Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

My preferred flavor of God

with 3 comments

A commenter to this post asked whether I believed in God and what my religious orientation was. I do not believe in a God that follows the NFL and steps in to fix the outcome of the Super Bowl (though more than 1 in 4 do).

The flavor of God that I find most appealing (YMMV) is the God as described by process theology, and the best book to start with is Charles Hartshorne’s Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes (and you can read the preface and the introduction to the first chapter in this post). This God is described (in the negative, as it were) in Process Theology: an introductory exposition, by John B. Cobb, Jr., and David Ray Griffin, as follows:

The God of process theology is not the following:

1. God as Cosmic Moralist. At its worst this notion takes the form of the image of God as divine lawgiver and judge, who has proclaimed an arbitrary set of moral rules, who keeps records of offenses, and who will punish offenders. In its more enlightened versions, the suggestion is retained that God’s most fundamental concern is the development of moral attitudes. This makes primary for God what is secondary for humane people, and limits the scope of intrinsic importance to human beings as the only beings capable of moral attitudes. Process theology denies the existence of this God.

2. God as the Unchanging and Passionless Absolute. This concept derives from the Greeks, who maintained that “perfection” entailed complete “immutability,” or lack of change. The notion of “impassibility” stressed that deity must be completely unaffected by any other reality and must lack all passion or emotional response. The notion that deity is the “Absolute” has meant that God is not really related to the world. The world is really related to God, in that the relation to God is constitutive of the world—an adequate description of the world requires reference to its dependence on God—but even the fact that there is a world is not constitutive of the reality of God. God is wholly independent of the world: the God-world relation is purely external to God. These three terms—unchangeable, passionless, and absolute—finally say the same thing: that the world contributes nothing to God and that God’s influence upon the world is in no way conditioned by divine responsiveness to unforeseen, self-determining activities of us worldly beings. Process theology denies the existence of this God.

3. God as Controlling Power. This nothing suggests that God determines every detail of the world. When a loved one dies prematurely, the question “Why?” is often asked instinctively, meaning “Why did God choose to take this life at this time?” Also, when humanly destructive natural events such as hurricanes occur, legal jargon speaks of “acts of God.” On the positive side, a woman may thank God for the rescue of her husband from a collapsed coal mine, while the husbands of a dozen other women are lost. But what kind of a God would this be who spares one while allowing the others to perish? Process theology denies the existence of this God.

4. God as Sanctioner of the Status Quo. This connotation characterizes a strong tendency in all religions. It is supported by the three previous notions. The notion of God as Cosmic Moralist has suggested that God is primarily interested in order. The notion of God as Unchangeable Absolute has suggested God’s establishment of an unchangeable order for the world. And the notion of God as Controlling Power has suggested that the present order exists because God wills its existence. In that case, to be obedient to God is to preserve the status quo. Process theology denies the existence of this God.

5. God as Male. The liberation movement among women has made us painfully aware how deeply our images of deity have been sexually one-sided. Not only have we regarded all three “persons” of the Trinity as male, but the tradition has reinforced these images with theological doctrines such as those noted above. God is totally active, controlling, and independent, and wholly lacking in receptiveness and responsiveness. Indeed, God seems to be the archetype of the dominant, inflexible, unemotional, completely independent (read “strong”) male. Process theology denies the existence of this God.

Written by Leisureguy

4 February 2007 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Religion

3 Responses

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  1. I hadn’t heard of these books, so thanks. The big theology on God, is, of course, that God is unknowable. Everything else then is just analogy. It seem to me that every advance of civilisation will bring its own analogies. And the process analogy is okay – it helps us take our thinking of the unknowable along, and gives us that sense that we don’t need to get a firm handle on God or its outcome.



    5 September 2007 at 6:16 pm

  2. For all that God is unknowable, a great many worshippers, especially clergy, seem to know exactly what God wants and what God likes and dislikes. 🙂



    5 September 2007 at 6:20 pm

  3. The more informed view is inbetween “god is unknowable” and “clergy knowing exactly….” Saying god is unknowable makes all religious and spiritual discourse and everyday religious experience either meaningless or delusion. Saying we know exactly what god wants/is is also delusion. We know what we know about God given our experience in the world, and that’s all. A cat doesn’t understand the internet, but it does sit there and watch you, and can pick up a lot about what you’re doing and how you do it. The cat can get its needs met by knowing how to interact with you when you’re on the computer, and it doesn’t understand a damn thing about http or packets or email, but it doesn’t have to. We can’t comprehend God qua God, but we only experience part of God, and even that small part nearly boggles our mind.

    Aloha, Aliman


    Aliman Sears

    17 August 2008 at 10:09 pm

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