Re: What does the creation lack?

From: george murphy (
Date: Mon Oct 29 2001 - 08:02:02 EST

  • Next message: Howard J. Van Till: "Re: What does the creation lack?"

    "Howard J. Van Till" wrote:

    > 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 limited.
    > 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 omnipotent.
    > 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.

            What I mean by the "general pattern" statement is that in P the
    limitation of God - & also God's participation in the suffering of the
    world - are general truths, of which Christ, & especially his cross, is
    one exemplar. He may be a very important example, & for some P
    theologians even the motivation for a process approach, but the whole
    system can be presented logically with no reference to Christ. One can
    be a Christian process theologian, but one can also be a Jewish one (cf.
    Kushner) or a philosophical one like Whitehead. One important
    difference between K & P is that in the former Christ can't be dispensed
    with & in P he can be (thpough he doesn't have to be).

    > 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.

            I'm not sure that there's anything in P metaphysics that implies
    this: God can't force rationality on the world anymore than God can
    force anything else.
            I haven't tried to demonstrate that the K claim is "morally
    optimal", but only that it presents some reason for rationality.

    > 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.

            Granted that "traditional supernaturalism" (TS) hasn't done a
    very good job with that. But that is due at least in part to the fact
    that in trying to deal with theodicy, TS has usually functioned as
    philosophical theism & has not based its arguments on the Incarnation
    and the cross. I am not saying that those considerations immediately
    solve all the problems, but K, like P, differs in important ways from

    > 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.




    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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