Archive for December, 2013

Roger Olson recently posted a writing at Patheos under the title of “Why I am not a Process Theologian.”[1] However, if he would change his title like, “Why I talk with process theology, although I am not a process theologian,” it would elicit much productive discussion. In his writing, after summarizing ten “essentials of process theology,” Olson criticized in ten views that process theology is not Christian theology. First, Whitehead’s organic metaphysics is more important and valuable than divine revelation. Second, process theology’s Christology is adoptionistic. Third, Trinity is very weak. Fourth, it denies miracles. Fifth, it depends too much on modernity. Sixth, there is no real meaning of petitionary prayer. Seventh, it has “no realistic eschatology.” Eighth, God necessarily depends on the world, not voluntarily. Ninth, salvation is “actualization of God’s ‘initial aim.’” Tenth, it is too difficult to underand.

With regard to theodicy, Olson argued, process theology’s solution, that because God is not omnipotent and human beings have free will, God is not responsible for evil, cannot explain real evil. This kind of God is “enough to be admirable but not worshipful.” Olson suggested not metaphysically limited God but Moltmann’s self-limiting God and recommended Greg Boyd as an open theist.

Philip Clayton responed to Olson’s writing.[2] Instead of criticizing Olson’s description of process theology, Clayton pointed out his dualistic position or “in and out” attitude, “Christian or process.” As Clayton described, there are two types of process theology, i.e., “pure” (orthodox) versions and “impure” (neo-orthodox) verions. Among Olson’s list, Clatyon would accept some positions, because he is “impure” process theologian. Inter alia, self-limiting God is Clayton’s main topic. Olson needs to know multilayered verisons of process theology. He would need an umbrella of relational theology as a “continuum” between open theism and process theology. ‘Drawing a line in the sand’ to keep one’s own position, as Clayton maintained, blocks dialogue.

Rather Clayton actively suggests that “[D]raw on every resource you can find that helps show how Jesus’ message is relevant to today’s world. If a philosophy or theology helps you to live authentically as a Jesus follower, explore it. Let no authority figure tell you what may or may not count as a redemptive analogy.” Following Peter Heltzel’s prophetic spirit, Clayton suggests that “let’s do theology in the city streets… like jazz improvisation,” having open-ended communicative attitude. In both conservative and progressive, to draw lines in order to have pure position could make them lonely islands which cannot communicate each other. If so, what would it be good? We need open-ended dialogue.

To paraphrase an expression of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream,” open theism’s destiny is tied up with process theology’s destiny, so that they must “work together.” This is why I hope he changes the title as “Why I talk with process theology, although I am not a process theologian.” If so, we may joyfully join in his discussion.

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