God has a strong representation in the contemporary science and theology discussion. As Bethany Sollereder has noted, openness advocates in the UK like John Polkinghorne, Keith Ward, and Arthur Peacocke are known for their denial of classical divine foreknowledge. In the U.S., prominent scholars of science and religion such as Philip Clayton, Ian Barbour, John Haught, Nancy Howell, and others deny classical foreknowledge and embrace the basic theology advanced by the Openness of God authors.

In 2007 and 2008, I co-led with Clark Pinnock and Karl Giberson some conferences on science and open theology. These events brought together for the first time many American openness thinkers with the intent was to think about openness categories in relation to science. Two books were published as a result.

What struck me most was the eagerness of openness thinkers to engage scientific issues and the general scientific endeavor. Openness theology has implicit and explicit appreciation of empiricism and epistemological realism, which I think makes open theology a natural conversation partner with contemporary sciences.


Does open theology incline one toward a particular stance on ethics? I think it does, although I know very few who have argued this carefully.

In my view, love will be at the center of an openness ethic. So too will be the kind of moral responsibility that only comes when one believes creaturely action has genuine influence upon all others and God. An openness ethic will encourage empathy, vulnerability, listening, and suffering love.

A few have begun to ask what Openness Theology might contribute to the global crisis of our time: climate change. Sharon Harvey’s work comes to mind, as does Michael Lodahl’s. But much more must be done, at least by Evangelically-oriented open theologians.


I think the future of open theology will be largely shaped by those at the grass roots. General features of open theology resonate deeply with laity and pastors. The conversations occurring on the internet and in local churches give me great hope that open theology will continue spread. We must continue to ponder how we might foster, support, and encourage this aspect of open theology.

A few year ago, I joined Tom Belt and TC Moore to host the first Open Theology for the Church conference at Gregory Boyd’s church outside Minneapolis. The eagerness of those attending was palpable, as they expressed their renewed sense of passion for God and Christian living. I hope similar events will be held in the future.

As I think about the future of Open theology, I’m also drawn to reflect on its relationship with Process theology. I’ll focus an entire blog to my thoughts on that relationship in the future.


The future is bright for open and relational theologies. Momentum is strong, and the possibilities are diverse. I pray that those of us persuaded by this general view of reality will follow God’s wise leading into the open future.

* * * * * *

Open and Process Theologies Blur?

by Thomas Jay Oord
January 7, 2015

Open and process theologies have much in common. But differences also exist. The future of open theology, in my view, will be largely shaped by ongoing conversations between the two theological perspectives. But I expect them to draw closer and their boundaries to blur.

Open and process theologies have much in common. But differences also exist. The future of open theology, in my view, will be largely shaped by ongoing conversations between the two theological perspectives. But I expect them to draw closer and their boundaries to blur.

In a previous blog essay, I talked about the future of open theology. I looked briefly at the present state of open theology, as I see it, and speculated about what the future might be.


I’m especially interested in the future relationship between openness and process theologies. In Evangelical circles, openness theologians have primarily argued with or against theologians informed by the Calvinist theological perspective. In those discussions, open theologians have often worked hard to distinguish themselves from process theology on a number of points.

The formal conversation between open theologians and process theologians began not long after the publication of the groundbreaking book, The Openness of God. In 1997, the Center for Process Studies brought together for discussion self-identifying openness thinkers and self-identifying process thinkers. The several days, semi-private meeting was intriguing on many levels, with about 30 participants involved.

I was a graduate student at Claremont during this time, and I was invited to participate. What I remember most from those meetings was the common Christian piety the process “liberals” and openness “evangelicals” shared. Several process thinkers shared personal stories of growing up in Evangelical traditions only to feel that they needed to leave upon finding open and relational ideas attractive.

The following year, in 1998, many openness thinkers returned to Claremont for the Center for Process Studies Whitehead conference. Papers given at the subsequent conference by David Griffin, William Hasker, Richard Rice, Nancy Howell, and David Wheeler comprised the book, Searching for an Adequate God (Eerdmans), edited by Clark Pinnock and John Cobb.

The Future of the Openness-Process Conversation

The authors of The Openness of God have generally sought to distinguish their view from process theology. And many openness thinkers from Evangelical communities continue to make these distinctions today. In fact, there is often immense political pressure in Evangelical communities to avoid being associated with the “process” label.

My hunch, however, is that the future of openness theology will involve blurring of lines between the two theological perspectives. I doubt the open theology and process theology will ever entirely collapse into one perspective. But I expect the overlap and hybridization to increase among those pursuing constructive theology in the general open and relational theological tradition.

