Process Theology in a Nutshell

by Max Andrews

Process theology entered the scene as a new natural theology.  Some major proponents are Charles Hartshorne, John Cobb, David Griffin, Schubert Ogden, and Thomas Altizer.  This concept of God has him evolving in the world, co-dependent, and God needs us to evolve with him.  God is not all-powerful and he cannot necessarily bring out what he wills.[1]  God works with us by luring us; to lure the cosmos and us to an ever-greater directedness, novelty, harmony, and fulfillment.  God is not omniscient because the future is truly open.  This is a facet is similar to the open theist’s concept of omniscience though the open theist typically affirms that omniscience is defined as God knowing everything in so long as it is possible for him to know it.  A more modest case would simply be that omniscience is redefined.

God is seen as an actual and everlasting entity who is becoming (evolving) in potential as a being.

  • He supplies every entity with it’s initial entity and gives to all beings relevance
  • God needs the world as much as the world needs God
  • The consequent of the pole (physical or actual pole; contrast to potential or primordial pole), also called nature instead of pole, which receives or prehends, uses and is affected by the concrete entities of the world.
Consider the lemniscate as an illustration of God’s and the world.

Left side

  • Potential and not actual (dotted line maybe)
  • What Whitehead referred to as eternal objects
  • Primordial and mental
Right side
  • Consequent or physical pole
  • Relates to all actual entities, galaxies, stars, physics, etc.

God is absorbing in and through the consequent nature all good and evil valuations from all actual entities.  Through creative prehension, in order to make all things and to turn all increasingly to the good, God transforms everything he took in through the consequent nature and re-injects it into the consequent world. God is seen as dynamic, growing, evolving, learning, and directing; also, in an organic relation to all entities in the world.  Because God is not distinct from the world we can infer things about God from the world.  As responsive and growing God too is partially created by the universe as he interacts in it.  He hopefully creates good out of all occasions and persuasively lures to greater creativity and harmony, etc.

Then there is process and reality (the Process Bible).

“Both God and the world, together constituting the universe, are caught in the grip of the ultimate metaphysical ground, the creative advance into novelty.” Alfred North Whitehead

Creativity is ultimate in Whitehead’s view.  Process is a view of reality as a whole.  The world is dynamic, relational, and evolutionary.  Time, process metaphysics, is not a single smooth flow but droplets or actual occasions.  An actual occasion is the basic unit of reality.  This actual occasion (currently understand as being Planck time, 10-43sec.) and it’s evaluation is prehended by the occasions that follow and personal human existence is wholly made up of these occasions dynamically.  All of reality and it’s massive occasions are interrelated because the cosmic realm is a living whole (like an organism) then all things are vitally linked for ultimate actualization of possibilities.  All reality, then, is an interrelated society of societies of occasions and all of things impact all other things—causal efficacy (not mechanical), understood as relational that which forms an organic whole.  Ontorelations, a result of what exists as a result of relationships.From within all of this, God is lovingly seeking to lure the world to greater creativity… out of destructive chaos.

[1] For clarification, the orthodox understanding of this is that the consequent of God’s will is brought about necessarily by virtue of his power and knowledge; however, the antecedent is contingent upon many factors including the will of free agents.


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