Posts tagged ‘process theology’

July 17th, 2013

If God Guides Evolution It’s Still Design

by Max Andrews

This objection to intelligent design is within a theistic philosophy and theology.  The theistic evolutionist would make the arguments for Darwinism just like the atheist would make his arguments for Darwinism; the only difference is that the former is a theist.  Asa Gray (1810-1888) was a proponent of evolution who suggested that God guided evolution.  The problem for the theistic evolutionist at this point is that if God guides evolution, it is design.  Guidance implies purpose and involvement.

January 19th, 2012

Theology Thursday: John Cobb

by Max Andrews

Theology Thursday is a new feature on the blog, which gives a brief introduction to a theological person of significance.

Theologian: John B. Cobb

General summary of his theology: 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. 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)
  • 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.

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.

Positives about Cobb

  • Attempted to provide a way out of the problem of evil
  • Attempted to preserve libertarian human freedom
  • Integrates divine activity in the world and does not divorce them
  • God genuinely pursues relations with man and the created order

Negatives about Cobb

  • God becomes dependent on the world
  • God is not maximally perfect–seems to merely depict transcendent human properties and not fully infinite
  • God is no omnipotent–he cannot necessarily bring about what he wills
  • God is not omniscient
  • All of reality is rather mystic
October 1st, 2011

Theistic Evolution and Purposive Permission

by Max Andrews

This objection to intelligent design is within a theistic philosophy and theology.  The theistic evolutionist would make the arguments for Darwinism just like the atheist would make his arguments for Darwinism; the only difference is that the former is a theist.  Asa Gray (1810-1888) was a proponent of evolution who suggested that God guided evolution.  The problem for the theistic evolutionist at this point is that if God guides evolution, it is design.  Guidance implies purpose and involvement.  The theistic evolutionist, so defined as God guiding evolution, is not really a detractor from design, rather he would be a proponent of common decent, which is entirely compatible with design.

It was not until the early twentieth century when a movement that emphasized Darwinian natural selection did theistic evolution attempt to reconcile unguided evolution with God.  The following theistic evolutionist present an appropriate summation for the current understanding:

“An evolutionary universe is theologically understood as creation allowed to make itself.”[1]

“Mankind’s appearance on this planet was not preordained… we are here… as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.”[2]

“Evolution could appear to us to be driven by chance, but from God’s perspective the outcome would be entirely specified.  Thus, God could be completely and intimately involved in the creation of all species, while from our perspective, limited as it is by the tyranny of linear time, this would appear a random and undirected process.”[3]

It may be important to distinguish the last quote from Collins from the former quotes.  It is difficult, even impossible, to distinguish Collins’ position as not being intelligent design.  Why would Collins use the human perspective as the objective standard for whether or not there actually is design?  He willingly concedes that God could be intimately involved in creating yet it is illusory to the human perspective.

The argument from cognitive relations may be understood as an argument from omniscience or providence.  If God allows any state of affairs to be actualized, and knows that it will happen, and then there is a teleology in that events actualization.  The underlying principle is what is called “purposive permission.”  This principle makes a minimal commitment to any event X, such that X will come to be either by it being permitted to occur or by being strongly actualized to occur.  Purposive permission assumes that if any event is permitted to happen then it is within the will of the knowing agent that the event be actualized.  If the event were known that it would come to pass and it was not desired to come to pass, then it would not have been permitted to be and would not have happened.  Under the current understanding of unguided evolution, the only way to reconcile that with theism is to adopt process theology, an understanding that God is not ontologically perfect and is literally evolving with the world.[4]


            [1] John Polkinghorne, Faith, Science, and Understanding (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2000), 23, 111, 197.

            [2] Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin’s God (New York:  Harper Perennial, 2000), 272-273.

            [3] Francis Collins, The Language of God (New York:  Free Press, 2006), 205.

            [4] Even weak understandings of cognitive relations, or interactions, would still render design (categorically defined from an orthodox perspective).  All that would require from the knowing agent (God) is that, within the mind, there must at least be two moments of knowledge:  natural knowledge (the first logical moment) and free knowledge (the last logical moment).  In the first moment the agent must know all tautologies and every possible circumstance.  The final moment is knowing the actual world, the current, past, and future state of affairs.  The only theistic model that does not hold to these two moments would be the process model.  I want to note, that open theism would not even be compatible with a Darwinist understanding of evolution because God would only be ignorant of future contingencies that involved human freedom.

June 18th, 2011

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.