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Open Theology

Editor-in-Chief: Taliaferro, Charles

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Thomas Aquinas and Alfred North Whitehead on God‘s Action in the World

Thomas E. Hosinski
Published Online: 2015-09-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2015-0012

Abstract

Thomas Aquinas’ intentions in his position that God acts through secondary causes are both laudable and correct. In affirming God’s action within secondary causes Thomas intended to affirm true freedom and contingency in the world and the creatures’ limited participation in God’s creative power. But his interpretation of these topics rests on assumptions about divinity that subvert his intentions. This article summarizes Thomas’ analysis and discusses the principal difficulties with his interpretation of God’s action. It then presents an interpretation of how Alfred North Whitehead’s position on divine action avoids these difficulties and achieves a more coherent understanding of God’s action in the world, even though it too requires revision. If Whitehead’s metaphysics is revised to think of creativity as the divine life rather than as ultimately distinct from God, then it, too, presents God as sharing the divine life with creatures by endowing them with the creativity and freedom to create themselves on the divinely-given ground of possibility. Thomas’ intentions and a revised Whiteheadian interpretation of divine action are compatible and complement each other on the topic of divine action in and through creatures and on the idea of existence as participation in the divine life.

Keywords: Thomas Aquinas; Whitehead; God‘s action; creativity; possibility; divine knowledge; freedom; contingency

References

  • Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles. Google Scholar

  • Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae. New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1947. Google Scholar

  • Gilkey, Langdon. Reaping the Whirlwind: A Christian Interpretation of History. New York: Seabury Press, 1976. Google Scholar

  • Hosinski, Thomas E. Stubborn Fact and Creative Advance: An Introduction to the Metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993. Google Scholar

  • Johnson, Elizabeth. “Does God Play Dice? Divine Providence and Chance.” Theological Studies 57 (1996), 3-18. Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Neville, Robert C. Creativity and God: A Challenge to Process Theology. New York: Seabury Press, 1980. Google Scholar

  • Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. Corrected Edition. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne, eds. New York: Free Press, 1978 [original 1929]. Google Scholar

  • Whitehead, Alfred North. Religion in the Making. Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1960 [original 1926]. Google Scholar

  • Whitehead, Alfred North. Science and the Modern World. New York: Macmillan, 1926. Google Scholar

About the article


Received: 2015-06-12

Accepted: 2015-08-05

Published Online: 2015-09-11


Citation Information: Open Theology, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2015-0012.

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©2015 Thomas E. Hosinski. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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