Re: What does the creation lack?

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Sun Oct 28 2001 - 17:47:18 EST

  • Next message: Tim Ikeda: "Re: What does the creation lack?"

    From: george murphy <>

            In the approach of process theology (P), that limitation is due to
    the very nature of God and God's relationship with the world. A more
    traditional kenotic approach (K) sees God as indeed able to do all things,
    including miraculous intervention that violates the usual pattern of nature,
    but as voluntarily limiting divine action to what can be accomplished
    through natural processes. This is the scholastic distinction between God's
    "absolute power" and God's "ordinate power." The latter is limited while
    the former is not (except by the requirement of non-contradiction.) The
    process view, OTOH, amounts to the claim that even God's "absolute power" is

    I think that's a correct representation of process theology, in which
    supernatural intervention is absent as a consequence of the very nature of
    God and the God/world relationship. God is "supreme in power," but not

            Both of these approaches are consistent with the ideas of creation's
    functional integrity and from the standpoint of the natural sciences may be
    indistinguishable. But there are some important theological differences. In
    K, God's not superseding natural laws is due to the fact that God does not
    choose to do so, while with P it's due to the fact that God can't do so. K
    is a view of divine action that is modelled on the Incarnation and cross, in
    which Christ "emptied" himself, while with P Incarnation and cross are
    examples of a general pattern: It's a difference in starting points.

    I'm not sure about the "examples of a general pattern" comment, but it
    certainly is true that K and P represent two quite different concepts of
    God, fundamental concepts on which one's theology is constructed.

            P does not have to answer the question "Why does God so limit divine
    action?" because he must in the nature of things. K can of course simply
    fall back on "Because he wants to," but can also argue that limitation of
    divine action to what is in accord with rational laws of nature makes it
    possible for creatures to understand & have some control over their world.
    It is seldom noted, OTOH, that P does not really explain why there is a
    rational pattern for what takes place in the world.

    I presume the answer lies in the metaphysics on which process thought is
    founded. Perhaps it might also be argued that K does not really demonstrate
    that this particular form of divine self-limitation is morally optimal.

            It may seem that P has the edge when dealing with the theodicy
    question: To put it crudely, bad things happen to good people because God
    can't help it. God can't intervene miraculously to keep cancer cells from
    multiplying, &c. K, OTOH, has to say that God could intervene but chooses
    not to. That may not seem a very attractive answer. This impression may be
    mitigated, however, by (a) the argument that this is the price that has to
    be paid for a rational world and (b) the claim that not only creatures but
    also God pays this price on the cross.

    One of my reasons for suggesting that P deserves a sympathetic consideration
    is its handling of the theodicy issue. Given traditional supernaturalism's
    difficulty with this matter, I still think some exploration of other
    theological systems is in order.

            Finally, K is more open to the possibility of miraculous
    intervention than P. Howard speaks consistently of his view of creation as
    ruling out "form-conferring interventions" but what about other kinds (e.g.,
    redemptive) interventions? I have said before that I don't think it's
    necessary to insist that any given action, up to & including the
    resurrection, must be of such a character. OTOH, I wonder if it's wise to
    adopt an approach in which such interventions not even possible.

    OK, but sympathetic exploration is not adoption. One can learn from views
    without adopting them.


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