Panentheism.  Revisionism.  Anarchocapitalism.


Lake Lure,

South Carolina

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Essays by Me

Essays by Others

The Lure of God: A Biblical Background for Process Theism

Lewis S. Ford



Since the impetus for process theism has primarily come from the philosophies of Whitehead and Hartshorne, it is not surprising that most process theology heretofore has been largely preoccupied with the problems and questions they have left us.  It is time, however, we fleshed out the thinness of these philosophical abstractions with the concreteness of the biblical witness to God’s interaction with Israel and with the church.  For process theism recognizes both the necessary and the contingent aspects of God.  Philosophy properly and adequately analyzes God’s necessary aspects, but cannot tell us what his contingent aspects are, other than the bare assertion that there are such contingent aspects, features of God’s activity which happen to be so but just as well could have been otherwise.  The Bible’s insistence upon historical and geographical particularity (e.g., Abraham, Israel, Zion), often an embarrassment to theological universality, has marked it out as the primary source for man’s witness to the involvement of God in history.  The radical contingency of this involvement, known to us through the Scriptures, thus precisely complements the abstract conceptuality process theism offers, while this conceptuality in turn illumines the way in which we today can appropriate this rich heritage.

If this common history of God and man is truly contingent, then man’s free response is an essential element in the story.  This in turn undercuts the traditional assumption that God controls the future (or at least knows it in detail), and has everything already planned out (chapter 2).  God’s power is persuasive, not controlling.  His is the power of the future operative in the present, providing those possibilities which, if fully actualized in our creaturely response, will bring about the achievement of the good.  This is the power of divine lure, expressed in the vision of the future reigning of God (chapter 3).

This divine persuasion reached a critical point of intensity in the event of Jesus, where through his life, death, and resurrection a new level in the creation of the world was achieved, the transhuman reality of the living body of Christ (chapter 5).  “Christ” for us is not simply identical with the Logos, the second member of the Trinity, which is the totality of the rational features of God available for (partial) actualization in the world.  Christ is that divine Word effectively addressed to the human condition.  Since our existence and condition are radically contingent, so is that divine address, which can only be discovered through revelation (chapter 4).  That contingent divine address may be variously understood, but we have interpreted it in terms of the emergent body of Christ.

In speaking of Jesus’ resurrection in terms of the body of Christ, we mean to steer a middle course between two opposite extremes.  On the one hand, we wish to challenge the implicit individualism inherent in the traditional understanding of the Risen Christ as a separate individual existing apart from his Christian followers, either in some resuscitated form during those forty days Luke speaks of (Acts 1:3) or as assimilated within the Godhead.  On the other hand, we do not wish to be misunderstood as claiming that the Risen Christ is merely the collective spirit of the church, as if it were just the dynamism achieved through the merging of many humans in a common task.  The analogy of a living animal organism might be helpful here.  The collective spirit of the church would be like the common life of the body, which is simply the merging of the vitalities of the individual cells.  It could perhaps be enough to explain the activity of the body, were it only sleeping.  But when it is awake and alert, any animal body is coordinated in its activity by its mind.  To be sure, this mind may not exist apart from its body, but neither can the body fully act as an alert living organism apart from the mind.  The Risen Christ is just such a mind for his body.  And just as the higher forms of mind enjoy consciousness, we should expect that the mind of this transhuman reality enjoys an even more intense form of consciousness of its own, distinct from temporal humans.  It is also distinct from God’s consciousness, for there was a time, namely, at the resurrection, when this consciousness came to be.

Jesus’ death bears ultimate significance for us because of the resurrection.  Without that stamp of divine approval, his death would have been another of the deaths of the martyrs.  But the death of God’s chosen One reveals the depths of anguish and suffering of God at the hands of creaturely evil, for he has pledged to accept the unacceptable, even at such cost.  The cross also marks the defeat of God, momentarily stymied from effecting his purposes, but the resurrection shows that God is able to triumph over such defeat (chapter 6).  This, as we have just seen in the preceding chapter, is our ultimate basis for hope in the future course of the world under God.

