The Process View1
Process theology began with the works of Alfred North Whitehead in the early part of the twentieth century. His philosophical inquiries dealt with the issue of metaphysics, which formed the foundation of his philosophical system. Whitehead set down the basic premises of the process view, which have been developed by later process theologians. The conception of God in this view comes as a result of the way the metaphysics of the process system is depicted.
The basic foundation of process thought is that, "Reality is made up of building blocks of ‘actual entities’ or ‘actual occasions,’ and is thus characterized by becoming, change, and event."2 The actual occasion goes through two stages, that of choice and then of influence. The first stage is that of choice, during which all the various options are presented to the actual occasion. The actual occasion decides by looking at all of the possible options what path it will take. Once the choice is made the actual occasion moves into the stage of influence. In this stage the actual occasion becomes part of the past, which influences the options that other actual occasions will have to choose from.
According to the process theologian Majorie Suchocki, God comes into the process theology picture as having a nature divided into two parts, primordial and consequent. The primordial nature of God is the creation of an aim (called the initial aim by process theology) out of all of the possibilities. The consequent nature is the effect that all of the actual occasions have on God. The initial aim of God participates in the stage of influence, where the aim is an option for the actual occasion to choose to follow. This element of choice is essential in understanding the way the God of process theology works.
In process theology God is a persuasive influence on the world, rather than a figure that dictates the course of events in the world. As the author Alister E. McGrath states, "...process theology argues that the individual components of the world are likewise free to ignore divine attempts to influence or persuade them."3 The influence is placed more upon the actual occasion’s ability to choose and be an influence on other actual occasions. God uses a sort of "divine lure" in order to draw the actual occasion toward making a decision that God has decided will be the best of all possibilities.4 However, the final decision is up to the actual occasion, and this factor eliminates God’s ability to control the path of history and the future.
1 This analysis of Process Theology focuses is influenced by the following sources: 1. Suchocki, Marjorie Hewitt, God Christ Church, A Practical Guide to Process Theology (New York: The Crossroads Publishing Company, 1999). 2. McGrath, Alister E., Christian Theology, An Introduction (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers