Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Theology

Editor-in-Chief: Taliaferro, Charles

1 Issue per year

Open Access
Online
ISSN
2300-6579
See all formats and pricing
More options …

God’s Power and Almightiness in Whitehead’s Thought

Palmyre M.F. Oomen
Published Online: 2015-10-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2015-0013

Abstract

Whitehead’s position regarding God’s power is rather unique in the philosophical and theological landscape. Whitehead rejects divine omnipotence (unlike Aquinas), yet he claims (unlike Hans Jonas) that God’s persuasive power is required for everything to exist and to occur. This intriguing position is the subject of this article. The article starts with an exploration of Aquinas’ reasoning towards God’s omnipotence. This will be followed by a close examination of Whitehead’s own position, starting with an introduction to his philosophy of organism and its two-sided concept of God. Thereupon, an analysis of Whitehead’s idiosyncratic view on God’s agency will show that, according to this conception, God and the World depend upon each other, and that God’s agency is a non-coercive but persuasive power. The difference between coercion and persuasion will be explained as well as the reason why God, according to Whitehead’s conception, cannot possibly coerce. Finally, a discussion of the issue of divine almightiness will allow for a reinterpretation of divine almightiness from a Whiteheadian perspective, which will show how despite Whitehead’s rejection of God’s omnipotence, his concept retains essential elements of God as pantokrator (and thus markedly differs from Hans Jonas’ concept).

Keywords: Alfred North Whitehead; Thomas Aquinas; Hans Jonas; God’s power; almightiness; omnipotence; pantokrator; God’s self-limitation; philosophy of organism; process thought; persuasion; coercion; God and World as opposites

References

  • Arendt, Hannah. “What is Authority?” In Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought. New York: Penguin Books, 2006, 91-141 (org. 1954). Google Scholar

  • Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologiae (1267-1273). Translations I have used: New English Translation of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae (Summa Theologica), by Alfred J. Freddoso (http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/summa-translation/TOC-part1.htm); The Summa Theologica, translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Benziger Bross, edition 1947); and Summa Theologiae: Latin text and English translation, edited by Blackfriars, London/New York, 1967-1975. Google Scholar

  • Basinger, David. “Human Coercion: A Fly in the Process Ointment?” Process Studies 15/3 (1986): 161-171. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Basinger, David. “Divine Power: Do Process Theists Have a Better Idea?” In Process Theology, edited by R. Nash. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1987, 197-213. Google Scholar

  • Basinger, David. Divine Power in Process Theism: A Philosophical Critique. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988. Google Scholar

  • Brink, Gijsbert van den. Almighty God: A Study of the Doctrine of Divine Omnipotence. Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1993 [Ph.D. Dissertation, Univerity of Utrecht]. Google Scholar

  • Brock, Stephen L. “The ratio omnipotentiae in Aquinas.” Acta Philosophica 2/1 (1993): 17-42. Google Scholar

  • Cobb, Jr., John B. A Christian Natural Theology: Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1965. Google Scholar

  • Cobb, Jr., John B. God and the World. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969. Google Scholar

  • Cooper, Burton Z. “How Does God Act in our Time? An Invitation to a Dialogue between Process and Liberation Theologies.” Union Seminary Quartely Review 32 (1976-1977): 25-35. Google Scholar

  • Davis, Stephen T. “Critique by Stephen T. Davis [on Griffin’s Theodicy].” In Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy, edited by S.T. Davis. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1981, 125-128. Google Scholar

  • Davis, Stephen T. (Ed.). Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1981. Google Scholar

  • Ely, Stephen L. The Religious Availability of Whitehead’s God: A Critical Analysis. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1942. Google Scholar

  • Evans, Donald D. The Logic of Self-Involvement: A Philosophical Study of Everyday Language with Special Reference to the Christian Use of Language about God as Creator. London: SCM Press, 1963. Google Scholar

  • Ford, Lewis S. “Divine Persuasion and the Triumph of Good.” In Process Philosophy and Christian Thought, edited by D. Brown, R.E. James & G. Reeves. Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971, 287-304 (1st publ. 1967) Google Scholar

  • Ford, Lewis S. “The Power of God and the Christ.” In Religious Experience and Process Theology, edited by H.J. Cargas & B. Lee. New York: Paulist Press, 1976, 79-92. Google Scholar

  • Ford, Lewis S. “Divine Persuasion and Coercion.” Encounter 47/3 (1986): 267-273. Google Scholar

  • Ford, Lewis S. “Contrasting Conceptions of Creation.” Review of Metaphysics 45/1 (1991): 89-109. Google Scholar

  • Frankenberry, Nancy. “Some Problems in Process Theodicy.” Religious Studies 17/2 (1981): 179-197. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Geach, Peter. Providence and Evil, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. Google Scholar

  • Griffin, David R. “Creation out of Chaos and the Problem of Evil.” In Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy, edited by S.T. Davis. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1981, 101-119. Google Scholar

  • Griffin, David R. “Creation «Ex Nihilo», The Divine «Modus Operandi», and the «Imitatio Dei».” In Faith and Creativity, edited by G. Nordgulen & G. Shields. St. Louis, Missouri: CBP Press, 1987, 95-123. Google Scholar

  • Hare, Peter H. & Edward H. Madden. “Evil and Persuasive Power.” Process Studies 2/1 (1972): 44-48. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hartshorne, Charles. “Whitehead’s Idea of God.” In The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, edited by P.A. Schilpp. New York: Tudor, 1951, 513-559. (1e ed. 1941). Google Scholar

  • Henrix, Hans Hermann. “Machtentsagung Gottes?” In «Landschaft aus Schreien»: Zur Dramatik der Theodizeefrage, edited by J.B. Metz. Mainz: Matthias Grünewald, 1995, 118-143. Google Scholar

  • Henry, Carl F.H. “The Stunted God of Process Theology.” In Process Theology, edited by R. Nash. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1987, 357-376. Google Scholar

  • Hick, John H. “Critique by John H. Hick [on Griffin’s Theodicy].” In Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy, edited by S.T. Davis. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1981, 122-123. Google Scholar

  • Johnson, A.H. “Some Conversations with Whitehead Concerning God and Creativity.” In Explorations in Whitehead’s Philosophy, edited by L.S. Ford & G.L. Kline. New York: Fordham University Press, 1983, 3-13. Google Scholar

  • Jonas, Hans. “The Concept of God after Auschwitz: A Jewish Voice.” Journal of Religion 67 (1987): 1-13. This is Jonas’ own translation of his originally German article: “Der Gottesbegriff nach Auschwitz.” In Fritz Stern & Hans Jonas. Reflexionen finsterer Zeit. Tübingen: Mohr, 1984, 61-86. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jonas, Hans. “Is Faith Still Possible? Memories of Rudolf Bultmann and Reflections on the Philosophical Aspects of His Work.” In Hans Jonas, Mortality and Morality: A Search for the Good After Auschwitz, edited and with an introduction by Lawrence Vogel. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1996, 144-164. (1st publ. 1982). Google Scholar

  • Jüngel, Eberhard. “Gottes ursprüngliches Anfangen als schöpferische Selbstbegrenzung: Ein Beitrag zum Gespräch mit Hans Jonas über den «Gottesbegriff nach Auschwitz».” In Gottes Zukunft Zukunft der Welt, edited by H. Deuser, G.M. Martin, K. Stock & M. Welke. München: Kaiser Verlag, 1986, 265-275. Google Scholar

  • Kraus, Elizabeth M. “God the Savior.” In New Essays in Metaphysics, edited by R.C. Neville. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987, 199-215. Google Scholar

  • Lubarsky, Sandra B. “Jonas, Whitehead, and the Problem of Power.” In The Legacy of Hans Jonas: Judaism and the Phenomenon of Life, edited by Hava Tirosh-Samuelson & Christian Wiese. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008, 397-417. (= Ch. XVI). Google Scholar

  • Madden, Edward H. & Peter H. Hare. “Evil and Unlimited Power.” Review of Metaphysics 20 (1966): 278-289. Google Scholar

  • McInerny, Ralph. “Aquinas on Divine Omnipotence.” In L’Homme et son univers au moyen âge: Actes du septième congrès international de philosophie medievale, edited by C. Wenin. Louvain-la-Neuve: Institut Superieur de Philosophie, 1986, 440-444. Google Scholar

  • Oomen, Palmyre M.F. “The Prehensibility of God’s Consequent Nature.” Process Studies 27/1-2 (1998): 108-133. (available at: www.palmyreoomen.nl). CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Oomen, Palmyre M.F. “Consequences of prehending God’s consequent nature in a different key.” Process Studies 27/3-4 (1998): 329-331. (available at: www.palmyreoomen.nl). CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Oomen, Palmyre. “Immanence and Divine Persuasion: Whitehead’s Provocative View on the Laws of Nature.” In Process Pragmatism: Essays on a Quiet Philosophical Revolution, edited by G.J.Y. Debrock. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi Press, 2003, 87-102. (available at: www.palmyreoomen.nl). Google Scholar

  • Oomen, Palmyre. “No Concretion without God.” In La science et le monde moderne d’Alfred North Whitehead: Actes des Journées d’étude internationales tenues à l’Université catholique de Louvain 2003, edited by F. Beets, M. Dupuis & M. Weber. Frankfurt / Lancaster: Ontos Verlag, 2006, 203-220. [=Chromatiques whiteheadiennes III]. (available at: www.palmyreoomen.nl). Google Scholar

  • Oomen, Palmyre. “Language about God in Whitehead’s Philosophy: Dissimilarities and Similarities between Aquinas and Whitehead.” Open Theology 1 (2015): 342–353. Google Scholar

  • Peters, Ted. Anticipating Omega: Science, Faith , and Our Ultimate Future. Gottingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006. Google Scholar

  • Peterson, Michael L. “God and Evil in Process Theology.” In Process Theology, edited by R. Nash. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1987, 117-139. Google Scholar

  • Roth, John K. “Critique by John K. Roth [on Griffin’s Theodicy].” In Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy, edited by S.T. Davis. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1981, 119-122. Google Scholar

  • Sontag, Fr. “Critique by Frederick Sontag [on Griffin’s Theodicy].” In Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy, edited by S.T. Davis. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1981, 123-125. Google Scholar

  • Tanner, Kathryn. God and Creation in Christian Theology, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988. Google Scholar

  • Tracy, Thomas F. “Special Divine Action and the Laws of Nature.” In Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action: Twenty Years of Challenge and Progress, edited by R.R. Russell, N. Murphey & W.R. Stoeger. Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory Publications / Berkeley, CA: The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 2008, 249-283. Google Scholar

  • Van den Brink, Gijsbert. see: Brink, Gijsbert van den. Google Scholar

  • Whitehead, Alfred North. Science and the Modern World. New York: Free Press, 1967 (1st ed. 1925). (=SMW). Google Scholar

  • Whitehead, Alfred North. Religion in the Making. New York: Meridian, 1960 (1st ed. 1926). (=RM). Google Scholar

  • Whitehead, Alfred North. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. (Corrected edition, edited by D.R. Griffin & D.W. Sherburne.) New York: Free Press, 1978 (1st ed. 1929). (=PR). Google Scholar

  • Whitehead, Alfred North. Adventures of Ideas. New York: Free Press, 1967 (1st ed. 1933). (=AI). Google Scholar

  • Whitehead, Alfred North. Modes of Thought. New York: Free Press, 1968 (1st ed. 1938). (=MT). Google Scholar

  • Whitehead, Alfred North. “Immortality.” In The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, edited by P.A. Schilpp. New York: Tudor, 1951, 682-700 (1st ed. 1941). (=Imm). Google Scholar

  • Google Scholar

About the article


Received: 2015-08-22

Accepted: 2015-08-31

Published Online: 2015-10-14


Citation Information: Open Theology, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2015-0013.

Export Citation

©2015 Palmyre M.F. Oomen. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in