Transforming Process Theism

By Lewis S. Ford
Foreword by Robert Cummings Neville

Subjects: Philosophy Of Religion
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791445365, 402 pages, May 2000
Hardcover : 9780791445358, 402 pages, May 2000

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Table of contents




The Intelligibility of Future Activity

I. Meanings of the Future Appropriate to God


1. Meanings of the Future
2. Ways in Which God Is Future
3. Ways in Which God Is Not Future


II. Three Ways Whitehead Revises Traditional Expectations


1. Divine Persuasion Replaces Classical Omnipotence
2. God Need Not Be Conceived as Creator Ex Nihilo
3. Becoming Is Primary; Being Is Derivative


III. Toward a New Conception of the Future


1. Modes of Actuality
2. The Future as Actually Indeterminate
3. The Future as the Source of Creativity
4. The Future as the Source of Aim
5. The Nature of the Future as Actual


IV. The Plan of This Book

Part One
Whitehead's Successive Concepts of God

Chapter One: The Principle of Limitation


I. Background
II. Criticisms
III. Types of Limitation


Chapter Two: Deconstructing Theism


I. Introduction
II. The Final Concept: God as Temporal and Concrescent
III. The Middle Concept: God as Nontemporal and Concrescent
IV The Early Concept


Chapter Three: Reconstructing Nontemporal Theism

I. A Comparison of Concepts


1. The Initial, Minimal Concept
2. The Final Concept
3. The Middle Concept


II. Possible Solutions to the Riddle


1. Natural and Experiential Theology
2. The Role of Religion
3. Temporalist Implications


III. A Possible External Influence


1. Henry Nelson Wieman
2. Whitehead's Reaction


IV. The Initial Concept of God


1. Actual Entity
2. Transcendence
3. Self-Causation
4. Instance of Creativity
5. The Ontological Principle


V. The 1926 Metaphysical Principles


1. The Principle of Solidarity
2. The Principle of Creative Individuality
3. The Principle of Efficient Causation
4. The Ontological Principle
5. The Principle of Esthetic Individuality
6. The Principle of Ideal Comparison


VI. The 1927 Metaphysical Principles

VII. The Middle Concept of God


1. Preconditions for the Middle Concept
2. Precipitating Factors


Chapter Four: Reconstructing Process Theism

I. Preliminary Considerations


1. Exemplifying the Metaphysical Principles
2. Nontemporal Subjectivity


II. Precipitating Factors


1. Temporal Subjectivity
2. Locus of Integration
3. Is 'Consciousness' the Reason for Process Theism?
4. Is 'Everlastingness' the Reason for Process Theism?
5. What about the Provision of Subjective Aim?
6. The Intensification of Process


III. Whitehead's Problematic Legacy


1. How God Affects the World
2. The Fourth Phase
3. Apparent Responsiveness and Nontemporal Valuation
4. Later Writings


Part Two
The Search for the Prehensibility of God

Chapter Five: The Divine Power in the Present

I. William A. Christian

II. Marjorie Suchocki

III. Palmyre Oomen

IV. Jorge Nobo

V. Elizabeth M. Kraus

VI. Lewis S. Ford

Chapter Six: The Power of the Past

I. Nancy Frankenberry and the Power of the Past

II. Hartshorne and the Objectification of God


1. The Principle of Prehension
2. Objections Based on Hartshorne's Own Position


Objection 1
Divine Occasions are Exceptions to the Metaphysical Principles
Objection 2
Alternation and Asychronicity
Objection 3
Divine Occasions Are Not Persuasive
Objection 4
Divine Occasions Limit Creaturely Freedom
Objection 5
It Undercuts Nontemporal Subjectivity
Objection 6
How Is Creativity Transmitted within God?


