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Why a Process View of God and Reality is Crucial

January 17, 2015

If you are thinking, “What is a process view…?” you are far from alone.  “Process” as a systematic viewpoint (paradigm) for understanding things has been around for nearly a century, refined along the way.  Yet it is still not widespread… a shame!

Maybe you have some exposure to Process theology (or philosophy) but it has failed to appeal, or seems confusing… perhaps unimportant.  I won’t explain it much here but rather point out some of what Process can do practically for you and for everyone’s benefit – why it is important.

First, a few key things about the Process viewpoint must be stated so this article makes sense.  In it, God is seen in both personal and force-like ways.  (In Process, a lot is more “both-and” or “sort of” than “either-or”.) God contains all of reality but is not contained by it…. Thus, “panentheism” rather than either traditional theism or pantheism (God=everything).  God is creator but not, in the typical sense, controller of the universe.  God uses only persuasive power, never coercive power.  (We truly do have “agency”, or some level of free will.)  God has not created any form of eternal punishment – as it cannot be persuasive, only coercive and vindictive.

You may note I’ve used opposites or “this, not that” binary statements here….  Such is the nature of much of our thinking and language, necessarily.  But Process tries also, when possible, to move us beyond the dichotomies or toward holding needed dichotomies in balanced tension with other ones.  (Making God, for example, seemingly both “personal” and “impersonal” at the same time, or alternatingly, in human perspective.)

Here, we’ve encountered part of the Process difficulty: some of us are more prone than others to wanting or needing simple black-white categories.  It’s partly a matter of education level and “brain power” but not entirely.  It’s partly mental style, which is not entirely our choice.  And my contention here is that we can and should come to understand and stretch our own mental style and ability to make sense of things, whatever it currently is.  The very future of humanity may depend on it.

My suggested benefits of learning about and becoming more Process-oriented aren’t as immediate as “study it and within days you will begin making more money” or “having more success in relationships” or “you’ll find deep peace”.  But they include gradually coming to greater peace internally and with others… which can be extended, eventually, to greater international peace, one area of gigantic potential in a (P)process orientation.

One place where peace-making results from Process is the broad field of science.  Particularly, science and religion… where the two seemingly are often in conflict.  Even more specifically, creation and evolution can more easily, effectively be reconciled and worked with cooperatively through Process than any system of which I’m aware.  Far too often currently scientists and “religionists” are at war.  Or scientists who are also religious don’t actively integrate the two, leaving them in largely distinct realms, and unnecessary fights are seldom resolved.  Those scientists best positioned to balance things and mediate between often-anti-science creationists and often-anti-religious scientists of evolution are far too quiet.  They are quiet because they are uncomfortably split between the two dominant paradigms in which they live and work: supernaturalism and naturalism.

To Process thinkers, both these organizing systems are too simplistic or “reductionist”.  Thus they create serious problems.  Too loyal a following of them by most of society unnecessarily distorts reality.  It sets up the counter-productive debates that are often distractions.  It promotes internal personal conflicts, often severe ones.

I could go beyond this science-religion example to issues that create personal anxiety and expand outwardly to critical ecological and political issues.  But my aim is to keep this particular article brief and thought-provoking so that its complexity will not, itself, discourage people from starting to at least rethink the usefulness of religion’s traditional supernatural view of God and Scripture (particularly within the monotheistic religions).  Similarly, to reexamine the usefulness of holding to pure naturalism which doesn’t allow for the existence of any kind of God and fails to account for or validate a wide range of common experiences.  (These are often suppressed in conversation and research because of culture’s naturalism bias).

If both supernaturalism and naturalism are unsatisfactory what else is there? To me and thousands of others, the most viable, helpful alternative is a view that approaches reality as an ever-flowing process, thus “Process” thought. 

While I’ll not here take time to get intensely practical with further specifics, I’m hoping you’ll be watching (e.g., by “following” this blog) for future posts on this general theme.  Meanwhile at least go to the Process entry on Wikipedia, here.  It has a very readable and helpful summary and list of many great resources.  I also have a number of Process-related posts here, often listed under that category.

Please share your thoughts!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe Cobb permalink
    January 24, 2015 1:42 pm

    Let’s keep it simple. How can naturalists explain existence in the natural world without a creator???

    • January 26, 2015 3:04 pm

      Good to see you here, Joe! I agree. I don’t think it can be done… one of the reasons the number of declared atheists is perpetually well under 10%. However, because so many are so confused by the assumptions of a controlling/punishing kind of creator, there are a great many “practical” atheists – people with no useful belief in God because “he” is so removed or likely to “zap” you, etc.

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