God The Fellow-Sufferer who Understands
This famous quote about God is found in the
American philosopher A.N.Whiteheads 1927 Gifford Lectures, published as Process
and Reality - his effort to generate a radically new metaphysics which
would unify the way we understand the world. See process metaphysics.
In the last chapter of Process and Reality Whitehead turns his attention to God, and
develops his concept of a dipolar deity. By this is meant that God, who in
strict process thought is one entity among others - not ontologically distinct
from the rest of the cosmos, is a) affected by the experience of all other
entities (Gods consequent nature) and b) constant in character as the
ground of both of order and of novelty (Gods primordial nature). This
formulation of the character of God in terms of two types of attribute in
tension - responsiveness and constancy - is known as dipolarity (sometimes
Charles Hartshorne, the greatest
theological exponent of process thought, developed a somewhat different form of
dipolarity. For Hartshorne God is both necessary being in himself, Gods
abstract pole, but contingent in the particular relationships into which God
enters with contingent creation, Gods concrete pole. This is a very helpful
way of overcoming some of the intrinsic paradoxes of theism.Dipolarity, then, allows God to be responsive to the world and yet remain God.
The emphasis in process models of God is on a God who experiences the worlds
pain and struggle, and persuades it towards paths of creativity and fulfilment.
In Whiteheads famous phrase God is the fellow-sufferer who understands.
To investigate how this model of God might
enable theology to respond to the problem of suffering and evil see Process
theology and the problem of evil.
link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr.
Source: God, Humanity and the
Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999)