Talk:Process theology

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No definition of what Process Theology really is. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:06, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

May be must we had something about Paul Tillich Americano-German Lutheran theologian who is more classical theist than the other?
Bye! Mulot —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 23:52, August 27, 2002 (UTC)

Critical analysis needed[edit]

Perhaps at some point someone knowledgeable regarding the subject of process theology could provide a section with prominent criticisms of the position; it is a critical omission in the current article. Ialdabaoth —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Panserbjorn (talkcontribs) 00:30, December 30, 2005 (UTC)

Well,one criticism is that by positing a God who is not omnipotent nor all-knowing of the future, many people may have a hard time considering such a God as "God." Some people need God to be able to violate the laws of physics and to be able to "reach in" and intervene to save us in all circumstances - even if nuclear missiles are launched and on their way, etc. User: BrotherRog, May 27, 2009

BrotherRog, go get a secondary source for that, an academic speaking like you just said! We can speculate in disadvantages here as much as we will, but not add it to the article unless we have secondary sources. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 15:41, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Determinism and reality[edit]

  • My question is: how does this current of philosophy deal with theological fatalism (the article is to be found on wiki), that is God (being omniscient: past-present-future) predicts our future deeds (sins to be exact), yet creates us. Now, does process theology claim that God is not fully omniscient (limited to present time) or that there is not such thing as God's punishment (eternal suffering for deeds God made us do by initiating the act of creation with already predicted results) and the universe is made to help God experience Himself through spiritual evolution (of His creation in which He indwells) as He is unable to actually comprehend His greatness (like if there was no evil we could not know what good is) - a panentheistic conception with a dose of Buddhism (which in my oppinion does not "actively" exclude God from it's teachings, simply doesn't mention Him or replaces "God" with "Karmic Law").
  • Also how am I meant to understand this particular paragraph: "Reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but serially-ordered events, which are experiential in nature. These events have both a physical and mental aspect."?

MaybeNextTime —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 06:26, June 26, 2006 (UTC)

Process theology rejects the possibility of cyclical time (as in Einstein's theory of relativity). There is not a future because everything is in the process of becoming. In other words, Process God-models assert that God is within time and bound by causality. Since it is the nature of the universe to be in flux, there is nothing which is static, not even God. To be static would be to become cosmically dead. To exist is to change and have no certainty as to the future. Process' God-model reflects this and Process theology encourages letting go, since there is nothing one can cling to in a world of change. That is why it is said that material substances do not endure through time, but are instead dependent on what came before and its modifications of what came before and what came before that, and so on.

I think this might also address the question of theological fatalism. Life is in change and we can push it towards greater fulfillment, or it can descend into entropy. God's influence is not coercive (according to Cobb and Griffin's book). God is behind the human impulse to create and grow but does so in subtle ways. As I think you can see from this brief sketch, predestination is not possible. God does remain omniscient, however, in that God is aware of all that is.

As to God's power, God does have power over all things. It would not make much sense, however, for a creation with no independent initiative and that has been de facto vetoed by God's predetermined vision of reality. God's intervention in creation is therefore supportive of our individual choices, since one cannot love something and not allow a measure of free choice. Otherwise, whatever free will we have is meaningless and we become the battered wife who insists: "But he really does love me." Yes, he may, but it is a twisted love which is destructive to the seeking of our own wholeness.

Hope this was helpful. MerricMaker 17:23, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

Not being extensively knowledgeable about the topic, I would guess that "Reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but serially-ordered events, which are experiential in nature. These events have both a physical and mental aspect." is a reference to a portion of platonic philosophy which says that substance is unchangeable. Process theology is generally espoused by those opposed to Calvinism and to my understanding Calvinism is largely dependent on platonic philosophy. Hopefully this helps frame some of the questions about fatalism as well as explaining the quote.

