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Process theism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K072-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 21, 2024, from

Article Summary

Process theism is a twentieth-century school of theological thought that offers a nonclassical understanding of the relationship between God and the world. Classical Christian theists maintain that God created the world out of nothing and that God not only can, but does, unilaterally intervene in earthly affairs. Process theists, in contrast, maintain that God and the basic material out of which the rest of reality is composed are coeternal. Moreover, process theists believe that all actual entities always possess some degree of self-determination. God, it is held, does present to every actual entity at every moment the best available course of action. And each entity does feel some compulsion to act in accordance with this divine lure. But process theists deny that God possesses the capacity to control unilaterally the activity of any entity. Thus, what occurs in relation to every aspect of reality involving a multiplicity of entities – for example, what happens in relation to every earthly state of affairs – is always a cooperative effort.

This understanding of the God–world relationship has significant theological implications. For instance, while classical Christians must attempt to explain why God does not unilaterally intervene more frequently to prevent horrific evils, process theists face no such challenge since the God of process thought cannot unilaterally control any earthly state of affairs. On the other hand, while most classical Christians maintain that God at times unilaterally intervenes in our world primarily because divine assistance has been requested, process theists naturally deny that God can be petitioned efficaciously in this sense since they believe that God is already influencing all aspects of reality to the greatest possible extent. Moreover, while most Christian theists believe that God will at some point in time unilaterally bring our current form of existence to an end, process theists maintain that the same co-creative process now in place will continue indefinitely.

Not everyone finds the process characterization of the God–world relationship convincing or appealing. But few deny that process theism has become a significant force in modern American theology.

Citing this article:
Basinger, David. Process theism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K072-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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