The Christian community’s concern for the role of Christ within a strictly monotheistic economy gave rise to the traditional problem of the Trinity.  Since we conceive of the Risen Christ with his body as a level of reality distinct from both God and man, our solution is closer to Paul’s original subordinationism (God-Christ-Spirit) than to the eventual coordinationism (Father-Son-Spirit) adopted at Nicaea.  Yet the doctrine of the Trinity also expresses some speculative insights most congenial to Christian philosophy which process theism can appropriate (chapter 7).  The classical description of the Father begetting the Son before all worlds can also describe the way in which God, in the Whiteheadian conceptuality, creates himself by envisaging all the pure forms as constituting the metaphysical order God and the world exemplify.  Moreover, the Logos (=Son) and the Spirit are closely correlated with the two natures of God whereby he exemplifies that order, the primordial and the consequent natures.

Besides all this, the specific relation between the Father and the Logos is most important in safeguarding two truths, often obscured in theology’s ongoing dialogue with philosophy:

(1) God does not simply transcend all rational structures whatsoever, but stands revealed in the Logos.  This insures that philosophical analysis of the nature of God is both possible and proper.  As we have seen, such knowledge is not sufficient for it cannot speak effectively to our human contingent condition, but this does not mean that in its own sphere it is not necessary and valid.

This stricture is often honored in its breach, as in mysticism, Neoplatonism, the negative theology of the early Greek fathers, or in the contemporary insistence by Tillich that the divine being-itself is beyond all beings.  All such formulations implicitly elevate God the Father (or the underlying divine substance) to a higher ultimacy than the other members of the Trinity, and then treat this element as really God.  If the Trinity is not to be understood tritheistically, the generation of the Logos from the Father is God’s self-expression, whereby God’s nature is articulated in ways at least partially accessible to discursive reason.

(2) On the other hand, God is not subject to some uncreated metaphysical structure.  There is no ultimate pattern of being, independently discover-able by reason, to which he must conform.  Such a thesis was carried to its extreme by Leibniz, who argued that God must choose the best of the compossible worlds.  These compossibilities could be ranked quite independently of God’s choosing, and he had only to call the one ranked best into being.  In contrast, Whitehead asserts that God both “exemplifies and establishes the categoreal conditions.” 1 He is their ultimate source.  They receive their value for his valuing, not vice versa.

This is very much in accord with the ancient Hebrew understanding of God’s name: “I am who I am” (Ex.  3:14).  Thomas Aquinas took this to mean that God is pure being, being-itself, but that interpretation ignores the role of the reiterated first person singular.  This phrase, combining an open-ended imperfect verb (in either the active or causative mood) with a highly indefinite relative pronoun, can be interpreted in a great many different ways.  I regard as basic the proclamation of sovereign freedom: “I will be what I will be,” fashioned analogously to the words: ‘‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Ex.  33:19).

According to this reading it is all too easy to conclude that the original Hebraic understanding claimed God was radically without any nature, radically free to constitute himself anew in any moment.  Such an existentialist interpretation violates our first stricture that God stands revealed in the rational structure of the Logos.  It also ignores the counterbalancing factor present in the ancient Hebraic view, namely, that this sovereign Lord freely enters into covenants with men, with Noah, with Abraham, and with the whole house of Israel assembled at Sinai.  Also, this Lord is faithful to his promises.  In this historical and political context, the promises of God provide that sort of ultimate stability later sought in metaphysics.

In a human life this combination of freedom and faithfulness is praiseworthy for the integrity it achieves.  Human integrity should be judged by two criteria: (1) the steadfastness of character it expresses, and (2) the values chosen as the basis for that integrity, for they must be sufficiently inclusive in order to serve as a satisfactory guide for the resolution of all particular crises.  Such integrity can only be manifested in a temporal series of free decisions because we never confront the totality of those situations comprising our lives all at once.  We choose our values hopefully, tentatively, awaiting future developments to see whether we can afford to reaffirm them.  A complete restructuring of values, such as the “radical conversion” Sartre envisions, is always possible, for we may well discover that the values we have lived by are inadequate as guides for handling present crises.  In that case Sartre’s strictures against inauthenticity are quite pertinent.  It will not do to reaffirm the old values mechanically, despite present need.  We must then have the courage to tear down and reshape our structure of values.  A deeper integrity might thereby arise, since we may find ourselves embodying richer and more inclusive values.  Nevertheless a break has occurred.  The original integrity has been judged and found wanting.  Human integrity cannot thus be an inherent quality, given at the outset, but an achievement only tentatively and gradually achieved.  We can never know how well it is achieved until we can review a man’s total life.

The biblical drama is the biography of God, whereby the integrity of his values are gradually made manifest in the vicissitudes of the concrete situations of Israel, Jesus, and the church.  These values in all of their complex richness cannot be simply given at the outset; they must be temporally emergent as layer upon layer is added to the account of God’s dealings with man.  The concrete character of each situation needs to be explored.

