Re: Process problems from Re: Evolution: A few questions

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Mon Jun 28 2004 - 08:23:24 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Steve Petermann" <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, June 26, 2004 2:08 PM
Subject: Re: Process problems from Re: Evolution: A few questions

> Perhaps one of the ways to evaluate features of a philosophical or
> theological system is to look at their benefit-to-cost ratio. In
> it is common to hear that a particular feature or proposition requires
> high a metaphysical price". In theological systems the "cost" of a
> particular feature or proposition may be more than a systematic or
> metaphysical cost. It may also include the loss or diminishing of
> psychological, hermeneutic, and pietistic factors. Process theology is no
> exception. It has "benefits" from particular points of view but they are
> obtained at a cost. For instance:
> Divine Action:
> Benefit: Since divine action in process theology is non-coercive it would
> seem to have a happy relationship with science and affirm human freedom.
> Cost: The term God looses its sense of ultimacy. It only offers a weak
> teleology. It presents God as a marketeer or lobbyist rather than a
> "parent" or partner. While non-coercion seems to be scientific appealing,
> it still begs the scientific question of the causal mechanism. It raises
> the question of the possibility of dialog with the divine. Is special
> revelation possible when God only "lures"?
> God as ontologically limited:
> Benefit: Theodicy. Since God is limited by nature and can only act
> non-coercively this shields God from the problem of evil.
> Cost: This characterizes God as an ineffective advocate or lobbyist for
> good. There doesn't seem to be a solution to presence of evil in the
> world.
> Efficient causation:
> Benefit: No conflict with science.
> Cost: Begs the scientific question of human freedom in an "efficient"
> Posits human freedom within the concrescence process but begs the
> question of causal mechanism. Begs the question of teleology.

Steve -
    The kind of cost-benefit analysis you suggest is helpful but one still
needs to avoid prejudicial language. I don't think "marketeer or lobbyist"
is the image most proocess theologians would want to use. Perhaps it's a
good rule to let proponents of a particular view choose their own metaphors.
Barbour uses "leader-community" to suggest the relationship between God &
the world. (But of course one needs some care: In German that would be
"Fuehrer-Gemeinde" & Hitler isn't the image Barbour has in mind!)
    A similar thing can be said about the term "coercive" as a description
of the Neo-Thomist theology of divine action. The connotation of "coerce"
is forcing someone to do something it normally wouldn't do, or (for humans)
against his or her will. But while this view of divine action does hold
that God _can_ act in ways that are beyond the capacities of creatures
(miracles), in the vast majority of cases God acts cooperatively with
creatures in accord with their natures. So "coercive" really isn't

Received on Mon Jun 28 08:37:50 2004

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