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God, Creation, and Theology – A Few Questions

2012 January 25

A few weeks ago Rachel Held Evans put up a guest post at her blog by Tripp Fuller and Bo Sanders called Is God Omnipotent?. The dialogue on that post along with the reading I have been doing in preparation for next week’s Emergent Village Theological Conversation on Process Theology has been percolating in my head of late. And by percolating, I mean bringing up a bunch of questions that I barely have the language to even ask but would love to engage in dialogue about. Hence this post. Please forgive my ignorance as I attempt to formulate some questions and I welcome (plead for) your responses to help me work through some of these issues.

My main questions involve the nature of God and creation. Is God transcendent? If God is the all-powerful creator does that necessarily imply that God created evil? Did God impose Godself onto humans or call humans into God?

In reading the proponents of Process Theology, I encounter the assumption that to believe God to be an all-powerful transcendent creator is to imply that God imposes God’s will onto the earth and so therefore one must also believe that evil and injustice are part of God’s will. As John Cobb writes in reference to Whitehead,

The understanding of God as Creator has been closely related to the idea that God is in control of the world. Both the way the world is and what happens in it are thought to be directly or indirectly an expression of God’s will and purposes. … The idea of a ‘transcendent creator, at whose fiat the world came into being, and whose imposed will it obeys, is the fallacy which has infused tragedy into the histories of Christianity and of Mahometanism’.” 114

Opponents of the Process view clarify though that this imposition of order is not what is meant by a transcendent God. As Rowan Williams has written,

From human chaos God makes human community. But this act is not a process by which shape is imposed on chaos: it is a summons, a call which establishes the very possibility of an answer… But what creation emphatically isn’t is any kind of imposition or manipulation: it is not God imposing on us divinely willed roles rather than the ones we ‘naturally’ might have, or defining us out of our own systems into God’s. (68-69)

Similarly Kathryn Tanner appeals to Irenaeus to assert that a true understanding of transcendence has nothing to do with coercive dominance, but instead holds liberating potential.

From what I can gather both sides are accusing the other of worshiping a God that imposes his (and the masculine is important here) will upon creation. In demonizing the other view as such they fault each other for not properly dealing with the problem of evil. Imposed will seems to always imply God’s sanctioning of evil. The Process Theologians just place that imposition in the idea of transcendence because something apart and above can only impose on what is below. More classical theologians place the imposition in the shaping of a pre-existent primordial chaos that is in competition with God and therefore must have form imposed upon it. Despite accusing each other’s basic conception of God as implying that God wills evil, the way both advocates for and opponents of the Process view seem to reconcile the problem of evil seem surprisingly similar (in parts at least).

Process theologian Marjorie Suchocki suggests that “perhaps God creates not as a power over an inert matter molded into form, with a single purpose, but as a power with all matter, present to it, pervading it with presence, with multiple purposes” (4). This is a God that is with and amidst creation giving it purpose while not having to be held responsible for the evil in creation. Bruce Epperly expands on this witness of God and creation stating that God “never abandons our imperfect world, but seeks to transform the suffering of the world, persuasively and persistently over the long haul, into beauty of experience” (55). God is at work with the world, not imposing God’s will upon it, but (as I read it) as one in solidarity with the world, suffering along with it because of that solidarity.

Interestingly, Rowan Williams, who would uphold God’s transcendence but not a suffering God, also argues for God being-with humans as explanation of how God calls humans to God’s will and yet does not impose evil. He argues that that unlike Process theologians we should not assume a “undialectical affirmation of God’s identity with the cosmic continuum” for that simply replaces an imposing masculine idea of God with a preexisting feminine one (78) (see Catherine Keller’s description of the tehom, “No One rules or precedes this ineffable All-Mother” (15)). Williams instead speaks of the importance of the difference – not of hierarchical difference but of the difference of a yet transcendent God that exists for the sake of humans (by nature yet not necessity). Williams writes,

Authentic difference, a being-with, not simply a being-in, difference that is grounded in the eternal being-with of God as trinity, is something which sets us free to be human – distinctively human, yet human in co-operation with others and with an entire world of differences. To know that our humanness is not functional to any purpose imposed from beyond is to know also the folly and blasphemy of treating portions of the human race as functional for the lives of other human beings (which is why this perspective ultimately reinforces a serious feminist critique, as well as having implications about economics and race); and to know the equal folly and blasphemy of interpreting all creation in terms of its usefulness to transient human needs.” (78)

It is a dependence on a wholly other but loving God that therefore informs our creaturely solidarity with others leading us to love others instead of imposing our own will upon them.

