Thursday, July 7, 2016

What is Process Theology?

A friend recently asked me what Process Theology is. No one process theology believer has quite the same understanding of it because it evolves as we seek to understand God better.

For instance, many people have a problem with the problem of evil in the world. Something like the holocaust makes some people wonder "Where was God?" It sometimes makes agnostic or atheists of thinking people or those who suffer terribly like the Jews during the holocaust.

Here is just a beginning of my belief system.

Process Theology appeals to me because it attempts to answer the age old question of why bad things happen to good people. To me, it makes sense and it has good ethics. 

I believe the God of process theology does everything within God’s power to work for the good without violating human agency. That power of God is persuasive and not coercive. 

Dominion has proved to be a tragic theological model for understanding our ethical relationship to the world. 

Process Theology says that God is love and loves perfectly. God suffers with the world and calls us to share a vision of the good and the beautiful but waits for our free response to God’s Spirit. God cannot override our freedom but hopes and tries to persuade us to create the best we can be from each choice that we make.

Process believers believe God is omniscient and knows everything there is to know perfectly but knows the future as open, as a range of possibilities and probabilities, not as fixed or settled. God hopes we will choose the good but struggles to reach us through the dark glass that often obscures our vision. I believe that dark glass is our selfishness and poor choices. But I also believe God does everything within God’s power to bring about the good without violating our free agency.

Of course, we have hands and God does not. Or rather, when hands are needed  God must rely on the hands of creatures to do God's work. Yes, God has power.  God's power in infinitely greater than ours, and very different. God's creative power sustains the universe. Yet, it is only through the creatures of the world that God has hands. 

Many people who who respond initially to process theology say a God who does not have the power to control the world is not really God. perhaps this is an understandable reaction given our tradition, but we should think past that idea.  Is it power to control that earns worship? Fundamentally, is it the power that leads us to love God and worship God?  Or is it the love of God that leads us to love God and to worship God and to be willing to commit our lives to God's service?

For me, the only kind of awe that is authentic worship is the awe that is inspired by great goodness or great values. A Christian God would have to be one that sets the standard with infinite love

God is with us in our moments of greatest guilt and despair, yet God's love for us never wavers. In each moment, God takes in our feelings and decisions and responds to them by calling us to redeem from these experiences whatever good can be gotten, and to move from them in directions that can, in the future, yield much greater good.    

And after all, if God were in complete control, what need would God have of our service?  God is calling us to work with  God in the world.  Certainly Jews and Christians have understood that building the kingdom is a cooperative effort between God and people.

God will be with us in each moment, sharing our struggles, sharing our experiences with sin and suffering, and loving us in the midst of them all.  

Fortunately most of us do not let the traditional  "solutions" to the problem of evil direct our ethics.  If we did we might think that if God sees it as wise and loving to allow a child to be crushed by a truck then we should too, After all, our theologies do have some impact on our lives and decisions. A glaring example of this is found regarding the nuclear arms race. Some fundamentalist preachers have publicly said that nuclear war will bring about the coming kingdom of God and the return of Jesus. If that were so, nuclear war would be a good thing so why don't we rush to push the button. 

Such a theology suffers from the sickness of despair. 

Process theology preserves our obvious commonsense values.  It acknowledges the crucial distinction between good and evil (however blurry that may be at times)  and affirms that God works with all of God's resources for the good  and against evil.  Our love, at it's best, really is like, or at least analogous to, God's love.

We should not act like the God of classical theology. We should not stand by while people suffer  evils we could prevent.  But we should act like the God of process theology doing what lies within our power to prevent evil and ease suffering.  

There's more, of course, but I'll add to this as I think about it. 


Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

" through the dark glass that often obscures our vision. I believe that dark glass is our selfishness and poor choices"

The Buddhist and Hindu writings express this very well. I am "Christian" yet can't identify with most of it, especially the fundamentalists ! learning about the other perspectives is refreshing. I had never heard of Process Theology before !:)

Margie's Musings said... makes sense to me in a way traditional systems do not.