Nevertheless there is a profound difference between divine and human Integrity.  In addition, to confront each situation immediately at hand, and to bring it to a definite conclusion, God has the task of ordering all conceivable possibilities.  This cosmic ordering cannot be simply temporal, for in that case we face two equally unacceptable alternatives: (1) Suppose God changes his ordering from time to time, according to which possibilities are judged to be better or worse.  Then what was better now becomes worse, and vice versa.  Given God’s first ordering, no other ordering can be justified.  Or, given some later ordering, no earlier one can be justified.  With different orderings values would become totally arbitrary, relative not merely to changing circumstance or cultural milieu, or to different individuals, but also to the passing whims of a cosmic ruler.  (2) Suppose, to avoid these evils, we conceive God’s first temporal decision to be perfect and complete.  It could not be tentative and incomplete, for then it would be subject to the uncertainty that it might prove to be inadequate in some later situation.  This would pack all of God’s decision-making back into some first temporal moment, a very problematic notion in itself.  Then all God’s decisions from that moment on would merely be mechanical reaffirmations of that original choice.

What is needed is an openness and tentativeness allowing for the ongoing exercise of divine freedom coupled with an underlying integrity which cannot possibly be threatened by whatever happens.  This we find in Whitehead’s conception of the primordial envisagement of all pure possibilities.  This one, ultimate decision is basically nontemporal, whereby all the possibilities are ordered, and God determines himself to be the sort of God he is.  It is thereby God’s act of self-creation.  Or, to express it in classical terms, it is the way the Father (=the originating power) generates the Son (=the Logos, the order of all possibility) “before all worlds” (=nontemporally).  This basically nontemporal ordering is then temporally emergent in God’s interaction with the world.  It is never fully given in any temporal moment.

Thus while the nature of God is ultimately derived from a divine decision, it is not a merely temporal decision.  This then qualifies the thrust of that declaration, “I will be what I will be.’’ While God may respond differently to differing circumstances, there is an underlying consistency of character and value that is open to philosophical examination.  While process theism welcomes expressions of God’s dynamic activity, I for one am hesitant ever to endorse any change in God’s values not dictated by a change in the objective situation.  Yet God is portrayed as not having determined the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah prior to his consultation with Abraham (Gen.  18:21), and Moses successfully averts God’s original intention to destroy the Israelites, although Israel’s idolatry with the golden calf remains just what it was before Moses’ intercession (Ex.  32:7 -14).2

The biblical writers have not been particularly sensitive to the demand for an underlying consistency of character among the differing portrayals of God.  Various scholars have noticed and emphasized the resulting incompatibilities.  John L.  McKenzie has written:

We simply do not believe in the Great Warrior who exterminated the Canaanites.  Some who shared our faith did.  They also professed belief in Jesus Christ the Son of God who said that he who would save his life must lose it, and who implied that a good way to lose it quickly is to love those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you.  How does one speak of a god who exhibits both these features?  Lam compelled to say simply he does not exist, and that those who professed this monstrous faith worshipped an idol.3

These logical inconsistencies, which so trouble us today because of the implicit way in which we have accepted the perspective of Greek rationality, did not concern the biblical thinkers.  Even after we have been admonished to love our enemies and to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:44, 48), Paul can quote with approval the divine decision: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom. 9:13, quoting from Mal. 1:2-3).  It is a logical contradiction for God to love all men, including his enemies, and yet also hate Esau, but this does not seem to bother Paul at all.  For there is an inconsistency only if we introduce the philosopher’s assumption that God has an unchanging nature, such that the way we now experience divine activity must also characterize God’s activity in the past.  Paul’s understanding of God, however, was primarily historical.  He apprehended God in terms of his present activity, as presently understood, but also accepted without challenge the authoritative witness to divine activity in the past.  In appealing to this rejection of Esau, Paul was not arguing that the chosenness of Jacob must require the rejection of Esau, let alone trying to justify any hatred for the Edomites.  He was simply trying to justify his present understanding of God, involving as it did notions of election and predestination, and for this purpose the authoritative word of the tradition was sufficient.  He does not inquire whether the interpretive patterns employed by the historical witness were the same as his own, or even compatible with them.  This is a modern preoccupation, growing out of our concern with universality.