--Mydogisbox (talk) 03:19, 17 May 2009 (UTC)

Another street preachers sermon![edit]

Examining history I saw the following:

  • Mr self-elected street preacher added a long harangue on why he dislikes Process theology here, using NIV as the source for his statements (violating WP:PRIMARY),
  • Mr (whom I wish to thank very much for doing The Only Right Thing) blanked the edits of

Let me just say that Wikipedia is not a scribble board for the self-elected preacher whether expert or not, all changes requires secondary supporting sources per WP:CITE, and a street-preacher sermon that concocts arguments pro or con a certain topic is undue synthesis WP:SYNTH unless the entire discourse is citeable by an independent reliable secondary source. Once again: thank you! I urge all others to do the same thing. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 15:51, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Overstroke "whether expert or not". Street-preachers begone! Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 18:44, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Change Needed:[edit]

This sentence needs to be recast: "Process theology is an internally diverse field and while there are general directions that they all take, there are many ongoing debates such as on the nature of God, the relationship of God and the world, immortality, and interreligious dialogue." Directspirit (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 09:50, 2 September 2012 (UTC)

Removed references to Hegel[edit]

While I applaud the editor who inserted the references to Hegel for using a presumably scholarly source in the 2013 Companion Encyclopedia of Theology, the author of the referenced article (Keith Ward) sadly does not seem to know what he is talking about. While an argument can be made that parts of Whitehead's thought were indirectly influenced by Hegel (chiefly through J. M. E. McTaggart and F. H. Bradley), the fact remains that Whitehead himself read little to none of Hegel's work directly, and so to say that process theology or process thought in general is a development from Hegelianism is simply incorrect. See the following quote from page 5 of Hegel and Whitehead: Contemporary Perspectives on Systematic Philosophy (1986), edited by George R. Lucas:

"While he willingly confessed a modest indebtedness to F.H. Bradley, Whitehead repeatedly denied any direct acquaintance with Hegel's thought and consistently eschewed any interest in Hegel's philosophy, which he once characterized as 'complete nonsense.'" (talk) 21:26, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

Right from the title, this is not an article on Whitehead and his influences but on process theology and its influences. In the latter sense I reiterate that "theology influenced by Hegel is process theology just as much as that influenced by Alfred North Whitehead." See occurrences on Google Books: 3610 hits, a bit much more than "a presumably scholarly source in the 2013". You might learn something deeper by reading texts such as this one (601 pages, first original edition: 1970). --Mauro Lanari (talk) 01:49, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
Mauro Lanari, you say that "this is not an article on Whitehead and his influences but on process theology and its influences." The problem with that statement is that process theology is identified with the Whitehead-Hartshornean school. When people say "process theology," they simply do not mean Hegel. There may be similarities between Hegel and process thought, but they are different things.
Your own Google Books search says as much. First, that there are thousands of hits for 'Hegel "Process Theology"' is no surprise, but this really means nothing, only that books that mention process theology also mention Hegel. There are also 3,290 hits for a search on 'Kant "Process Theology", but no one identifies Kant with process. Only the first of your results actually makes any statement that Hegel fits under the term "process theology" (and actually, not even Hegel himself, but "theology influenced by Hegel," which is hardly the same thing). The second result on the search says, in fact, that "A variant of the Hegelian view is Process Theology...," i.e. that the two are similar but different things. One statement by Cobb 30 years ago simply does not change the fact that "process theology" is identified with the Whiteheadian school. Cobb has written or edited fifty other books, none of which identify Hegel with process theology, and I can virtually guarantee that he himself would not agree with such an assessment in the technical sense of the term. In any case, one or two results is a minority opinion/anomaly that does not belong in a Wikipedia article on the topic.
How about this Google search for "process theology". I stopped looking for a result that construes the term as referring to anything other than the Whiteheadian school after the first hundred results. You really think that Hegel belongs in the first line of this article when a Google Books search for the term identifies the school with Whitehead-Hartshorne-Cobb-Griffin for the first hundred hits (and for all I know, the first thousand or ten thousand hits)?
It may be OK to mention Hegel later on in this article as someone who falls under the term "process theology" in a very, very loose sense. But to say in the opening line of the article that process theology is "a development from a Hegelian view" is at best very deeply misleading, and at worst simply false. Joseph Petek (talk) 16:38, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
Joseph Petek, you spent even too many words to that author as insignificant as Küng. Analytic vs. continental philosophy and theology, as usual. For Anglophones (the kind of people you are referring to, the one that "exports democracy," civilization and culture), the disciplines are without history, their study must be essentially synchronic or at least start from themselves. No forerunner before them. Whitehead and Hartshorne have just invented the term and the label, not the concept. "Hegel also had a powerful impact on the development of pantheism and panentheism. The central idea of the Process Theology of A. N. Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne - the idea of a God evolving in the universe through history - derives from Hegel. So do more modern ideas that the universe is an God evolving towards ever greater complexity and consciousness, and that we humans are somehow a central part of this drama." (Boston College: U.S. Jesuits but, fortunately, with European training).
Ps: when you do a Google search without using any Boolean operator, the number of hits is faked; process theology: 1,900,000 hits; "process theology": 56,000 hits. --Mauro Lanari (talk) 00:51, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
Yes, the link to the search for "process theology" without quotes was an error on my part, but it doesn't really make any difference. The relevant one was for Kant, and I did that one right.
In any case, I'm not sure why you are accusing me or Whitehead or Hartshorne as seeing their discipline "without history." That is quite a charge for you to level. After all, Whitehead was the one who said that "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato," and most of his major philosophical works read like history lessons. He brings in Locke, Kant, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, etc all the time. Hartshorne, likewise, wrote numerous works tracing the thread of what might loosely be considered "process thought" throughout history. For instance, Hartshorne wrote Philosophers Speak of God with William L. Reese, which purports to trace the roots of panentheism. Here's a quote from the introduction:

