Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Most Moved Mover," Pt. I-B (2): Clark Pinnock and Process Theology

In my last post, I focused on Pinnock’s view that God has a conditional essence and nature. I ended the post by saying that Pinnock’s denial of Philo’s definition of the divine essence places him in the camp of Process Theism and Process Theology.

Read these words from Process Theologians John Cobb, Jr. and David Ray Griffin:

“Process theism is sometimes called ‘dipolar theism,’ in contrast to traditional theism with its doctrine of divine simplicity. For Charles Hartshorne, the two ‘poles’ or aspects of God are the abstract essence of God, on the one hand, and God’s concrete actuality on the other. The abstract essence is eternal, absolute, independent, unchangeable. It includes those abstract attributes of deity which characterize the divine existence at every moment. For example, TO SAY THAT GOD IS OMNISCIENT MEANS THAT IN EVERY MOMENT OF THE DIVINE LIFE GOD KNOWS EVERYTHING WHICH IS KNOWABLE AT THAT TIME. The concrete actuality is temporal, relative, dependent, and constantly changing. IN EACH MOMENT OF GOD’S LIFE THERE ARE NEW, UNFORESEEN HAPPENINGS IN THE WORLD WHICH ONLY THEN HAVE BECOME KNOWABLE. Hence, God’s concrete knowledge is dependent upon the decisions made by the worldly actualities” (John B. Cobb, Jr., David Ray Griffin, “Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition.” Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976, page 47).

God is “dipolar” in that there are two “components” to God: there is a component that is “unchangeable,” but this is met with a part that “is temporal, relative, dependent, and constantly changing.” Take the example of God’s knowledge: God knows “everything which is knowable at that time.” What does this mean exactly? Doesn’t God know everything that will ever occur at ANY time? Not with process theology. In its system, God only knows what is necessary at that moment. In this sense, God’s knowledge is “unchangeable.” However, because of “new, unforeseen happenings” that occur “in each moment of God’s life,” God gains knowledge from moment #1 to moment #2. God’s knowledge is unchanging in moment #1; between moments 1 and 2, God’s knowledge changes; once moment 2 is reached, God’s knowledge becomes “unchanging” once more.

Jay Wesley Richards sums up the “dipolar theism” of process theology nicely:

“So for Hartshorne there are two divine aspects or poles, which is why his doctrine of God is often called dipolar, in contrast to classical theism, which is monopolar. With this distinction, Hartshorne can attribute to God categorical contraries (not contradictories), while arguing that classical theism erred in attributing to God only one side of such contraries. So, for example, God as absolute, independent, externally related, atemporal, potential, necessary, infinite, simple and generic refers to God in his primordial nature. But this is only God in the abstract. In God’s consequent nature, HE IS RELATIVE (has relations), EXPERIENCING, AFFECTED, BECOMING, TEMPORAL, ACTUAL, CONTINGENT, FINITE, COMPLEX, AND INDIVIDUAL...since God is the total reality of both natures, God as a concrete actuality is always contingent because A CONJUNCTION OF A NECESSARY AND A CONTINGENT PROPOSITION IS ALWAYS CONTINGENT” (Jay Wesley Richards, “The Untamed God: A Philosophical Exploration of Divine Perfection, Simplicity and Immutability.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003, page 167).

While there is a nature of God that is unchanging, there is a nature that is “becoming, temporal, finite”---and this second nature (or aspect) shows that there is change in the very nature of God. As Clark Pinnock wrote in his book, “God’s essence cannot be involved in real relationships with a changing world, LEST IT CHANGE TOO” (“Most Moved Mover,” page 6).

As a last statement regarding process theology and Pinnock’s view in this post, let me state that the view Pinnock advocates (as well as Process Theology states) shows a close connection in thought between the views of process theology and open theism. Jay Wesley Richards writes:

“Hartshorne, by contrast, develops an intriguing ‘dipolar theism,’ which perhaps has not received the attention it deserves from either mainstream theologians or Christian philosophers. The recent movement within evangelical Christian circles called OPEN THEISM HAS SIGNIFICANT AFFINITIES WITH HARTSHORNE” (Richards, “The Untamed God,” page 20).

Yet and still, Clark Pinnock attempts to distance himself from Process Theology in his book:

“IN CONTRAST TO PROCESS THEOLOGY, God creates unnecessarily out of his love and out of his desire to share life with creatures. God does not need a world in order to love, because his very nature is social and relational” (“Most Moved Mover,” page 29).

Here, Pinnock states that God “unnecessarily” creates the world out of nothing; but, if God is “becoming,” and his very essence is (as process theology states it) “finite” and “changing,” then God creating the world was “a step up” for God because God “becomes more of a God” when He creates the world, then when He didn’t. Why? because God, by “becoming,” is “adding” something to Himself that didn’t exist before. Creating the world “added” something to God that being God prior to creation didn’t have. So how can Pinnock argue that God didn’t need to create, but then argue process theology and change in the essence of God?

It seems that Pinnock and open theists desire to distance themselves from process theologians. I understand the desire to wanna distance oneself from views that one assumes are theologically troubling. Here at the Center for Theological Studies, I constantly try to show that Classical Arminians are not Open Theist. However, I don’t see how Pinnock’s view of God’s changing essence is any different than process theology. Process theology argues change, even in God; and it also argues for theistic evolution as well. Evolution by basic definition is “change”; and when one affirms that everything “evolves” to what it is, how can the Creator God remain left out? Consistency in such a system requires that God “evolve” as well. I desire that Open Theists show me why and how, fundamentally, they are different from Process Theologians. If they expect to contend theologically, this is the homework that they cannot run away from.

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