Here are five reasons I think the lines between open theology and process theology will continue to blur in future years:

1. Essence? – It is difficult to identify the “essence” of open theology. As a number of internet communities dedicated to openness theology have discovered, significant diversity abounds among self-identified openness thinkers around important issues like Christology, eschatology, ethics, biblical inspiration, and divine power.

The closest thing to an essence in open theology is a rejection of the classical view of divine foreknowledge and insistence that the future is open even for God. Openness thinkers themselves have alternative ways of talking about God’s omniscience and relation to the future. Alan Rhoda and William Hasker, for instance, are both prominent openness philosophers with different views of how to conceptualize God’s omniscience.

Likewise, it is difficult if not impossible to find an essence of process theology. Leading process theologian, John Cobb, insists there is no essence. By contrast, David Griffin identifies ten “core doctrines” of process theology.

Incidentally, very few outside the process camp define process theology in ways that most self-identifying process thinkers define it. When someone says to me, “process theology is unorthodox,” I often ask, “What do you mean by ‘process theology.’” Nine times out of ten, the definition they offer is very different from the definition most self-identifying process theologians define process thought.

2. Cross-Self-Identifying – The second reason I think open and process theology lines will blur pertains to how theologians self-identify. Some self-identifying process theists – such as Philip Clayton and Joseph Bracken – affirm views of original creation (creatio ex nihilo) and divine power that some self-identifying open theologians think distinguish open theology from process thought.

Some self-identifying open and relational theists affirm views of original creation and divine power that some process theologians think characterize process theology. Consequently, on these key issues, the boundaries already blur.

3. Nimble and Open – The third reason I think the lines will blur between open and process theology is probably more of a recommendation. Christian history suggests that those who make it their goal to define and then protect the essence of a view often find their view to lose influence. Whitehead is right when he says the pure conservative is fighting against the essence of the universe.

Protecting and promulgating a concise set of propositions can be effective in the short term and with those whose basic orientation is to conserve. But a theological tradition is better served to promote a few basic intuitions that might capture the imaginations of young and emerging theologians who are creative, passionate, intelligent, and activist-minded. Vital theological traditions are nimble and open. I think Openness of God author, David Basinger is wise when he says he has “no interest in trying to preserve a set of core essential openness beliefs.”

4. Post-Evangelicalism – The fourth reason I think open theology and process theologies will blur pertains to a phenomenon many call “post-evangelicalism.” A shrinking number of young Christians raised in the Evangelical tradition want to self-identify as Evangelicals. They still love Jesus and still think theology and the Church are important. But their reluctance to self-identify as Evangelical stems for a variety of social, cultural, and political reasons.

Post-evangelicals are more open to blurring boundaries, pushing envelopes, and coloring beyond the standard Evangelically authorized lines. Many are dissatisfied with the Evangelical status quo. Many gravitate toward openness and process thinking and don’t see the need to distinguish the two sharply.

5. Theodicy – The final reason I think open theology and process theologies will blur pertains to a substantive issue: theodicy. Although the theodicy offered by the authors of The Openness of God sounds far better than conventional theodicies claiming God foreordained and foreknew evil, many openness thinkers admit their view doesn’t resolve the problem of evil like process theology can.

William Hasker, David Basinger, John Sanders, Greg Boyd, and Richard Rice have done work admirable in this area. John Sanders’s book, The God Who Risks has been especially influential. But they admit that their view of God’s power cannot solve the problem entirely.

The theodicy issue has been the focus of some of my own work, and I’ve offered a solution I call “essential kenosis.” I offer this solution based upon understanding God’s power in light of God’s love in my books, The Nature of Love (Chalice) and Defining Love (Brazos). An even fuller defense of the essential kenosis theodicy in light of randomness and evil comes in my forthcoming book, The Uncontrolling Love of God (IVP Academic). I also explain it in my contribution to the forthcoming God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views book on theodicy (IVP; Chad Meister and Jamie Dew, eds.)


Of course, I could be completely wrong about all that I have said in this essay and the previous one.

In fact, that’s one strength of open and process theologies: they fit our experiences of reality, including the experience of being wrong about our predictions about what might occur. But even false predictions can become resources God might use when calling us into our moment-by-moment, open and relational existence.

May God bless us all – no matter how we self-identify – as we seek to follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition to imitate God, as beloved children, and live a life of love as Christ loved us… (Eph 5:1)