Main   Terms   People   Interviews   Resources   Events

Process Models of Divine Action

For a summary of relevant aspects of process thought see process metaphysicsand process theology and the problem of evil.

It is not difficult to see that process schemes can accommodate divine activity in particular situations, since divine persuasion or lure is present in every interaction between entities. The ‘causal joint’ is built into the metaphysics.

Close consideration, however, shows that process thought is in a similar position to that of the neo-Thomists - both introduce a type of influence which is at a remove at once both from our ordinary experience and from the scientific accounts:

  • Neo-Thomists posit a divine influence which a) knows the results of its actions already through the atemporal omniscience of God’s action and b) executes its purpose by being the particular primary cause behind secondary causes, and yet allegedly c) still allows creatures their freedom. (see neo-Thomist views of divine action).

  • Process thinkers posit a sort of sentience which allows all entities, however inanimate, to be aware of the divine will and to respond to it (or not).

Indeed Settle considers a process metaphysic to be the natural result for a search for an appropriate account of double agency.Settle, T, ‘The Dressage Ring and The Ballroom: Loci of Double Agency’ in Facets of Faith and Science, Volume IV: Interpreting God’s Action in the World, ed. by Jitse M. van der Meer (Lanham,...

Those convinced for other reasons of the rightness of either of these positions will accept the version of divine providence that the account offers - but neither account offers any purchase on discussing a model of God in relation to the physical world as science describes it.

Where neo-Thomism and process thought differ so sharply is in terms of theodicy. The great problem with an account of providence in terms of primary and secondary agency is that the most evil of persons becomes a secondary agent of God.

See process theology and the problem of evil for the merits of process theodicy, and for the question: is the process God God enough to be the ground of hope?

The neo-Thomist God, then, is so much God - omniscient, omnipotent - as to pose great problems for theodicy;

The process God cannot be held to account for evils from which the divine fellow-sufferer has laboured to dissuade the entities concerned. But is this an adequate account of God?

Between these poles come the accounts of providence, general and/or particular, undertaken by a self-limiting God to whom the future remains not wholly known, that we have discussed in the rest of a classification of theories of divine action.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.