It may be precisely this lack of concern for temporal consistency which makes it possible for biblical literature to give us such a rich account of the activity of God.  It allows for the accumulation of many different perspectives, each roughly consistent within itself but not necessarily with the others.  Had a strict demand for consistency among these various perspectives been present, no new understanding of God could have emerged without a repudiation of the old.  Given the conservative nature of religious practice, it is more than likely that the old view would have won out every time, stifling all new creative imagination.  The genius of the Hebrew imagination was that it was able to accept and affirm the witness to God’s former acts, even as understood from an older perspective, while at the same time proclaiming what God was about to do as grasped from a newer standpoint.  Moreover, it was precisely the acceptance of the old which provided a rich matrix for present creative imagination to reach new levels of insight.  This combination of the old and the new was experienced as a living reality, for God, having graciously acted on behalf of Israel, was now prepared to do a new thing.

The danger of a premature demand for consis-tency may be seen in the Greek experience.  Here heightened moral sensitivity was not handled historically, but became part of philosophy’s general criticism of its inherited myth.  The notion that it is most appropriate for the divine to be unchanging enters the philosophical tradition very early.  If Aristotle’s report carries over the words of Anaximander (and not merely some later inference), Anaximander, himself already so conceived his basic principle, the apeiron (the indefinite): “And this, they say, is the divine.  For it is immortal and indestructible, as Anaximander and most of the natural philosophers maintain.”4 At any rate, Xenophanes emphatically claims that God:

. . .  ever abides

In the selfsame place without moving; nor is it fitting

For him to move hither and thither, changing his place.5

The result of this conception of the divine was devastating.  With one blow the Olympian gods were consigned to oblivion.  How could there be strife or any sort of interaction among the gods if only the unchanging could really be perfect?  Xenophanes seems to have had a fierce belief in his one divine being, but it seems to have been too vague to capture the imagination of his compatriots.  They were only too aware of the incisiveness of his critique against the Homeric deities, and in fact the Greeks gradually lost faith in these gods during the ensuing century.  Greek philosophy sought to conceive some underlying divinity which Zeus, Hermes, Aphrodite, and the rest all participated in, but in the process lost the personality of God, and with it all popular allegiance.  Faced with the many gods of antiquity, the biblical tradition took an approach that was wiser.- It did not initially insist upon their nonexistence.  The injunction was clear and practical: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” This is primarily a vow of fidelity, with no necessary theoretical implications.  If in marriage a man and woman take each other, forswearing all others, this by no means implies they are the only ones in existence.  Yet the eventual outcome of the biblical experience, initially elevating one God above all competing powers, was the discovery that these gods were no gods at all.  Thus monotheism can grow out of an earlier henotheism, with apparently little awareness of the diverse theological views of the differing historical layers.

In the course of many centuries the biblical record has left us with an impressive compendium of historical testimony to God’s dealings with Israel, expressed in terms of a wide variety of diverse and often conflicting perspectives, which so perplexed the Greek mind as it tried to come to terms with the foundations of Christian theology.  No wonder it so often sought refuge in allegory! Many biblical theologians are suspicious of the use the church has made of philosophy in understanding this heritage, yet even they accept the demand for philosophical consistency.  And it is precisely this demand which shatters the thought-world of the biblical writers themselves.  For now it becomes no longer possible to incorporate other perspectives within one’s own simply because they authoritatively witness to God’s past actions.  We must now show how the total range of testimony can be accommodated, more or less, within a single, consistent perspective.  This requirement brings us to philosophy, for it is the one discipline best suited for the construction of such all-embracing concepts. 

History has served the cause of God well.  In no other culture or span of time has man’s understanding of God’s ways progressed so much as in ancient Israel.  At the time of the Judges, Yahweh was conceived as simply one of the various tribal deities, along with Molech of Moab and Chemosh of Ammon (see Judg.  11:24), yet barely six centuries later Second Isaiah can proclaim with monotheistic fervor the glories of the Lord as creator of the world and redeemer of Israel.  Nothing in the history of Christian doctrine since the New Testament, certainly not since Nicaea, can rival this for growth in increased sensitivity.  In the light of this it is very tempting to want to continue to exploit the paradigm of historical interpretation for our understanding of God today.  Unfortunately it is a paradigm that has outlived its usefulness, for at least two reasons:

(1) The book of Job now stands in its way as a massive roadblock.  The righteous are not always rewarded, nor the wicked punished.  This observation was already causing concern to the thoughtful during the last years of Judah’s monarchy.  According to the historian of Kings, Manasseh was one of the worst kings to sit on the throne of Judah, and Josiah one of the very best.  Yet Manasseh has a long and peaceful reign of some fifty-five years, and Josiah is cut down in battle before he was yet forty, despite Huldah’s word from the Lord that he would die in peace (2 Kings 22:20; cf. 23:29).  Jeremiah and Habakkuk questioned the justice of God, as did many of those exiled in Babylon.  Why should they be required to pay for the sins of their forefathers, particularly in the light of the emerging realization that each man should be answerable for his own sins?  (Jer. 31:27-30; Ezek. 18:1-4).  The author of the book of Job faced this question squarely,6 and resolved it as best he could dramatically, but no resolution is really possible, given the presuppositions of the time.

