Saturday 30 April 2011
While much of popular debate on God is fixated on a very particular (and problematic) notion of God, theology under the influence of philosophy moved on quite a long time ago. The example I have in my mind right now is that of Process Theology, developed by Charles Hartshorne using the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (the co-author of Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell.) Currently, I am not making any attempt at a philosophical proof and defence of this particular conception of God; I do however wish to introduce it to the readers of this blog (many of whom, I believe, would be unfamiliar with this) so that those unsatisfied with traditional theism can explore this sort of possibility as a viable alternative.
Key features of God as seen in process theology are:
* Panentheism: God contains the universe, but is not identical with it. The universe is in God, but God transcends the universe. All is in God. (Contrast with Pantheism: Universe is God, God is Universe.)
* God is both immanent and transcendent. God interpenetrates the whole of nature, and extends beyond as well.
* Universe is not static. It is in a constant process of change, brought about by agents of free will, including but not limited to human beings. God is not the ultimate source of all decisions. Agents with free will can make decisions independently, which can be influenced -- but not controlled -- by God. God influences the decisions of free beings by offering or limiting possibilities. God, therefore, cannot totally control any individual. The divine has a power of persuasion rather than coercion.
* God interacts with the Universe, therefore God can change the Universe and Universe can change God.
* God knows what is happening and what has happened (present and past) but God cannot know the future. The future is as yet undetermined because we -- and other free beings -- co-create it with God.
* God is not the creator and Universe is not the created. There is no creation ex nihilo. “It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that the World creates God” (Whitehead).
* The universe is not fixed, but open-ended and growing by creativity, with God as "the poet of the world" (Whitehead)
* In a universe with freedom and creativity, there is an inevitable opportunity of genuine good as well as the risk of genuine evil. A world without good and evil would be a world without freedom and creativity. However, the suffering in the world is as real for God as it is for us. "God is the fellow sufferer who understands." (Whitehead)