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Process theology

From Academic Kids

Process theology (also known as Neoclassical theology) is a school of thought influenced by the metaphysical process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (1861 - 1947).

The concepts of process theology include:

  • God is not omnipotent in the classical sense of a coercive being. The divine has a power of persuasion rather than force.
  • Reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but serially-ordered events, which are experiential in nature.
  • The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will. Self-determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God cannot force anything to happen, but rather only influence the exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities.
  • God contains the universe but is not identical with it (panentheism)
  • Because God contains a changing universe, God is changeable (that is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe) over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God (goodness, wisdom, etc.) remain eternally solid.
  • People do not experience a subjective (or personal) immortality, but they do have an objective immortality in that their experiences live on forever in God, who contains all that was.
  • Dipolar theism, or the idea that our idea of a perfect God cannot be limited to a particular set of characteristics, because perfection can be embodied in opposite characteristics; For instance, for God to be perfect, he cannot have absolute control over all beings, because then he would not be as good as a being who moved by persuasion, rather than brute force. Thus, for God to be perfect, he must be both powerful and leave other beings some power to resist his persuasion.

The original ideas of process theology were developed by Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000), and were later expounded upon by John B. Cobb and David Ray Griffin. While process theology first was adopted by some liberal Protestant Christians, it soon influenced a number of Jewish theologians, including British philosopher Samuel Alexander (1859-1938), and Rabbis Max Kadushin, Milton Steinberg and Levi A. Olan, Harry Slominsky and, to a lesser degree, Abraham Joshua Heschel. Today some rabbis who advocate process theology or a related theology include Rabbis William E. Kaufman, Harold Kushner, Anton Laytner, Nahum Ward, Donald B. Rossoff and Gilbert S. Rosenthal.

More recently, Alan Anderson and Deb Whitehouse have attempted to integrate process theology with the New Thought variant of Christianity.

Readings

  • Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki's ' 'God Christ Church' ' is an excellent foundation piece for the integration of process philosophy with Christianity.
  • C. Robert Mesle's 'Process Theology: A Basic Introduction' is arguably the most accessible introduction to process theology written for the layperson.
  • Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People and Jewish Theology and Process Thought, eds. Sandra B. Lubarsky and David Ray Griffin.
  • Excellent introductions to classical theism, limited theism and process theology can be found in A Question of Faith: An Atheist and a Rabbi Debate the Existence of God and The Case for God, both written by Rabbi William E. Kaufman.
  • On the Christian side, excellent introduction may be found in Schubert M. Ogden's The Reality of God and Other Essays; John B. Cobb, Doubting Thomas; and Charles Hartshorne, Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. Albany: State University of NewYork Press, 1983. In French, the best introduction may be André Gounelle, Le Dynamisme Créateur de Dieu Van Dieren Editeur (reprint in 2000).

External links

Another major developer of Process Theology was Dr. Henry Nelson Wieman. Three of his many books that dealt with Process Theology (which he called "Creative Interchange") were "Man's Ultimate Commitment", "The Source of Human Good" and "Science Serving Faith".

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