So God with us seems to be the answer to how we are to live and resist evil. But the difference remains as to whether this God exist in process with us or is transcendent but in relationship with us. My struggle is between the assumptions that those stances imply about God.

So here are my questions that I would appreciate some perspective on –

  1. Why does Process Theology assume that a transcendent God must by nature will evil?
  2. And how is a preexisting chaos in process not itself just another term for God (leading back to the first question about a transcendent God)?
  3. And if the hope for our suffering is that God is with us, what difference does transcendence or solidarity truly make?

21 Responses leave one →
  1. January 25, 2012

    I’m a sympathetic fan of Process Theology, but not entirely an advocate. I’ll take a crack at one of your questions…

    3.And if the hope for our suffering is that God is with us, what difference does transcendence or solidarity truly make?

    —An issue that arises with Process Theology (and anyone correct me if I’m mistaken, I’m still learning) is its starting point being God, seemingly distinct from the Trinity and to the exclusion of the Incarnation. A transcendent God in a monarchical framework has ultimate power over history and will and is ultimately holy based upon intervention against evil, the antithesis of a good God (I think this has more to do with God being good than God creating/allowing evil).

    The incarnation, on the other hand, continues the pattern of intervention through humans. The transcendent and monarchical view shifts that intervention back into God’s hands from the hands of a recapitulated humanity. Conformity to Christ is utmost dependence upon God’s being to continue loving intervention, though it includes suffering in many forms. That God suffered, rather than God being impervious to suffering, completely alters everything about how we related to God. I like to recall here Schleiermacher’s “God-conciousness.”

    Celia Deane-Drummond writes (referring to Process), “Panentheistic models of God and the world, especially where they equate the world with God’s body, seem to leave no room for such a tension between natural and revealed theology, since the radical nature of the incarnation is not adequately taken into account.” How does Process Theology move beyond a radical theism to make a radically relational trinitarianism its starting point and include the incarnation?

    My thoughts aren’t entirely settled or clear on this stuff, so I hope at least some of this makes sense.

  2. Chris Hill permalink
    January 25, 2012

    I suspect this will not be helpful at all, but I’ll say it anyways. To me, G-d is first and foremost Unfathomable Mystery. From there, I believe we human beings have a lot of great and interesting thoughts concerning G-d. I enjoy and appreciate much about Process Theology, but I have as many questions to address it as I do both Open and Classical forms of theologizing. I hope you enjoy the Conversation next week.

  3. Travis Greene permalink
    January 25, 2012

    I find that Jurgen Moltmann combines the best insights of Process thought with a commitment to traditional descriptions of God as Creator. In other words, God is both transcendent and kenotic – suffering with Creation.

    • January 25, 2012

      I agree with Travis.

      There needs not be a complete division between a suffering God and a transcendent God.

    • January 26, 2012

      I keep returning to Moltmann too for he seems to take the best parts (i.e. what I like) of these various streams of theology and make them work together.

  4. January 25, 2012

    Oy. Wow. Okay…let’s see. It’s been a while since I really paid attention to Whitehead and the gang. Others are more well-versed in this than I. I spend more time with Hauerwas and those folk, but let’s see if I can help.

    1. Because if the world is a witness of God’s Will, evidentiary proof of it, and there is evil in the world, then God must have created evil. God gave humanity free will and in that willfulness is the willingness to do evil so…Yeah. God made evil, too. Don’t forget to explore how God is not omnipotent and falls prey to that same evil in the second person of the Trinity, Christ. God is momentarily (a moment in history) participatory in Creation, but not immanent.

