Posts Tagged ‘Philip Clayton’

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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“This theory of divine action assumes an infinite divine-human asymmetry. God preexisted the universe and initiated the processes and the specific conditions that produced all living things, including human beings. God also precedes every instance of divine interaction with each human being and, one can assume, apprehends much more in the interaction than human agents so. God is always luring, and humans are always responding, although the responses may not be conscious.” (Philip Clayton and Steven Knapp, “The Predicament of Belief,” 63).

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Philip Clayton publicly intives Dan Dennett to a debate in Claremont, when Dennett comes to one of the Claremont Colleges on Feb. 16, 2010.

I think it will be an exciting moment or event if Dennett accepts it, because there was a story.

Dennett’s agreement: “We are very excited to announce that Daniel Dennett, leading philosopher among the “New Atheists,” has just agreed to debate Claremont philosopher and theologian Philip Clayton this coming Tuesday, February 16, from 2-3pm in CGU’s Albrecht auditorium. Since Dennett rarely (if ever) talks with real theologians, this should be a memorable, dramatic, first-of-its kind event. Please plan to come for the fireworks, tell everyone you know, and bring as many friends and grandparents as you can.”

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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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In conversation with Clayton, Nic Paton asks, what is primary between matter and consciousness? According to Clayton, Neo Darwinians assert that “all is matter. And everything arose out of matter.” Clayton resists the view, because he believes that God creates the world, God preexists before finite world, and God is spirit and God could exist without the world. This view says that “spirit precedes matter.” However, Clayton asks, “Is that really final result?” He puts an approximate question: “In this process of evolution, does a creation emerge, which genuinely, truly can encounter God in the midst of this world?” That is, how can we see God’s working in this evolution?

Relating to this question, one can ask the following question: If we cannot deny the process of evolution, that is, if we accept both creation and evolution, then, what did God create for the first time? This could suggest a way to dissolve a tension between creation and evolution.

There are big controversies between creationism and evolution. In fact, most Christians do not concern evolution, since the Bible describes the process of creation of the world and if evolution is proper, they become descendents of animals, especially chimpanzee. However, we cannot simply consider the origin of the world as God’s one time creation, because of humans’ intimate similarity to other animals or improper inference of the age of the universe (6,000 or 10,000 years old) from the perspective of creation.
If so, we have to think of together, creation and evolution and two perspectives need to open and to have real dialogue with each other. However, there are so many question when we think together: how they are connected; If there was big bang 13.7 billion years ago, what did God do before big bang; if there was the Earth 4.5 billion years ago, what did God do between big bang and beginning of the earth; how could human beings exist in the world 100,000 years ago; how could human beings think about God; Who had first thought about God; Are human beings the end of evolution; If natural world seems to proceed after big bang in natural system, do we have to say that God created the world; What did God create? What is the relation between God’s creation and evolution; What has this God to do with Christianity?

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If you want to see Clayton’s response, click here.

I have just read Dr. Clayton’s article which he presented at the Darwin festival and Dennett’s protocol about the conference which he posted at the Dawkins’ website. Three things are my responses.

First, theology in the midst of science must answer to this question by Dan Dennett: “What questions does theology ask or answer that aren’t already being dealt with by science or secular philosophy?” This question makes me embarrassed, so I have to find some appropriate answers.

Second, after 2009 Darwin festival, Dan Dennett sent an email about the festival to Richard Dawkins and mentioned about Philip Clayton: “Clayton astonished me by listing God’s attributes: according to his handsomely naturalistic theology, God is not omnipotent, not even supernatural, and . . . . in short Clayton is an atheist who won’t admit it.”

Dennett’s response about Clayton was very naïve and dualistic, since his mention and judgment that ‘Clayton is an atheist,’ because Clayton criticized attributes of God in traditional theology, must be ironically based on the concept of God in classical theism which Clayton have been criticizing. Dennett committed the Straw Man fallacy which Clayton pointed out in his article, since when he defined Clayton’s concept of God, he used the concept of the classical theism which Clayton criticized. If we criticize traditional concepts of God, do we become atheist? What a simple dualism! I assume that he knows no other concepts of God than traditional concepts of God. It is the very point that Clayton criticizes and urges us to have multi-disciplinary in order to better understand the world including human beings and other beings in his article.
Nevertheless, Dennett’s fallacy paradoxically gives me an idea that we have to suggest any other persuasive and clearer explanation about concept of God than concept of God of classical theism and the one of atheist.

Third, Dennett’s attitude of public debate is not proper. Clayton already mentioned: “it’s the theologian who lays out nuanced philosophical questions and calls to open dialogue, and it seems to be the philosopher who declines the invitation, turning to rhetoric instead.” Do scientists have any kind of pride and superiority over theology? Who gave this authority to them?

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