3. Divine Occasions with Initial Aims


Objection 7
How Can the Initial Aims Be Selected?
Objection 8
Eternal Objects Become Everlasting
Objection 9
An Objection from Mathematics

4. The Objection from Relativity Physics


Chapter Seven: Process Nontemporality

I.Bowman Clarke

II. Uncreated Eternal Objects

III. The Metaphysical Principles

IV Nontemporal Decision and Determination

Part III
The Imprehensibility of God

Chapter Eight: The Power of the Future

I. God and Future Creativity: Some Preliminary Objections


1. God and Creativity
2. God and Being
3. God and Eternity
4. God As Future Actuality
5. God As Becoming


II. The Identification of God with Future Creativity


1. God As Personal
2. Divine Responsiveness
3. Perfect Power
4. God as Empty


III. The Infusion of Creativity


1. Modes of Actuality
2. Prehension and the Infusion of Creativity
3. Aim
4. The Interdependence of Creativity and Aim


Chapter Nine: Persistence and the Extensive Continuum

I. Persistence and Perception


1. Diremption
2 Emergence of Persistence
3. Atrophy
4. Inclusive Occasions
5. Physical Perception and Prehension
6. Future Physical Perception
7. Divine Consciousness


II. The Extensive Continuum


1. The Ontological Status of the Extensive Continuum
2. The Extensive Continuum and Societies
3. Relativity Physics
4. In Unison of Becoming
5. The Locus of all Locations
6. Locus and Passage
7. Divine Privacy and Publicity


Chapter Ten: Creativity and Contingency

I. Creativity


1. Present and Future Creativity
2. Eschatological Actuality


II. Contingency


1. Contingency and Interdependence
2. Rationalist and Empiricist Process Theology
3. Uniqueness and Primacy
4. Divine Satisfaction


III. Concluding Objections

Objection 1
If God Is Future Creativity, How Can God Also Be Personal and Individual?

Objection 2
Is My Claim That Creativity Is Derived from God, Too Much Biased in the Direction of Western Monotheism?

Objection 3
Isn't It Blasphemous to Suppose That Our Own Subjectivity Is Simply a Continuation of God's? Isn't This Simply a Kind of Temporalistic Pantheism?

Objection 4
Does Not the Ontotheological Stricture Exclude the Possibility of God as Future Creativity?



Traces variations of theism in Whitehead's principle works, identifying a major problem in conventional understanding of process theism and constructing an original and provocative solution.


Process theism, in a variety of manifestations and modifications stemming from Whitehead's original suggestions, dominates discussions of philosophical and natural theology in Europe and America. In Transforming Process Theism Ford argues that subsequent modifications of Whitehead's original line of thought mask a fundamental and unresolved aporia in that original proposal: since only past or "objectified" determinate events can influence present experiences and since God, as conceived by Whitehead, is never fully determinate or objectifiable as a "past event," it is difficult to see how this divine persuasive power can have any influence on the present as a source of creativity and genuinely new possibilities for enactment.

Ford meticulously reconstructs and evaluates Whitehead's own versions of theism, and he critically appraises the most influential subsequent modifications of these unrecognized variants by other process thinkers. He recovers the original trajectory of Whitehead's continuous revision of his conception of God, and forges an appropriate solution to this central aporia. He concludes that—consistent with Whitehead's overarching metaphysical principles, there is another kind of causal influence that does not require objectification, and is the opposite of past determinateness. The future, conceived as active, offers an account of subjectivity which is both universal and transcendent. God, according to Ford's revisions, must be understood as this particular but indefinite creativity or universal activity of the future, bestowing subjectivity on each present occasion of experience without ever becoming determinate.

Lewis S. Ford is Louis I. Jaffe Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Old Dominion University. He is the author of The Emergence of Whitehead's Metaphysics, 1925-1929, also published by SUNY Press, The Lure of God: A Biblical Background for Process Theism, and he is coeditor (with George L. Kline) of Explorations in Whitehead's Philosophy. From 1971-1996, he was the editor of the scholarly quarterly, Process Studies.


"This book will likely prove most helpful to persons who have first studied Whitehead." — CHOICE

"An important book." — David Ray Griffin, editor of Physics and the Ultimate Significance of Time

"If Ford's vision carries the day, all future authors in process philosophy and theology will have to take account of this book." — C. Robert Mesle, author of Process Theology: A Basic Introduction

"Any philosopher who has read seriously in Whitehead's metaphysics will need to buy Ford's book." — George Allan, author of Realizations of the Future