In the general Introduction an argument is outlined for the superiority of one of the main types of conception (of God), which we term "panentheism" or "surrelativism." Its chief recent representative among philosophers is Whitehead, but we trace it back to Plato, Ramanuja, and Schelling; and something like it can be found in most of the outstanding theologians of recent times—Berdyaev, Nygren, Niebuhr, and even, to a lesser extent, Barth. The book is designed partly as a historico-systematic argument pointing to a definite conclusion. (page vii)

Do these sound like philosophers who believe their "disciplines are without history," and that "their study must be essentially synchronic or at least start from themselves"?
All of this is to say that I take no issue with expanding the article to include an explanation and a history of some of the "process elements" that go back to Hegel, or Plato, or even before Plato. However, two things must be kept in mind:
1) "Process theology" in the common parlance (insofar as a field that is virtually unknown among non-academics has a common parlance) refers to the Whiteheadian tradition. That is just the way it is. Ask any professional theologian what one name comes to mind when you say "process thought/philosophy/theology," and it's going to be Whitehead almost every single time, and when it's not it'll be Hartshorne or Cobb. Trying to use Wikipedia to alter the most common perception of what the term means seems somewhat inappropriate, as true as much of what you're saying may be. Wikipedia should be explaining what is usually meant by a term, not what should be meant by a term.
2) If the article is going to be expanded to include a large history, encompassing thinkers who embrace "process theology" in the more general sense you're describing, then I have a problem with focusing on Hegel specifically to the exclusion of other non-Whiteheadians. After all, it could be argued that Plato, Locke, Leibniz, etc have had just as much or more influence in this regard. I would applaud such an expansion of the article, and I may even undertake it myself within the next month or two. Joseph Petek (talk) 02:26, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
I'm not accusing Whitehead or Hartshorne as seeing their discipline "without history," but the analytical ("anglophone") tradition of thought, i.e. what one seeks and finds on Google Books using English as selected language. Nothing more. Anyway my answer is nearly irrelevant: I was editing completely different things, here to me by now is the dawn, I'm really tired and this matter should be treated with care, a lot. The jump from philosophy to theology of the process requires rigorous clarifications: it is the transition from a dynamic ontology to a dynamic ontotheology . Left and Right Hegelianism still discuss the meaning of the Absolute in Hegel, more or less like the Heideggerian interpreters. Therefore forget (and forgive) "my" Hegel and good work, sincerly. --Mauro Lanari (talk) 04:34, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

"and affected by"[edit]

I have deleted the three words "and affected by" because they were misemphatic.

