Tag Archives: John B Cobb

Notes from WTS 2010: Part Two

An Open Conversation with John B Cobb Jr. Posted with permission by Dr. Cobb.

A special thanks to Thomas Jay Oord for inviting me to ask a question and putting this discussion together.

Q: What do you think of Natural law? How do you conceive it? (in an Ethical context).

A: Not made se of natural law.  Quite possible. The word law, not happy use it.  Against absolutizing any human formulation. Can’t get past limits of human knowledge.

Q: Have political views/experiences changed your theology?

A:  Can’t give an exact answer.  Parents missionaries in Japan.  Attitudes about race changed.  Very conscious of race.  Well aware of social issues (general liberal political background).  Wanted originally to be a government agent in an international capacity.  Does not know how it shaped his theology.

Q: Follow up; What lead you to your embrace of process theology?

A: Growing up Wesleyan.  Learning the primacy of love over power.  Accidental.  Army experience was first experience with intellectuals.  In the process of studying Japanese, mostly New Yorkers, hurried to study Japanese to go another route than just the “bang bang” group.  Mostly Catholic and Jewish.  Went to Chicago to test his faith against what he called the modern world.  Hartsock helped Cobb, had reasons to go beyond modern questions about God.

Q: How do you think of eschatology?

A: Diverse Meanings and different patterns.  No guarantee that our decline will be reversed.  Cannot make use of apocalypse; a prophetic eschatology.

Q: How do you understand God initiating creation? Out of nothing?

A: Ex Nihilo and Power go hand in hand.  God does not unilaterally determine things.  Redefining nothing; not biblical.  Understandable, but stick with the biblical understanding.  God is always calling creatures to do what is best for them (Love). Daniel Day Williams! Wesleyan features of Whitehead.

Q: Doctrine of the trinity. Relativize it?  Does the Trinity help us?

A: Process theology emphasizes relations.

Q: What are the different ways process folks talk about Trinity?

A: The trinity should not be a litmus test.  Can be destructive to good theology.  Does not want to pass the litmus.  Threeness is the worship of mathematics.

(Scientists are badly socialized into materialism, etc.)

Neo-Darwinism has done great damage. Value of mechanic model falls short.

Q: What is your view of telos?

A: Biologists who do not believe in a telos are just disinterested in telos.  We behave purposefully.

MY Question: 2 parts— In patristic theology, God is transcendent and unknown in the work of persons such as Clement of Alexandria; what is your process view of transcendence? What is the good, common good, good action in process theology?

His Answer: I transcend him, he transcends me, in a finite sense even though we both participate mutually in the lives of each other.  The good: loving God in the neighbor, not a radical separation.   Both human and non-human.