It is a commonplace to observe that Job undercuts the easy assumptions of the wisdom school or of the Deuteronomic historian.  It is not equally realized that it undercuts the basis for the whole prophetic interpretation of history.  Amos and Hosea could threaten doom upon Israel in the confidence that this was God’s just punishment for its sin.  If in fact there is no correlation between conduct and consequence, the nerve of this sort of interpretation of history is severed.

We seek to understand God as purely persuasive.  But what if this persuasion proves ineffective, because the people are recalcitrant?  The king can compel obedience by punishing the rebellious, and this same model was transferred to God.  But, as we have seen, any such coercive measures depend upon creaturely agencies partially beyond God’s control.  The gap between the ‘‘ought’’ and the “is’’ applies equally well to any theory of rewards and punishments.  Measures which, if directly controlled by God, should be interpreted as instances of God’s wrath may not have been so intended.  Thus it is possible that Huldah’s prophecy concerning Josiah properly reflected the aims of God, in this case frustrated by Pharaoh Necho and the king’s own miscalculation as to the probable consequences of that confrontation between Egypt and Israel.

According to the law of the prophet, if the word spoken in the name of the Lord does not come to pass, then the prophet has spoken falsely (Deut.  18:22).  But that law presupposes that God directly controls man’s destiny, to insure that his threats or promises would be carried Out.  Yet, even at the time, Israel understood prophecy as the open-ended proclamation of divine intent, modifiable in terms of its response.  This is the point of the story of Jonah, and Jeremiah had a lively sense of its truth (see, e.g., Jer. 26:3, or 18:1-11).  The nonfulfillment of Micah’s prophecy against the temple was understood in Jeremiah’s time as the result of Hezekiah’s repentance (Jer. 26:16-19).  Perhaps we should evaluate the truth or falsity of prophecy in terms of whether it correctly reflects God’s intentions in that particular situation, not how it was in fact carried out.  In that case Jeremiah’s prediction of a bad end for Jehoiakim (Jer. 22:19; 36:30-31), while it was apparently never fulfilled, nevertheless remains authentic prophetic declaration.  As I read them, both Isaiah and Micah fully expected the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah at the hands of Sennacherib,7 and by their lights this is what ought to have happened.  This may be truer prophecy than the later legendary accretions in which Isaiah predicts the Lord’s miraculous deliverance of the city of Jerusalem from the Assyrian siege (Isa. 36-37), even though that reinterpretation of the prophet’s role may have saved the book of Isaiah for the canon.

Most of the prophetic writings we now have are clustered around three major crises in Israel’s history: (1) the fall of Samaria in 722 BC., (2) the invasion by Sennacherib in 701 BC., and (3) the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.  In the case of the first and third instances, these events could be truly interpreted as the execution of God’s wrath.  Thus the prophetic declaration of divine intent based on what ought to be the case could coincide with fulfilled prediction.  If in hindsight Israel collected only those prophecies which could be understood as properly fulfilled prediction, in accordance with the Deuteronomic law of the prophet, there is no way of determining how many other “true” prophets there may have been, ‘‘true’’ in the sense that they accurately proclaimed the character of God’s intent.

(2) The prophetic interpretation of history was plausible when only Israel and its Lord were the protagonists, and the other nations were simply onlookers or instrumentalities of God’s will.  When the horizon is widened to embrace all the nations, God’s will has to be reconceived from their standpoint as well.  In the Exodus traditions the Israelites could enjoy a good fight with Egypt, since this conflict was regarded as simply the means whereby God redeemed them out of the house of bondage.  But what is God’s purpose vis-à-vis the Egyptians?  The status of God’s instrumentalities becomes even more enigmatic, because it is only the arrogance, greed, and aggressiveness of the Assyrians and the Babylonians which make them unconscious tools for God’s punishment.  Habakkuk protests: “Why dost thou look on faithless men, and art silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous then he?” (1:13).  Jeremiah can only proclaim God’s judgment against all the nations at the hands of Babylon, and then Babylon is to be judged in turn (25:8-14).

