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Anthropic Cosmology and Divine Persuasive Power

By Barry L. Whitney

For the past few decades, there has been much controversy about the Whiteheadian-Hartshornean interpretation(s) of divine power. Central to process theism is the startling claim that God cannot coerce, that God cannot unilaterally determine the acts and decisions of any genuinely free creature. The process God affects the world’s creatures solely and necessarily persuasively. It is by this kind of power that God created the universe and interacts with all levels of creatures within the universe, from microscopic sub-atomic particles to complex, conscious human beings. Critics have dismissed this understanding of divine power as “unworthy of worship,” since a persuasive God supposedly is “too weak” and “too limited” to have created the universe in the first place, to control or significantly influence on-going events in the world, and to guarantee an eschatological fulfilment.

Such criticisms of process theism, first proposed decades ago by Stephen Ely,[2] have been repeated over and over in various publications, despite impressive counter-arguments by Hartshorne and, more recently, David Griffin.[3] Hartshorne has proposed various reasons why God cannot coerce and why persuasive power is a far more appropriate and greater power than brute, unilateral coercive force. He has insisted that “no worse falsehood has ever been perpetuated than the traditional concept of omnipotence. It is a piece of unconscious blasphemy, condemning God to a dead world, probably not distinguishable from no world at all” (OOTM 18).[4] The traditional understanding of divine power, he writes, has been “so fearfuly misdefined” and has so “catastrophically misled so many thinkers” that the word is now virtually meaningless and ought to be dropped from theological discourse (OOTM 26). Classical theists “had a confused idea, really a self-contradictory one ... of the meaning of the term ‘God’” and of what it means, as such, to be a creature. If God had a monopoly of decision-making power, this would threaten the very reality of creatures (NLPE 202).[5] “To be is to create” (CSPM 1);[6] to exist implies that the creature has some autonomy, some indeterminancy, some creativity.

A new type of argument, however, against the process understanding of divine power has been proposed recently by Michael Corey in God and the New Cosmology,[7] the first of his trilogy of books on religion and science.[8] Corey argues not from the usual theological considerations against the process view of God as a persuasive power, but from scientific evidence. He offers an impressive defence of the anthropic argument as the basis for what seems to me one of the strongest arguments in support of theistic belief, an updated version of the cosmological and teleological proofs. Corey’s conclusion, however, is questionable: he contends that, “although process philosophy was originally conceived by mathematical physicist-turned-philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, as a metaphysical system that was supposed to be consistent with both quantum physics and relativity theory” (GNC 250), the irony is that “all the evidence from modern physics strongly disconfirms the process position with respect to cosmogenesis” (GNC 256). This anthropic evidence, Corey contends, discredits the “radically limited” process God. This challenge to process theism demands a public response, since Corey’s theistic view is representative of the classical view which has been appropriated by many contemporary scientists. There remains much work to be done, obviously, not only to render process theism more palatable to classical theists but to clarify how the process vision of God is consistent with contemporary science. More specifically, process theists must explain—more explicitly that we have to date—what it means to define God’s power as solely and necessarily persuasive. I shall use this opportunity, accordingly, to respond to Corey and suggest that his scientifically-based arguments are no more convincing than past theologically-based arguments against process theism. Moreover, contra Corey’s classical theistic view of God as coercive power, I shall outline several arguments which clarify process theism’s understanding of divine persuasive power. I shall argue also that this view of divine persuasive power—contra Corey—is not contradictory to, but consistent with, the anthropic evidence.  

The Anthropic Argument

As is well-known, Brandon Carter[9] devised what is now commonly referred to as the “anthropic principle,” a multi-faceted argument for a contrived universe, a universe which had as its goal from the very beginning the creation of biological life or, in the stronger version (“Strong Anthropic Principle”), the creation of human life.[10] This argument was advanced by the seminal work of John Barrow and Frank Tipler who carefully and in great detail laid out the scientific evidence for the anthropic principle. Corey’s analysis summarizes their work and the work of others like physicist Paul Davies[11] and philosopher John Leslie.[12]  Corey, moreover, extends their work to argue that the anthropic evidence leads strongly to the conclusion that a deistic God has unilaterally (coercively) contrived the universe for the purposes of the creation of human beings. Corey does admit that all that can be established with relative certainty is that the biocentric universe was contrived from the beginning, but argues also that one can make a strong case for an anthropic universe as contrived by divine coercive power (see GNC chapter 9).  