    2. I have no idea. LOL.

    3. None. Humanity must make the difference. Again, I may be wrong, but it’s entirely about will. We can will for good or we can will for evil. We can participate in the Process or attempt to thwart it. God cannot act in opposition to human willfulness. God can only suffer it or rejoice in it. And though the process is evolutionary (Whitehead loved himself some science-istic theology), the willfulness of humanity causes that evolution to limp along and even, from time to time, devolve.

    Dunno if this helps. I’m sending a friend, David Gregg, over here to correct me.

  5. David Gregg -- Tripp's Process friend :-) permalink
    January 25, 2012

    Lots to talk about here – obviously, only scratching the surface. And I’m just doing my best here according to my own limited understanding… so apologies in advance.

    First thing about process thought is, it arises from an entire re-conception of western metaphysics. Whitehead’s first insights are about the nature of reality — and his ideas about God are cast in that context. Reality, for Whitehead, is not composed of THINGS, but of RELATIONSHIPS = FEELINGS. A thing — a creature — is a conceptual abstraction we apply to a pattern of relationships as they express themselves in continuity over time. This is true for God, too — “God” is the human worship-name given to the relationship of all things.

    BUT, this is not to say that God is merely a network of relationships, like a tapestry is a network of yarn. Rather, it is a wholeness that knows — “comprehends” in the deepest sense of the word — all “things”, fully, and appreciates them as they are in the broadest context of all their relationships. God here is the world soul; a common analogy is, as your mind is to the cells of your brain, so God is to the creatures of the world. Not just “totality” but “wholeness,” integrated under/by/as a will to love.

    The signal issue of controversy between Process (or Whiteheadean, or “neoclassical”) theology and classical or orthodox theology isn’t over the question of transcendence so much as the question of omnipotence. Orthodox theology has until recently claimed that “omnipotence” means strictly deterministic control of events in the world. Any God whose control was less than total, the reasoning goes, is not omnipotent and therefore not worthy of the name God. This commitment created the infamous “problem of evil” — if God controls everything, why do evil things happen? We process types would argue that, within the terms of orthodox theology, this problem was (and remains) irresolvable — either God is the author of evil, or God is not omnipotent. More recent orthodox theologies have tried to diffuse the problem — continuing the old effort in new ways to maintain both God’s omnipotence and God’s innocence, or frankly admitting that in this scheme, omnipotence must be sacrificed. But I’ve yet to encounter a successful effort to explain how this weaker God is truly God and not just weaker. Thus, the recourse to Mystery, which often seems like a bit of a cop out to me.

    Whitehead et al. defined power differently, not as “control” but as “influence” — as aptness to both influence and be influenced by one’s relationships. God is doubly related to all things, fully felt by all things and fully feeling of them, fully present at the beginning and the end of every moment of experience. One way to say this is, God is the object of every subject (as the source of the yearning for love, wholeness, and beauty that accompanies the spark of every experience), and also God is the subject of every object (as the grateful recipient of every event, appreciating its contribution, however minimal, and interpreting it in the most appreciative, loving, and beautiful way in that holistic context). Another way of saying this is, God is fully transcendent and fully immanent.

    It seems to me that whenever we distinguish transcendence from immanence in theology, it is for the purpose of explaining how God is fully both. So the difference between neoclassical and classical theology is not really over which one more insists on God’s transcendence, but over the way each makes sense of the concept. Further, part of the process critique of orthodoxy is that orthodoxy has rarely taken seriously God’s immanence as a theological principle.

    The caveat: one of Whitehead’s chief goals (a goal shared by his followers) is to do what has been called natural or general theology. Whiteheadeans deny that the revelation of Jesus Christ tells us anything about God that we cannot know simply by examining the structure of human experience; and so we deny that Christianity is a supernatural or special revelation, the “one path to salvation” or in principle different from any other religion. All religion is a human aesthetic-cultural attempt to express (to “re-present”) the truth and meaning of God’s love for creation as a gift and demand upon all human existence. We believe that this truth and meaning are originally present as a feature of the experience of every moment; we also believe that people are muddy-headed and muddle-hearted, lost in the moment’s inheritance of a massive and very complex and mixed set of feelings and feelings of feelings, and generally in need of feeling reminders. Thus, religion. So, while we have ways of talking about the Trinity and the Incarnation (these are not empty categories for most process theologians), they are profoundly re-conceived in the context of this new metaphysical worldview.

