Process Theology or Process Yoga?  Part 3a of 3

Process Theology or Process Yoga? Part 3a of 3

by Darren Iammarino

Point 3: (Too Christian) There is no good reason why Process thought ought to be so tightly linked to Christianity. In fact, all this has achieved is confusion and a dilution of the greatness of the Christian tradition and the Process tradition. If you keep Process under the banner of Christianity as some form of “progressive” Christianity, then outsiders will think that it is merely an extreme or fringe version of a message they are already all too familiar with and probably not too fond of! On the Christian side of things, by accepting Process thought, you are stretching and convoluting the meaning of Christianity in any of its more orthodox incarnations. I feel like Open Theism is as far afield as you can go and still be genuinely rooted in Christianity…when you cross the line into Process thought you are in a new world.

How can one really justify Process Theology, which denies miraculous or supernatural interventions, espouses a less than fully omnipotent and less than fully omniscient deity, with the millennia of tradition within Classical Theism that holds these three tenants as foundational? Yes, I am aware that the key point may be that God is love and process thought advocates for a more genuine understanding of a loving relationship between God and the world, but is that enough to keep the two tied so closely together? Applying a Process hermeneutic to the Bible may be an interesting challenge and spiritually rewarding for some, but let’s be honest; it probably does more harm than good.

A Process Christology will pull you so far off course from being situated in the hearts and minds of the 1st century Mediterranean worldview. Even if Jesus was perfectly in tune with God’s initial aims and thus, the ideal case of being human, he was speaking and acting out God’s will for the people at that time, in that place…but things are always in process, and God is always operative in all things! Maybe aspects of the message are no longer relevant, just as Jesus pointed out via his actions, if not always his words, regarding the older Mosaic Law.

The truth of the matter is that many of the people that were first drawn to Process thought decades ago were enculturated via a Christian paradigm and so it was natural for them to find ways to weave the two together…even Whitehead is entrenched in this cultural milieu. However, the central claims made in Process and Reality, Adventures of Ideas, and Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method etc. are not well suited as Christian orthodoxy; they are clearly heterodox beliefs. This is not necessarily a problem, it just means that Process thought can and should be its own thing! I would like to think that the most relevant issue is not a low Christology of Jesus, which paints him as perfectly embodying the aim of God; the question is, if that was true, how can I be like that and can current orthodoxy fully bring me to that state? That is up to all of you to decide, but it has bearing on our next and final point.

For more ideas on how to put Process ideas into action check out Darren’s book Religion and Reality available via the following link:

If you are interested in audio albums on religious studies, philosophy or history, which feature Dr. Iammarino you may want to checkout the following albums:

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  1. Jay McDaniel

    Process Theology is now a multi-religious way of living, in which different thinkers tweak aspects of process theology into terms that resonate with, and are enriched by, the wisdom of their own traditions. One of the leading process theologians of our time, for example, is Rabbi Bradley Artson, author of God of Becoming and Relationship. In past decades more than a few Buddhist thinkers have adopted aspects of Whitehead’s thought, from both Pure Land and Ch’an (Zen) Traditions. Jeffery Long is an excellent process theologian in the Hindu tradition: Brianne Donaldson has written beautifully on process and Jainism: Zhihe Wang and Meijun Fan have developed many resonances between process theology (broadly understood) and Chinese ways of thinking; Zhihe Wang has also written a book on it. You are certainly right, Darren, that process theology is not exclusively Christian.

    However, I think you are not right in saying that Christian process theologians are far afield from Christianity (biblical or traditional). Thomas Oord, among others, has developed a form of theology that is deeply Christian and process in spirit, using the phrase “open and relational” to describe his perspective. Joseph Bracken has developed Catholic forms of process theology. John Cobb has written much on miracles; see two of his reflections on this page: Still more deeply, he has developed what many find a deeply plausible process Christology (in Christ in a Pluralistic Age) which, by the way, does not lean on the idea that what distinguishes Jesus from others is the consistency of his openness to initial aims. Cobb makes a much stronger case, relying and building upon the tradition of Logos christologies. The Episcopal priest, Teri Daily, writes convincingly of ways in which process theology deepens a generous orthodoxy: Bruce Epperly has used process theology for many years to develop a biblical hermeneutic that is widely used, among other places, in pulpits. And I myself have argued that process and open theism can and should be combined:

    Where I think your own thought may help lies in appreciating the multiple spiritual orientations available through process theology and philosophy, as inspired (among other places) by the idea of multiple ultimate realities. However, it is also important to recognize that not all religious traditions are focused on ultimate realities. Think of Confucianism with its emphasis on finding the sacred in social relationships; think of Zen with its emphasis on enlightenment in the single moment of concrete experience, rightly understood. In point of fact, the more you understand “religion” the more you realize that, in one context or another, it builds upon a multitude of experiences, only some of which are theistic. Consider the eighteen forms of spirituality available in process thinking:

    Bottom line? Yes, let process theology be liberated from the idea that it is exclusively Christian. Yes,, let process Christian theology be recognized as fully Christian in its way. Yes, recognize a multiplicity of ultimates. Yes, recognize as well that religions are not always focused on ultimates. And, yes, let’s keep thinking about the future of process theology, by whatever rubric. I’m with you…it is possible and perhaps necessary that it be rebranded so that it is seen as a trans-religious way of thinking and living in the world that is available for many different forms of interpretation and incarnation, all in service (so we hope) toward the development of a just and livable planet.

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