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

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Mon Jun 28 2004 - 09:45:18 EDT

On 6/26/04 2:08 PM, "Steve Petermann" <> wrote [on the
cost/benefit analysis of process theology]:
> 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.

That's one important part of the story, but not all of it. Griffin, for
example, goes on to argue that process theology actually provides a context
for scientific theorizing that is superior to that provided by maximal
naturalism (materialism). This arises, as I recall, mostly out of treating
the natural system as something far more ontologically rich than material
objects alone. The natural system is something whose subjective character is
essential and in which divine contributive action is essential.

> Cost: The term God looses its sense of ultimacy.

It replaces "God only" ultimacy with "God + World" ultimacy. I don't see
that as a loss.

> It only offers a weak teleology.

I don't see that at all. Looks like a non sequitur to me.

> It presents God as a marketeer or lobbyist rather than a
> "parent" or partner.

Ah, the power of slanted word choices. I like the term "intimate &
empathetic participant" much better :)

> While non-coercion seems to be scientific appealing,
> it still begs the scientific question of the causal mechanism.

Perhaps the quest for a causal joint makes sense only in the context of a
substance metaphysics that posits a radical distinction between God and
World. I don't think such a quest would make any sense in process

> It raises
> the question of the possibility of dialog with the divine. Is special
> revelation possible when God only "lures"?

The intimate experience of God's active presence is essential to process
theology. However, if I understand correctly, the idea of special revelation
as the transfer of propositional information from the divine data bank to
the human data bank of certain privileged individuals would be rejected.
> 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.

No. I see this as a misunderstanding of process thought. God is not limited
by Nature or any other being external to God. God is limited only by God's
own character, which includes certain metaphysical principles that apply to
the God/World relationship.

> Cost: This characterizes God as an ineffective advocate or lobbyist for
> good.

Yes, those who lust for a Dictator-God will indeed be disappointed by
process theology. I sometimes wonder how often the Dictator-God portrait
hangs prominently in the palaces of human dictators of the sort that we see
on earth.

> There doesn't seem to be a solution to presence of evil in the world.

Well, perhaps there is a solution. The problem is, however, that WE, through
human choices and actions, are essential to the solution. That's a tough
assignment. Many prefer that an omnipotent God overpower evil and get us off
the hook.
> Efficient causation:
> Benefit: No conflict with science.
> Cost: Begs the scientific question of human freedom in an "efficient" world.
> Posits human freedom within the concrescence process but begs the scientific
> question of causal mechanism. Begs the question of teleology.

I don't follow this, so I'll make no further comment.

Howard Van Till
Received on Mon Jun 28 10:01:46 2004

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