Thus in the end, the apocalyptic writers who use the horizon of universal history have recourse to angelic instrumentalities of God’s will.  Angels can directly and unambiguously accomplish the divine purpose, for in theory they lack the creaturely freedom that so distorts the course of history.  Yet, in doing so, the presupposition underlying divine persuasion is destroyed.

If Whitehead is right that “God’s purpose in the creative advance is the evocation of intensities”8 for each creature or group as it arises, and that history must be conceived “as the theatre of diverse groups of idealists respectively urging ideals incompatible for conjoint realization,” 9 then perhaps we should see God as encouraging each to pursue the good it envisages, despite the conflict this may entail.  (To be sure, compromise and the harmonization of interests may well be among the goods the parties are also enjoined to pursue.) The complexity and diversity of interests and values represented in universal history, coupled with the radical uncertainty about any connection between performance and deserts, make it impossible today to discern God’s providential hand in it with the confidence of Israel’s prophets.

The prophetic corpus of the Old Testament oversimplifies history in two directions.  It sees a direct correlation between conduct and consequence, and it concentrates its attention narrowly on Israel.  It cannot do justice to the complexities of universal history.  Yet this was a most important oversimplification, for it made possible for the Jews to accept their fate as the just punishment of God, and to accept the Torah as the book by which they would live.  Without that credibility of the prophetic oversimplification, the exiled Jews might have lost their identity as the people of God.  Israel might have vanished before the Christ of Israel could appear.

If for no other reason, the universality of the Christian proclamation of salvation for all requires that the particularity of historical categories be replaced by the universality of philosophical concepts.  But it is important that there be no premature abandonment of history’s nurturing role, as the fate of Greek religious sensibility indicates.  Had the question of a monarchy in Israel been addressed in the absolutistic terms of political philosophy, the result could very well have been disastrous.  On the one hand, if the Israelite monarchy were seen as essential, then the whole foundation of Israel would have collapsed when Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar.  On the other hand, if the monarchy were understood as inimical to true theism, Israel at the time of Samuel and Saul might have succumbed to the Philistines.  Without a royal theology, it is difficult to imagine how the anticipation of a future king could have arisen.  Jesus’ own role, at least in the eyes of his disciples and the later church, would have had less justification without this rich matrix of messianic expectation.

History provides the proper way into theology, but philosophy is the critic of the consistency of its perspectives.  Theology today must be articulated by means of philosophical concepts, and these should be evaluated according to purely philosophical criteria of consistency, coherence, adequacy, and applicability.  Yet if these concepts are to be adequate and applicable to all experience, this experience must also include the experience of biblical man.  While philosophy may judge the consistency of his interpretive standpoints, it cannot gainsay his witness to the contingencies of divine action.

Process theism is the natural ally of biblical history, for process is history abstractly conceived.  Process theism can provide the contemporary conceptuality by which we can appropriate this ancient literature, while the biblical tradition can provide those concrete particularities whereby our lives are given final meaning.


1. PR, p.  522.

2. For an incisive analysis of this last incident, see George W.  Coats, ‘‘The King’s Loyal Opposition: Obedience and Authority in Exodus 32-34,” pp. 91-109 in Canon and Authority.  Essays in Old Testament and Theology, ed. George W. Coats and Burke O. Long (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977).

3. John L.McKenzie, “Biblical Anthropomorphism and the Humaneness of God,” p.  182 in Religion and the Humanizing of Man, ed.  James M. Robinson (Waterloo Ontario: Council on the Study of Religion, 1972).

4. Aristotle, Physics iii. 4, about 203b12.  See Werner Jaeger’s discussion of this passage in The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947), p.  25.

5. Xenophanes B26, in Herman Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, ed.  Walther Kranz, 5th ed.  (Berlin: Weidmann, 1934-35).

6. I take Job 3-42:6 to be an exilic composition inserted in a traditional folktale which now frames the encounter of Job with his three friends and with God.

7. For Isaiah, Isa. 29:1-4 is the key passage.  I take verses 5-8 to be a later reinterpretation by another hand, based upon the ambiguity of the preposition in v. 3, which can be interpreted either as “against” or as “upon.”

8. PR, p.  161.

9. Al, p.  356-57.


Posted June 13, 2007


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