I’ve been intrigued to see Process Theology popping up in the (to varying degrees) evangelical blogs lately. I was excited to see it getting some greater attention from evangelicals, but also really confused and surprised by it.
Undoubtedly, the appeal to Process Theology from disenfranchised evangelicals has much to do with theodicy and God’s intervention–or lack thereof–in a world full of suffering and injustice. This is certainly a problem with classical theism, and evangelicalism generally does not deal well with suffering, injustice and crisis theologically. Douglas John Hall’s critique of the “official optimism” of North American Christianity calls into question the silver-lining theology of God’s glorification in all things, and rightly so. This is especially poignant today given the resurgence of Calvinism that dominates the evangelical world in North America. As the awareness of injustice and oppression awakens many young evangelicals, many millennials are reacting against this brand of Christianity and desperately trying to understand a God who they have been told their whole lives is loving and good.
I’m on my own journey of finding the good God in a world of hate, oppression of humans/earth/earth others, exclusion, inequality and greed. Process Theology absolutely offers an understanding of God and the world that addresses the problems of evil and human responsibility. I embrace the panentheism and interdependence within Process Theology. In it God is intrinsically related to the world and all creation and is deeply affected by our pain and suffering and our sin. I heartily endorse the critique of the monarchical model of God and the hierarchical structures that have emerged as a result. I love the openness of God and God’s lack of coercion towards creation, but creation’s influence upon God (I’m really excited to follow what Tony Jones is up to re: Process Theology and prayer). Whitehead called God the “poet of the world, with tender patience leading it by his vision of truth, beauty and goodness.” This shifts the emphasis from God toward those of us incorporating God’s being into our own. Additionally, I am a big fan of its heavily kenotic Christology. Most of all, though––and I think this is where Process Theology is resonating with evangelicals––is that the God of Process Theology is our “great companion” and the “fellow sufferer who understands.” This is Immanuel, God with us. A theology of the cross is deeply present in Process Theology, and God is not the cause or root of injustice. Process Theology deconstructs an interventionist God.
Evangelicalism is firmly rooted in the reality of an interventionist and personal God, which Process Theology deconstructs, making it incompatible with evangelicalism. Challenging the notion of an interventionist God is by no means entirely problematic, but what does it really mean for God to be personal, and what would it mean if we were to explore an alternative? Is evangelicalism really looking for something more along the lines of Open Theism and a theology of the cross?
I’m by no means an expert in Process Theology, so feel free to correct me if I am making false claims or assumptions about it. Help me understand this stuff better. What are your thoughts on the relationship between Process Theology and evangelicalism? Is there a future here?