    I can’t claim familiarity w/ Rowan Williams’s thought. Most of what’s been quoted above, and much of liberation theology, seems to claim exactly what process theologians also affirm, that God is different from the world and yet pervasive of it; that God fully knows, experiences, suffers, and treasures everything that occurs, in a way that redeems them from final meaninglessness into eternal significance. If Williams opposes process thought, I assume it’s on the basis of the different metaphysical world views in which their theologies are rooted.

    As for the three questions (sorry this is so long!) … Much of the above will imply what answers I might give. But just to be specific:

    1. Why does Process Theology assume that a transcendent God must by nature will evil?

    Process theology assumes that an omnipotent God as traditionally defined makes God to be the author of evil. That’s why process thought seeks to redefine omnipotence. I don’t think process theology assumes that a transcendent God must by nature will evil.

    2. And how is a preexisting chaos in process not itself just another term for God (leading back to the first question about a transcendent God)?

    I think my response to this is implicit in what I said above about God, the tapestry, and the mind-brain analogy. “God” is the soul of the “preexisting chaos” — that is, of the “all things.” God is the cosmic oneness & wholeness & goodness & love that wills / invites / “lures” the chaos toward ever greater order; that is, maximum “unity in diversity” as Whitehead described it.

    3. And if the hope for our suffering is that God is with us, what difference does transcendence or solidarity truly make?

    That’s the tough question, isn’t it? Part of the hard road of process thought (and it is a hard road) is its insistence on recognizing the tragic aspects of human existence and history as truly tragic. There is no “do over,” no rapture that makes it as though loss and pain never happened. And no cheap grace to make it all ok. In that way, I would say process thought is more realistic and humble than some strains (not all) of orthodox theology. We would also say that the knowledge that God is with us is a great boon in suffering.

    But process also argues that God’s transcendence also makes this difference: the loss and pain of the moment is eternally held in God’s creative self, and is eternally transformed as time passes, and new realities are added to the old. God’s salvation of the world is what Whitehead’s follower Charles Hartshorne called “creative synthesis”: over time, as history adds new materials following upon the old, God continuously creates an ever-new whole whose beauty and ingenuity overcomes the ugliness of the parts. In this way, history is God’s mosaic, and even the most dark & ugly tiles find a place.

    I hope this is helpful — I’m sorry it’s so long.

    • January 26, 2012

      Thank you for your helpful reply. I think I am so ingrained in the idea of God as person/entity that it’s difficult to wrap my mind around God as relationship/totality. Maybe it’s also from reading too much science-fiction and the ubiquitous plotline of the networked computer becoming the omniscient one that connects all things (like Jane in the Ender’s Games books). So far Moltmann’s image that we do not pray to God, but we pray in the event of God has been the most helpful way for me to understand this conception of God. But thank you for reminding me that even the way we think about God differs and that one must grasp that if anything else is to make sense.

      And thanks for clarifying the distinction between transcendence and omnipotence. It’s probably just my desire that it not be so, but I have a difficult time understanding why it must follow that all-powerful implies all-controlling (so therefore God is the author of evil). I too haven’t found a satisfactory answer that resolves that though. I think I want to believe that God does more than simply influence, but I appreciate how you define that as the source and recipient of all that is good. But then where does evil and the tragic come from? It seems to me that saying that God is the source and recipient of good (but not evil ) presents the same problem as saying the omnipotent God controls everything but not evil.

      As to your final point, does Process Theology hold to any eschatological hope? Or is the only comfort it offers that God suffers along with us?

      • David Gregg permalink
        January 27, 2012

        Hey, Julie – Thanks for your response. The dialog is what makes this all so fun.

        In my understanding, it’s not exactly wrong, in the terms of process theology, to think about God in personal ways. God is certainly not an “it,” and is not like The Force, some neutral ambient field of omniscience alone. God wills the good. Indeed, the way God most immediately reveals God-self to us is in our intuitions of what Whitehead called the “divine telos,” God’s appetite or lure for beauty to be the result of every experience. In process theology, reality itself has a bias toward greater unity, beauty, and goodness (which is part of my response to the question of process hope & eschatology — see below). We experience God as a divine yearning, a divine will, and so in ways that can feel very personal, very I-Thou.

