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

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Mon Jun 28 2004 - 14:00:03 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Terry M. Gray" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2004 10:26 AM
Subject: Re: Process problems from Re: Evolution: A few questions

> George,
> This question is aimed at you, but, of course, anyone can respond.
> It strikes me in following this thread that process theology is a
> version of natural theology. Would you agree with that?
> And, for the most part, it's the kind of natural theology that is
> untethered from traditional special revelation (either Biblical or
> heilsgeschichte). Right?

    All expressions of process theology that I know of (which doesn't
include all of them!) make more of less heavy use of natural theology. I
don't think that _has_ to be the case but in practice it is. From this
point on, however, some important qualifications & distinctions need to be

    A natural theology is an understanding of God & God's relationship with
the world developed from a putative "natural knowledge of God" available
through experience of the world & reflection upon it." (Some would include
the possibility of an innate knowledge of God as well.) In this sense
natural theology is much like natural science: Evidence is (in principle)
to everyone & this type of theology can (again in principle) be done by
anyone who will use his/her reason. It seems to me that the kind of appeal
to experience to which Howard refers in his parallel post - experience which
(I gather - he will correct me if I'm wrong) anyone can in principle have is
just what does qualify PT as natural theology. Whether one tries to
understand reality in terms of substantialist metaphysics, process
metaphysics, or some other type of philosophy isn't really the question.

    In fact, any insistence on speaking about God & the world in terms of
some /a priori/ philosophical system is another feature of natural theology.
Many of the problems of classical theology were caused by trying to shoehorn
them into the framework of semi-Platonic or Aristotelian systems. The same
kind of thing can happen if one gives priority to Whitehead's philosophy.

    But we also have to remember that what Christians have traditionally
regarded as the content of special revelation - & especially Christ - does
play a role in many formulations of process theology. This is the case for
Whitehead, who wasn't a Christian, & is very much the case for Teilhard.
Whether or not process theologians can consistently regard the Christ event
as unique, & thus as "special" revelation, is another matter, but the
example of Christ (cf. Whitehead's references to "the Galilean orgins of
Christianity" and God as "the fellow sufferer who understands) is certainly

    What I've argued is a problem (following Torrance) is not simply all
natural theology but the claims of _independent_ natural theology which
supposedly has no need of "special" revelation. I think it's quite
appropriate to talk about a natural theology which assumes God's revelation
in Christ & understands itself to be part of distinctively Christian
theology. I think it's interesting that in _A Christian Natural Theology:
Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead_ (Westminster, 1965) John
Cobb argues that the kind of process natural theology he has in mind has to
be formulated within a community of faith, so he was going at least a step
in the direction I've suggested. But I would say "within a community of
Christian faith" & I doubt that Cobb (at least today) would agree to that.

    I think a basic problem of natural theology as it's commonly understood
(& this includes process uses) is summed up well by Juengel. (My
translation is a little stilted but I don't want to hunt down the German &
redo it now.)

    "Wherein consists this truth? And wherein consists its perversion? In
shortest and most abstract formulation this may be answered: What natural
theology represents perversely as truth is the claim of the most highly
specific event of the Word of God to general validity. And the perversion
of this truth consists in the reversal of the claim to general validity of
this highly specific event to assertion of a generality to which then the
unique event is subsumed as a special case of a comprehensive relation."
(Eberhard Jüngel, "Gott - um seiner selbst willen interessant: Plädoyer für
eine natürlichere Theologie" in Entsprechungen (Gott - Wahrheit - Mensch)
(Chr. Kaiser Verlag, München, 1980), p.194.)

Received on Mon Jun 28 14:21:15 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Jun 28 2004 - 14:21:16 EDT