A Post for Tripp Fuller

A Post for Tripp Fuller May 19, 2012

“In a modern theology of nature, it is neither wise nor appropriate to reduce the fact of the divine creation to the process of God’s separating activity; for to do so calls in question the theological character of ‘theology of nature’ itself. But if we call in question the ‘theology’ in the theology of nature, the natural character of nature is threatened too. A danger of this kind is inherent in the prcess thinking of A.N. Whitehead, and in the process theology which was built upon his ideas. If the idea of creatio ex nihilo is excluded, or reduced to the formation of a net-yet-actualized primordial matter ‘no-thing,’ then the world process must be just as eternal and without any beginning like God himself. But if it is eternal and without any beginning like God himself, the process must itself be one of God’s natures. And in this case we have to talk about ‘the divinization of the world.’ God and nature are fused into a unified world process, so that the theology of nature becomes a divinization of nature: God is turned into the comprehensive ordering factor in the flux of happening.

-Jürgen Moltmann
God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God, p. 78

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  • Huh.


    • Tim

      Ontology is in dialectical tension with epistemology. Does that clear things up 😉

  • Evelyn

    So, we can’t discuss a “theology of nature” without a “theology of nature” actually existing. A “theology of nature” = a “divinization of nature” …

    Ok, If you want to divinize nature and pontificate about the possible ramifications, go ahead. Just don’t expect me to buy into your delusions while I’d rather be twiddling my thumbs.

  • Austin

    Well, as much as I really love Moltmann, he gets process theology wrong on this one – as process theologians have noted multiple times (see Catherine Keller’s “Face of the Deep” for a critique of this particular quote from Moltmann and the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo). This passage in GC implies that process theologians make God into an impersonal force in the creative process, which they most certainly do not. A close reading of the major literature in process philosophy would make this clear. And the idea that God and world are actually ‘fused’ (i.e., collapsed into one another) in a kind of pseudo-pantheism is simply another caricature of process theism. It just does not follow if one actually understands process philosophy. Divine action in process thought can be understood in terms of God’s self-investment in creation through the divine lure – something Moltmann affirms in a nearly identical fashion in “The Spirit of Life” when he describes the Spirit as the “source of energy”, “principle of evolution”, and source of novelty (and notice that, just as for process theists, this understanding of divine action does not entail reducing the Spirit to an impersonal force for Moltmann either). Furthermore, Moltmann’s view of the process doctrine of creation is complicated by the fact that process theists argue that, in theory, God could have decided not to create the world, leaving it in a state of primordial chaos. Over and over again, process theology makes clear distinctions between God and the world that Moltmann tends to wash over because of his attachment to creatio ex nihilo. The real reason he needs this doctrine? Because he needs to guarantee an absolute foundation for an eschatological conclusion to salvation history. Have read most of Moltmann’s major works, along with much of Whitehead and Cobb, the major distinction between them comes down to eschatology.

    If you’re interested in the discussion between Moltmann and process theology, I wrote my thesis on the topic and turned it into a book here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/austin-roberts/perichoresis-and-process:-the-eco-theologies-of-j%C3%BCrgen-moltmann-and-john-cobb/paperback/product-18951771.html

    • Thanks, Austin. As you know, Moltmann continues in this section with a lengthy quote from Cobb. It is possible that he misreads Cobb.

      And I agree that Moltmann’s near-obsession with eschatology sometimes blinds him to other possibilities.

      But I share Moltmann’s critique. Processians always argue that God is other than creation. But if that’s the case, then how come when the rest of us read their work, we don’t see it?

      • Austin

        It’s an important question that honestly frustrates those of us in the process camp as well, because most of us strongly reject pantheism as well as a full-fledged religious naturalism with an impersonal deity (as in Gordon Kaufman’s work). Very often, I think the very notion of a changing God who knows the future as possibility rather than actuality scares folks off from taking the whole system seriously. But even here, nobody in process says everything about God changes – just one pole of God in continuous response to the world. The other pole of God is eternal and the source of infinite possibilities for the world’s becoming. God is the only being (the ‘Supremely Related One’, to use Marjorie Suchocki’s phrase) who does not perish into the past, who everlastingly becomes in relation to a world, and the most powerful agent in creation (when power is understood relationally). As Catherine Keller has noted, those critics of process who get nervous about its radically relational view of God ought to recognize that, if anything, such a radically relational view actually only heightens the distinction between God and the world.

      • Good point Austin. Then there is of course the problem of critics who don’t actually read Whitehead (or Process Theologians). When you read Process and Reality there is not a consequent nature of God until the last part of the book! The Primordial nature of God (the transcendent pole) occupies the first 4/5 of the book.

  • So to go with the comment thread, I do think there is a legitimate connection/progression from creation (however conceived) to eschatology.

    Do you, Tony, or Austin or anyone else think that Process has it wrong in saying (as I minimally understand it) that there is no assured future… that neither God nor any of us can say what an “ultimate” Kingdom (or realm) of God will look like? Also, that, as I tend to think, it will never reach a “final state,” but rather STAY in process?

  • Colleen

    Lol, Steve. I so hear you. But, I think that is why I really like this blog…people in the comments say more than just, “You are such a Moran” and “You suck get a brain”..etc etc etc…. I’ve relocated from the CNN and Fox news boards:)

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