The second reason for my move towards process theology has to do with my undergraduate work in HSU's religious studies program. This work raised two big questions that only process theology offers a satisfying answer to, for my money: the questions of religious pluralism and theodicy. Process theology affirms a cautious kind of religious pluralism without reducing religions to a common essence (thereby respecting their uniqueness). I have tried for a long time, but it is not possible for me to continue to affirm the complete ultimacy of Christianity in a religiously pluralistic world. Part of this conviction is due to the recognition of the history of Christianity and the field of biblical studies (which makes certain views of the bible impossible, in my view), but also the intimate exposure to other religious traditions. The 'special pleading' (as Cobb calls it) we Christians sometimes engage in to justify certain absolute theological claims (especially in Barthian theology) is very difficult for many persons, myself included, to accept. Even so, process theologians like Cobb maintain a Christocentric theology that I value greatly. As for theodicy, process denies that omnipotence is either a biblical or philosophically coherent view of God. God is very powerful, indeed, but God's power is persuasive rather than coercive. As such, God is unable to always prevent evil. This view avoids the extremes of both deism and Calvinism, but also the incoherent view that God ties 'his' hands behind his back sometimes to allow us freedom...but sometimes intervenes as well to override freedom. As Suchocki said in class on this latter view, "Nonsense!" There is nothing loving about that view of God, no matter what the payoffs in other areas of theology.
The third reason for my move towards process theology is my exposure to the science/religion debate. Few systems are able to make as much sense of modern science and physics as the metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead. There is radical compatibility between every aspect of process theology and modern science. This is a beautiful thing, and so essential for the 21st century. We should not have to relativize modern science in order to be Christians (though we might have to question it's reductionistic assumptions on occasion, as Cobb argues!). Furthermore, process theology encourages a view of the natural world as organism rather than mechanism - this is a paradigm shift that is so necessary today as we sit on the edge of ecological collapse due to bad, dualistic, anthropocentric metaphysics.
|Thomas Jay Oord|
I could go on and on, but I won't. Process theology is a beautiful, sometimes complex, and always powerful way to think about the Christian faith. Yes, it is certainly a form of progressive Christianity. But that's just where I find myself these days, I suppose.
Here's my process theology reading list so far (leaving out a few that are only loosely related):
Christ in a Pluralistic Age by John Cobb
Introduction to Process Theology by John Cobb and David Ray Griffin
A Christian Natural Theology by John Cobb
The Process Perspective by John Cobb
The Fall to Violence by Marjorie Suchocki
God-Christ-Church by Marjorie Suchocki
Intro to Process Theology by Robert Mesle
On the Mystery by Catherine Keller
Christianity and Process Thought by Joseph Bracken
Adventures in the Spirit by Philip Clayton
Making Sense of Evolution by John Haught
The Nature of Love by Thomas Jay Oord