Archive for January, 2010

“Idealism is the soul of philosophy; realism is the body. Only both together can constitute a living whole.” (Schelling, Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human freedom, 26).


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“[A]lthough research may always lean towards this positive approach, its real progress comes not so much from collecting results and storing them away in ‘manuals’ as from inquiring into the ways in which each particular area is basically constituted [Grundverfassungen].” (Heidegger, Being and Time, 29)

How is it possible to make real progress of church, society, and theology?

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Philip Clayton: “I’m excited to announce an important upcoming conference and to invite you to participate. On March 10-12th, Claremont will be home to a cutting-edge national meeting entitled, “Theology After Google.” The age of the internet, texting, and social networking has turned human existence upside down and raised questions about what human community is. This conference will identify what it means to live in this new “Google age” and how religion is changing as a result.

 I very much hope that you’ll want to attend and would be honored to have you present.

Even if you’re unable to come, we still very much need your helping in getting the word out in all the ways open to you — whether that means reposting this message on your own outlets, blogging and twittering about it, announcing it in your churches or classes, and encouraging your pastor and congregation to bring a whole group (at the discounted rate, of course). You’ll find lots more information by clicking on the image above or going directly to TransformingTheology.org. Thanks very much for spreading the word!”


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Panentheism explores philosophical theologies, which is “biblically faithful and intellectually consistent,” that stand between classical theism and ‘pure’ or ‘orthodox’ process theism. An attempt to harmonize between classical theology and process theology often “draws the ire of both sides.” In a sense, we have to say that both the God of conventional theism and the God of “orthodox” process theology died. It is as true to say that if because the God of classical theism was too much tilted to the transcendent God, this God died, as that because the God of process theology was too much tilted on the immanent God, this God also died. It is more proper to say that just as God of classical theism must be modified, so God of process theology revised. 

Pinnock denounces the Greek metaphysical tradition of classical theism. Pinnock quotes Walter Kasper’s caricatures of classical theism’s God as “a solitary narcissistic being, who suffers from his own completeness.” If classical theism’s God is so, we have to caricature of “orthodox” process theology’s God in a sense as ‘a being in hostage of the world, who cannot exist without the world.’ Furthermore, in a sense, just as God in classical theism, especially in Aquinas, is far away from the compassionate God, so God ironically in process theology is not actively but passively sympathetic one (especially in divine action), although Whitehead’s God is very compassionate, since God is in the speculative system of Whitehead philosophy. Matthew 22:32, “’I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” This famous verse quoted as Pascal’s conception of personal God is in fact different from philosophical conception of God.

Honestly speaking, to choose just one position is comfortable, but if the road is not the way, we have to go through an intersection between them: Panentheistic way. This is the place where classical theism, open theism, panentheism, and process theology are intermingled. These intertwined areas are not the calm place but the most noisy, uncomfortable, nonetheless, dynamic one. Just as strong winds or environment at the timberline make timbers strong, so these multilayered places enables theology to be strong. Just as contemporary theology is problematic, when it neglects classical theology as if there was no classical theology, so classical theology is also problematic when it neglects contemporary theology as if theology would stop after classical theology.

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For Whitehead, “The New Reformation” is that “the task of theology is to show how the World is founded on something beyond mere transient fact, and how it issues in something beyond the perishing of occasions. The temporal World is the stage of finite accomplishment. We ask of Theology to express that element in perishing lives which is undying by reason of its expression of perfections proper to our finite natures. In this way we shall understand how life includes a mode of satisfaction deeper than joy or sorrow.”

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By the same token, metaphorically speaking, classical theism is to current theism what an old big tree is to its individual leaf. Neither the latter without the former nor the former without the latter is without doubt possible. That is, the “ugly ditch” between both of them must be overcome. Just as “the symbolism gives rise to thought” and thought always returns to the symbol, so the Bible and tradition give rise to current theism and current theism should return to the Bible and tradition. This means a hermeneutical circle. Nevertheless, the direction and task of theology should neither return to the classical theism nor simply revisit or repeat the Bible, but overcome the problem or limitation of classical theism and suggest a new alternative inasmuch as classical theism lacks the ability to explain various current issues or skeptical challenges today. Thus a forced binary choice between classical theism and a new theism is meaningless.

When we say that a bird can fly with two wings and that a wagon has two wheels, if two wings and two wheels are on the same side, it is neither easy for the bird to fly nor for the wagon to move. Only if two wings and two wheels must be at the other side, the bird can fly and the wheel can go. And a significant thing is the progressive aspire to go forward. Likewise, a proper theology must be between two extreme: classical theism and process theology. It must be panentheism.

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This is Clayton’s generic panentheism. If drawn as a picture, it would be roughly like the picture below, which I call the panentheistic umbrella.

            1. God created the world as a distinct substance. It is separate from God in nature and essence, although God is present to the world (classical philosophical theism in the West).

                2. God is radically immanent in the world.

                3. God is bringing the world to Godself.

                4. The world is in God –at least metaphorically, and perhaps also in a stronger sense.

                5. God’s relation to the world is in some sense analogous to the relationship between mind and body.

                6. The world and God are correlated (contingently for some authors, necessarily for others).

                7. The world and God are “nondual” (Shankara’s “Atman is Brahman”), or there is only one substance that can be called “nature” or “God” (Spinoza’s dues sive natura).

                [1] Clayton, “Panentheism Today,” 251-252.  Clayton introduces other three kinds of generic panentheism: “Generic panentheism according to David Griffin,” “Generic panentheism according to Niels Gregersen,” and “Emphases of Panentheism according to Michael Brierley.” Ibid.

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