        It is from this point of view that interpretations of “power” as “control” ring false to me. My own (admittedly uncharitable) read is that God’s omnipotence became defined as All-Control when the followers of Jesus decided to value earthly domination (after the model of earthly emperors) rather than the Kin-dom Jesus proclaimed and revealed. So, Omnipotence doesn’t need to mean All-Control — there are different meanings of the word “power.” It’s just that, in much of orthodox Christian thought, All-Control is exactly what “power” has meant. Certainly for Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, & Calvin, and their theological descendants.

        For process theologians (at least, for this one), the idea that God controls our every thought and act is a denial of freedom, a denial of our dignity as children of God, and finally makes a mockery of history. History, according to that traditional understanding of omnipotence, is like a novel, whose ending is already written, but we just haven’t read to the end yet — it is a fiction, an amusement for the reader, rather than the real unfolding of real meaning over time. In neoclassical thought, even God can be surprised by what happens next. God stands next to us as we face the future together. (For this reason, lots of process theologians don’t use the word “eternal,” because it implies a time beyond time, where God can stand and see the whole thing at once. They tend instead to use the word “everlasting” — within the stream of time, but coterminous with it.)

        For me, the birth of sin comes exactly where Genesis places it, at the knowledge of good and evil. On the one hand, humans are (and KNOW themselves to be) finite and fragmentary, living in a world we’ve come to late and will leave early. On the other hand, in our God-created freedom and yearning for beauty, we have become imaginative. We can come up with alternatives, innovations, new perspectives & new meanings. It is in this capacity, I think, that we are created in the image of God. But therefore we can also imagine as if things were God which are not (idolatry); we can imagine ways to exploit others in the service of ourselves; we can imagine ways to abdicate our responsibilities as human beings and recede into self-abnegation; we can define the meaning of our lives in ways that are vengeful, spiteful, rife with denial and self-deception. We can trick others into following us. We can take one little truth (like the appreciation of the noble features of our own culture) and pervert it into an enormity (like the genocides perpetrated against people of other cultures). And so on. It is our capacity for creativity and imagination that both liberates us to be “little lower than the angels,” but also tempts us to every evil. We seek to escape our finitude on our own terms, or to just surrender to it, rather than creatively embracing it on the divine terms, my favorite definition of sin.

        And God cannot stop us. At least, not by some act of divine fiat. And if God could and did not, what kind of unworthy God would that be? But God is always at work, both prior to and after the fact. Prior, God instills that yearning for beauty in us all, which inspires resisters and prophets, which gnaws at the hearts of co-conspirators and passive bystanders, and which even paves the road for the repentance of sinners. That yearning, and not compulsory fiat, is God’s power. And after the fact, God receives everything, treasures it for what good it contributed, grieves the gap between what it was and what more it might have been, and begins the everlasting process of knitting the new experience into an ever expanding context of meaning. God’s redemption of history is like that mosaic I tried to describe — even the worst things eventually find a home.

        And as for eschatological hope? Well, first off, a God who suffers with us is, I would say, itself a cause for hope. At the end of the day, the great threat to creation is not evil but meaninglessness. To know that we are known, held, witnessed, and appreciated, even in the most confused, empty, and painful of moments, is itself redemption. This confidence creates the conditions for moving forward. The knowledge that the moment itself is real, that it matters, is the necessary & sufficient ground of all hope, which is our confidence that God has the final word on this world. I personally prefer not to use the word “eschatology,” because the word implies a predetermined outcome of all this, which is not credible to me (if time and change are real, how can the outcome be predetermined?); and which makes a mockery of history. I prefer to talk about teleology — that history has a vector, a direction toward the good, noble, and beautiful, what Whitehead calls “the slow drift of history toward civilization.” Our hope is the sure knowledge that we participate in the upbuilding of that “civilization,” that Kin-dom; and it is the sure knowledge that our contributions are eternally treasured and celebrated in the bosom of God.

