Experience

Process theology is a school of thought influenced by the metaphysical process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. It affirms that God is working in all persons to actualize potentialities. Thus, each religious manifestation is the Divine working in a unique way to bring out the beautiful and the good. Additionally, scripture and religion represent human interpretations of the divine.

Whitehead enumerated three essential natures of God. First, the primordial nature of God consists of all potentialities of existence for actual occasions, which Whitehead dubbed eternal objects. Second, God can offer possibilities by ordering the relevance of eternal objects. The consequent nature of God prehends everything that happens in reality. As such, God experiences all of reality in a sentient manner. The last nature is the superjective. This is the way in which God’s synthesis becomes a foundation for other actual entities. In some sense, God is prehended by existing actual entities.

Process theology gives God a special place in the universe of occasions of experience. God encompasses all the other occasions of experience but also transcends them. Since, it is argued, free will is inherent to the nature of the universe, God is not omnipotent in the sense of being coercive. The divine has a power of persuasion rather than coercion. God’s role is to offer enhanced occasions of experience. It participates in the evolution of the universe by offering possibilities, which may be accepted or rejected.

In this philosophy, reality is not made up of material substances that endure through time, but sequenced events which are experiential in nature. These events have both a physical and mental aspect. All experience is important and contributes to the ongoing and interrelated process of reality.

The universe is characterized by process and change carried out by the agents of free will. Self determination characterizes everything in the universe, not just human beings. God cannot totally control any series of events or any individual, but God influences the creaturely exercise of this universal free will by offering possibilities. To say it another way, God has a will in everything, but not everything that occurs is God’s will.

Because God interacts with the changing universe, God is changeable. That is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe over the course of time. However, the abstract elements of God such as goodness and wisdom remain eternally solid.

A liberative theology is very easily constructed in process theology. There is a relational character to the divine which allows God to experience both the joy and suffering of humanity. God suffers just as those who experience oppression, and God seeks to actualize all positive and beautiful potentials. God must, therefore, be in solidarity with the oppressed and must also work for their liberation.

Therefore, God is not omnipotent in the classical sense, and so God does not provide support for the status quo, but rather seeks the actualization of greater good. God exercises relational power and not unilateral control. In this way God cannot instantly end evil and oppression in the world. God works in relational ways to help guide persons to liberation.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s