"Howard J. Van Till" wrote:
> From: george murphy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> 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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