        Thanks again for your hospitality in this conversation. I’m not sure I’m adding much, but I appreciate the opportunity to clarify my own understandings — and it’s nice to be seen. :-)

  6. Loren Peters permalink
    January 25, 2012

    Hi Julie!

    Excellent questions. And, I certainly would never presume to try to answer them. Perhaps, though, I can simply offer some limited thoughts:

    Q1: From what little I know of Process Theology, I understand that God must not and doesn’t “will evil”. Creation is not ex hihilo. It is out of chaos – an ordering of chaos out of the principles of which God had to work. Thus, God didn’t will evil (or, maybe more accurately, the potential for evil). This potential was already a part of the chaos from which God created. Implied in this perspective seems to be a transcendent God that is still “other” than the chaos. This “otherness” is not supernatural, as traditional theology would propose; rather, it is natural, which leads us to the necessity of re-defining the omni-attributes of God.

    Q2: The chaos was the something from which God created, being still “other” than the chaos. In creating from chaos, God made something new. God introduced order to this chaos. If we want to say God is the process, isn’t that akin to pantheism?

    Q3: I believe God is both transcendent and immanent. For me, the difference comes with the re-defining of the omni-attributes that characterize Gods transcendence and immanence. Without this re-defining, I’m stuck (as are others) with the impossible task of reconciling a transcendent God with a fully Divine and fully human Jesus (Emmanuel, God the Son, the Son of Man).
    Suffering has been, and will always be, a mystery that only God understands. We don’t understand it and never will. Process Theology offers us a persuasive, not coercive, God, who doesn’t explain suffering to us, but hates it for us and draws us to hate it as well; shares in it with us; works with us to alleviate it; and comforts us in the midst of it (and draws us and shows us how to comfort one another).

    Thanks so much.

    Peace and Joy.

  7. January 25, 2012

    A core issue in this debate is the tendency to try and define a neutral construct of knowing God and then fill it with our own conceptions after the fact. The knowledge of God is already fulfilled in Jesus. We are talking about this one God: God-before-time, God-in-relationship, Father-Son-Spirit, the Christian God who freely chooses to reveal Himself to humanity through the Incarnation. On both sides there are statements being made in response to this “neutral” approach to philosophy rather than responding to who God has revealed Himself to be. God cannot be conceived in the abstract. He is only known in His self-revelation. While He is a mystery, He is the mystery “made known” to us in Jesus. His origin, by definition, is outside of creation. His presence, by choice, is to be With-Us.

  8. January 25, 2012

    Friends, I will only make a brief comment…in appreciation of Julie’s erudite comments and questions and the perceptive stream of insights she has inspired. Process theology doesn’t worry about the tension between natural and revealed wisdom….God moves in all things, some moments are more lively and insightful than others; some may more fully reveal the divine than others; this is a matter of the interplay of divine all and creaturely response. Jesus doesn’t need to be discontinuous to be unique as a revealer of the divine. As the early Christian philosophers noted, wherever truth is present, God is its source. I would add healing….Jesus moves through all paths of healing and blessing.

    As to transcendence, it isn’t necessary bad – a God who is only transcendent and acts unilaterally is problematic. Process theology recognizes God’s unique centeredness and character but sees God as being moved and moving in all things, the most moved mover, whose perfection is found in relationship and love, a love that embraces and is embraced.

    • January 26, 2012

      Thanks for responding! I love that image of non-unilateral transcendence, I’m going to have to explore that idea more.

  9. January 26, 2012

    Excellent discussion!
    I want to add only one thing: an appreciation of the philosophical underpinings of classical theologies and the views which have their origins in Linguistic Analysis, i.e., A. N. Whitehead, et. al.

    Most classical theology grew out of the Greek pagan framework we call dualism, that all things are derived from two ulitimate and separate origins. “Christian” dualism fudges this distinction by allowing that God brought into existence a reality, a phyical creation which was utterly separate from God and over which God is Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, yada, etc. Still, there are within even this limited dualism two exclusive realities which are separate and must finally be separate. Traditional Christian thinkers borrowed this framework from the Greeks, of course. Within this dualist approach, everything is clearly differentiated because finally all is either crerator/spirit or creation/flesh, two exclusive realities which can be mixed but never combined; spirit is eternal and changeless while flesh is temporal and always changing, etc. Brian McLaren gives an excellent critque of traditional dualist theology with his six-line narrative, etc. The old way leads finally to gnosticism.

