It is my understanding that the purpose of the conference and book is to engage in a dialogue between evangelical-leaning Open Theists and more “mainline” process theists. I found Michael Lodahl’s “The (Brief) Openness Debate in Islamic Theology” to be quite informative and interesting. Each of the articles in the first section of the book seemed to be written by those in favor of Process theology generally. Process thinkers see themselves as challenging the way that Christians have traditionally viewed God’s activity in the world, and in particular, God’s power/sovereignty. From my perspective, it seems that much of the constructive theology I have read seems to lean process theology as the solution to “genuine” evil in the world. In order to adhere to process theology, one must submit to its definition of evil, notions of “natural” and “genuine” evil as well as agree with a definition of divine love that excludes justice. This is why process theology does not have an eschatology, judgment, or a soteriology in the traditional orthodox Christian sense. The driving force behind process and open theologies is theodicy, the question of why God does not/chooses not/cannot PREVENT suffering. The blind spot behind persons who take up this approach can be that there is a particular class bias, that persons who really have not lived a life of suffering imposed on them speculating on the question of why. Rather than give an analysis of human agency and subjectivity, process thinkers in particular, choose rather to take away God’s agency, limiting God’s freedom, while at the same time avoiding conversations about God’s power, human power relations, divine justice, and justice between humanity. This is because God’s justice is separated from God’s love, simply put. As a postcolonial thinker, perhaps the most unhelpful part of process theology is process ethics. Besides the fact that there is not a work on process ethics, the moral implications behind the idea that humanity’s unrestricted freedom without any word of judgment (limitations) on their agency is obviously that the status quo gets a pass. Injustice happens because, well, God really can’t do anything about it. So, much like Calvinism, evil is God’s direct will by default. Is it possible that process ethics, which leads to relativism, goes literally no where (no end, no telos, no determined goal) because process theology begins without a reflection on Old Testament texts outside the book of Genesis. God’s giving of the law, the logos in Clement of Alexandria’s theology, on Mount Sinai, both presupposes human libertarian free will as well as a burden of responsibility. God is free to hold human beings responsible because God has revealed what is right and wrong according to the divine perspective. Human beings do not know what evil is apart from a personal gracious God communicating with them. Yes, open and process theologians are correct to a limited extent, God is “essentially” relational. However, relationships imply both a chosen form of agency , duties, and promises. God is just not Creator, as I read time and again in articles and books on process theology; God is a promise-making Creator ala Jurgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope.
I may seem harsh towards process theism, but open theism is not without its problems. From my perspective, Openness thinkers lack a consistent hermeneutic in regards to interpreting Scripture. Besides the claim that they take “anthropomorphic texts so-called” more seriously than classical theists, there seemed to be a presupposition that their interpretation of a passage was correct without any justification (Valla! Abracadabra!); I found this problem especially in regards to Greg Boyd’s “Evolution as Cosmic Warfare.” It’s hard for me to understand Boyd’s pacifism and reconcile it with his warfare view of the creation narrative. If war is at the beginning, war must be the nature of things. There must be some understanding of an ontology of peace that was at the beginning of creation before this divine struggle happens. Thus, we find a second blind spot in Open Theism. There is a lack of engagement with philosophy (going back to the problem of the lack of a hermeneutic) outside of the natural science.
I would extend this review longer and have a conversation about the lack of cultural plurality endemic in this work, but I reserve the right to keep my peace.
Truth and Peace,