According to Whitehead, God is both temporal and eternal. He is the only actual entity which is also eternal. Actual entities other than God are temporal but not eternal. Whitehead uses the words 'occasion of experience' to refer to the actual entities other than God. The words "and affected by", unaccompanied by a complementary phrase such as 'effective in', give emphasis to God's being affected by other actual entities more than they emphasize his effects on other actual entities. This is an unbalanced emphasis and therefore inappropriate for the context.

The words that I have left are sufficient and adequate for the meaning in context, the God is fully involved in temporal processes. They do not make explicit that an actual entity is both effective and affected, but if it were desired to emphasize that, it would be better to exercise both words than only one of them. That is to say, one might have said 'God is effective in and affected by temporal processes', but apparently this was not the present lead's intention. The present lead seems to want to use the more neutral phrase 'fully involved in'.Chjoaygame (talk) 00:58, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

Changed to "affect and be affected by." "Affect" because "effective in" is awkward and unclear. Joseph Petek (talk) 01:05, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
So you think.Chjoaygame (talk) 05:24, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

"Problems with Process Theology"[edit]

I am deleting this recently created section for two reasons.

First, it is highly prejudicial. "Problems with" suggests that process theology itself is fundamentally flawed. While this is one viewpoint, there are many who would disagree (otherwise no one would think much of process theology). "Criticisms of" would be a less ridiculously one-sided way to title such a section (one would not create a section on "Problems with Christianity," or "Problems with Islam," although I'm sure there are likewise people who could write such sections). Then there are statements such as "All that the God of process theology can do is point out the possibilities of a better way, which humans can do just fine" (emphasis mine). Such statements reveal an obvious bias and and an even more obvious lack of understanding of process thought itself -- for process thought God is the ground of possibilities.

Indeed, lack of understanding is the second reason. All of this criticism is coming from one source, and it is clearly a source that has little to no understanding or appreciation of process philosophy or theology. The discussion and criticism of eternal objects and actual entities seems to completely miss that process thinkers are trying to get away from a metaphysics of substance. The discussion of God's power is even worse; it doesn't even acknowledge process arguments that the notion of a God with infinite coercive power makes no sense. In short, this discussion of "problems" with process theology is criticism that is taking place on the most shallow, knee-jerk level possible.

There is nothing wrong with creating a "criticisms" section, but it needs to have some measure of objectivity, and it needs to reveal a better understanding of process thought itself than is displayed here. Joseph Petek (talk) 07:35, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