    Whitehead and those who follow him also borrow from the Greeks but an opposing system, monism, the assumption that all things have a single origin, that essentially, all things are just variations on a single essence, thus you and a cabbage and a rock and God are all just ways at a given moment of describing the same reality but from different points of view in time. Within monism there is no possiblity of anything not being both divine and profane, the two being but different perspectives on the same reality. The destination is therefore (at least) no more important than the journey, etc. Ultimately, that way is pantheism.

    The problems I perceive in Julie’s great questions and the many helpful explanations in the replies is that classical theology relies on pagan dualism as its explanation of “the way things are” and Process and several other progressive theologies firmly rely on pagan monism to explain it all. Neither appears to be very helpful. Both lead to gaping, yawning un-answerable questions.

    There is another approach which can be seen here and there among students of these issues. It begins with the inclusion of an intermediate reality which, in Biblical theology is referred to as “the Word of God.” This shows up in creation, in scripture, in Jesus and here and there whenever something may be described as “sacramental,” as fully creation and fully divine. This is not a dualist nor a monist conception. God remains other than creation but utterly connected, “into” creation through the “let-there-be-ness” of the Word, the story, the movement, the dance of God with creation. In this dynamic interaction, the distinctions are not lost but the connections are maintained, through the Word.

    I am not a student of these things; I only overhear this and that but I think this approach is fruitful, in part because it is framed within a Biblical theological approach and it at least appears to not fall back into either dualism, so out of favor today — this has gone back and forth, back and forth — nor into monism.

    Now, how would I reframe Julie’s questions within this third foundational perspective? Gee, I am already standing on tip-toe here and I am not at all sure I know how to swim in these waters. I will think about that… Thanks for raising these important issues! You have all given me much to think about!

  10. January 26, 2012

    Julie, a couple of things

    a) you have good friends – who are really smart – I am impressed.

    b) your initial statement that you barely have the language … was a bit misleading. You are rockin’ it!

    c) most of this will be GREAT for live informal convo

    d) as one coming from a conservative evangelical / charismatic background , you are WAY ahead of my start point :) the force is strong with you.

    e) There are a whole bunch of easy ways to create handles (or hand holds if use a climbing analogy) for this. I would say ‘don’t get caught up on the word transcendence – the main point is that God’s power is not unilateral or coercive. Just that simple confession allows one to reorient and recalibrate … which you are clearly doing 😉

    f) If the build up to the conference has shown anything (with the heat and push-back) it is that there is a significant difference when it comes to both topics of evil and ethics. Clearly process is saying something different and that the implications are noteworthy.
    This is not semantics.
    This is not trivia.
    This is not rhetoric.
    The assertion is substantial and the implications/applications are consequential.

    SO excited for this conversation. -Bo

    p.s. how great is EPPERLY!!!! (I interviewed him about Process 101 here:

  11. Tarah permalink
    January 29, 2012

    Hello Julie,
    I have loved watching this conversation and am inspired by such wisdom and self awareness all around. Of course you know I’ll be sampling from the oldies in church history–but I do believe they got some things more right than they were ever again in history–namely–that the nature of the Triune is relationship/the mutual outpouring of love. Period. My supervisor here at school is a hebrew scholar and wrote an amazing paper on how the “imago Dei” of the OT is an intentional Hebrew phrase for active relationship rather than entity. That changes a lot right? I found it very affirming and humbling all the same given the daily dose of mental gymnastics I must begin with to re-work my own imago Dei from still-life to love in movement. I do believe that it is in this understanding of God’s nature as relationship that the existence of evil reveals itself to not exist but rather subsist–as rust does upon metal.
    I know this is typically evasive/eccentric on my part, for that I apologize. I am always teetering between Russian orthodox apophaticism and a Texas “what for.”
    Peace friend, be in Christ!

  12. July 31, 2013

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    In my opinion, it would make your posts a little livelier.

  13. August 11, 2013

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about keyword1. Regards

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