Feinberg is one of the leading voices in theology, and No One Like Him is the go-to book on the subject. Feinberg certainly does not lack understanding in systems like open theism and process theology. If the language is too harsh, let's talk about ways to soften it. --TMD (talk) 20:30, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
OK, let me see if I can break down the problems with this section in a more detailed way.
"John S. Feinberg is one of the leading critics of process theology." According to who? I would wager that most process theologians have never heard of him. Based on what has been written here, his criticism is not of good quality, since it fails to take process theological ideas seriously to begin with. More on this later. Also, a criticism section should not rely on a single source. As it stands, this would do better on Feinberg's page itself, not here. Try John Cooper's Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers, in which he explains why he is not a panentheist, as well as Al Truesdale, Alvin Plantinga, Langdon Gilkey, Thomas J.J. Altizer, William Wainwright, and Clark Pinnock.
"God's primordial nature is merely the perceiving and ordering of eternal ideas which, Feinberg argues, makes no sense unless there is somebody to do the perceiving and ordering. This makes the God of process theism more like one of Plato's forms." Does Feinberg not understand that God is indeed an entity ordering possibilities? The eternal objects do share similarities to Plato's forms, but God's primordial nature is not equivalent to the eternal objects themselves. These statements thus make no sense.
"it is hard to see on Whitehead's metaphysic that these eternal ideas are real things." Why yes, they're not "real things." They're possibilities. That was sort of the point.
"God's consequent nature is supposed to be physical and attached to the world, and that the world is physical and attached to God." I'm not even sure what this means. I don't think you or Feinberg appreciate the differences between pantheism and panentheism. God and the universe are closely related, but God is not "physical" in the sense you seem to mean here. No one argues that God is "physical."
"As Feinberg notes, the God of process theology seems religiously adequate..." Indeed, the process view on God's power is the thing most criticized by evangelicals. But the criticism as laid out here shows a total lack of awareness of the process response, which differentiates between "coercive power" and "persuasive power." Basically, the power to magically/supernaturally intervene in the world does not make any sense, because God does not have a physical body. Moreover, the power to persuade is more fundamental. In order to coercively twist someone's arm, I first have to persuade my own arm to move (which it may not, if it is broken or asleep, etc). Coercive power is merely one cue ball hitting another; persuasive power is the primary form. So the process view is that God having power as evangelicals describe God having it is incoherent, and makes no sense. But possibly even more important is that most process theologians argue that God, as evangelicals describe him, is not worthy of worship (contrary to your condescending "common sense" line). This is epitomized by John K. Roth mocking the process God's inability to save the Jews at Auschwitz, that "the best [Griffin's] God could possibly do was to permit nearly ten thousand Jews a day to go up in smoke" (Encountering Evil, 140). David Ray Griffin's response is that "Roth prefers a God who had the power to prevent this Holocaust but did not do it." Process thinkers see people who cling to these "superhero" idea of God's power as clinging to the notion of power for power's sake. Moreover, why cling to the idea that God should be "exacting retribution" for sin? In any case, for a more coherent criticism of the power of the process God, see David Basinger. Better, read Hartshorne's aptly titled book Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes.
So basically, this whole section is not only condescending, but makes no sense, and shows only the shallowest grasp of what process thinkers are actually arguing. I would again suggest that if you want to keep this section as presently constituted here, it should be moved to John Feinberg's page. Otherwise, it needs to include more voices, and more than that, criticism needs to demonstrate that it has actually understood the process position to begin with. Just because a well-respected evangelical writes a chapter in one of his books rebutting process thought does not mean he has understood it.
I will be deleting this section again within the next few days unless there are drastic changes. Joseph Petek (talk) 22:23, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
I have re-written the “Criticism” section in order to accurately characterize evangelical objections to the process notion of divine power, and then lay out the process response. Let me explain again why I’ve done as I’ve done.
First, the section that was originally here described two basic criticisms: the process conception of God as dipolar (the primordial nature and consequent nature), and the process conception of God’s power. The former criticism as it was written had no merit whatever, because it completely misunderstood and mischaracterized what process theology actually says. The second criticism, however, deserved some sort of acknowledgement on this page, since it is indeed the biggest sticking point between process thinkers and more traditional theologians.
However, the “criticism” as it had been written previously simply did not deserve the pride of place it had been given. Not only has it been said many times by many people, but it does not actually address the points that process theologians have made about divine power. If you read the new text of the article, this should become clear. You cannot “criticize” a position by merely ignoring its stated arguments and repeating the arguments that process theologians have already refuted.
John Feinberg is not a “leading critic of process theology.” A leading critic is someone who actually engages the movement he is criticizing, and crafts original arguments that force the criticized thinkers to respond. But, at least judging from what has been written here, Feinberg has not presented anything that process theologians need to refute, but is simply re-presenting arguments that they have already refuted; he is merely preaching to the evangelical choir, not engaging with process theologians themselves. To evangelicals who know nothing about process, he may be seen as “a leading critic of process theology,” but only amongst people who know next to nothing about it. What he has done is write one chapter of one book. The real leading critics have written entire books on just the one subject of the process notion divine power alone (see, for instance, my reference in the new section to a book by David Basinger).
If people would like to add criticisms which actually address process theological arguments in a substantive way, please do add them. But “criticisms” to the effect of “Person X disagrees with process theology because it is ‘religiously inadequate’ based on traditional/Biblical conceptions, etc” do not belong here, because they are criticisms without an argument. “Worthy of worship” and “religious adequacy” are highly subjective ideas, and cannot be the basis of a response. Joseph Petek (talk) 20:09, 7 May 2014 (UTC)