The anthropic argument, in brief, is based on the fact that there is an inconceivable number of apparent coincidences which together were necessary for significant life to have evolved. Upon reflection, however, such coincidences should not be seen as coincidences at all, since they are better explained as the result of contrivance by “an intelligent coordinator,” not as the product of mere chance. Among an infinite field of potentiality, the occurrence even of one of these apparent anthropic coincidences would have been almost infinitely unlikely. Yet when the intricate degree of cooperation displayed by all of the apparent coincidences is taken into account, as well as the intolerance to change of any of them by the smallest of variables, the conclusion that the universe is contrived seems unavoidable. This contrived creation, apparently, was coercively imposed on the chaos by a unilateral divine act which determined the entire process toward the evolution of significant biological and anthropic life. For Corey and others, this conclusion best explains the incredible number of apparent coincidences and their cooperative interrelationships. It is consistent also with the omnipotent God of traditional western theism who has “unilaterally determined all of the initial conditions that ... [were] necessary for the eventual rise of human life” (GNC 224).

The apparent coincidences are numerous and impressive. Among them is the fact that there is a life-permitting and inexplicable asymmetry between matter and anti-matter. Another is the fact that the overall amount of matter in the universe is precisely that which is necessary for life: had there been any more or any less matter, anthropic life would not have been possible. Further, given the infinite range of possible velocities, the Big Bang exploded at precisely the right velocity to permit the evolution of significant life. The universe, furthermore, is precisely as big and as old for intelligent life to have evolved as it has: the universe could not be less sparse nor could life have evolved more quickly than it has. The temperature of nuclear stability, to cite another apparent coincidence, insures the evolution of significant life, as does the development of deuterium, neutrinos, the ratio of protons to electrons and their respective electrical charges, and so on (see Corey, GNC passim). Among the most remarkable “coincidences” are the values of the basic physical constants which ultimately determine the gross properties of the entire macro-world. Had the gravitational constant, for example, differed by one part in 10x50, the universe would have been structured entirely differently; the same applies to electromagnetic forces and to the strong and weak nuclear forces. Corey notes that “each of these invariant physical constants has to be perfectly calibrated, both individually and with respect to one another, for our present universe to have been able to evolve” (GNC 69), and that this is even more remarkable when we consider that there is an incomprehensible cooperation in the specific values of these constants. Paul Davies concludes: “It is clear that for nature to produce a cosmos even remotely resembling our own, many apparently unconnected branches of physics have to cooperate to a remarkable degree” (AU 111).[13]

These and many other apparent coincidences are discussed in various recent scientific and philosophical publications, most of which Corey has summarized and defended against those  who dispute their use in support of the anthropic argument. The anthropic evidence indicates to Corey and others that the universe has been contrived by God and in such a way that implies “no genuine  contingency would have ever really existed in the universe, because all outcomes would have been both foreseen and predetermined by God beforehand” (GNC 225). To safeguard human freedom, however, Corey suggests a weaker view of cosmic necessity: the evolutionary trajectory intended by God was necessary only in fact, not logically (inevitably) necessary per se, a view similar to John Hick’s regarding universal salvation: if the salvation of all is not logically necessary, but only necessary in fact, human freedom can be preserved (see GNC 242, note 4). Corey’s view is that God imposed a self-limitation on divine power after human life evolved, in order to permit genuine freedom among human beings.                 

In sum: there is in the anthropic evidence a strong, albeit inconclusive, cumulative case for a divine creator. Corey concludes that the anthropic evidence leads to the classical theistic view of divine coercive imposition and unilateral control. By contrast, he insists, the process God’s supposed limitation to persuasive power is woefully inadequate: the process God “would be incapable of contriving an exclusively anthropic universe from the very beginning” (GNC 227); the “anthropic world view .... directly contradicts the process position” of a persuasive God (GNC 225); the “radically limited [persuasive] deity” of process theism (GNC 227) is a “struggling, limited Creator,” (GNC 224) for whom the coercive contrivance evidenced by the anthropic argument is and was not possible. The anthropic argument “cast[s] a serious shadow on the process deity” (GNC 250). The process God would not have been able to coerce unilaterally the initial conditions exhibited by the Big Bang itself nor would we “expect to find the Big Bang to be so remarkably fine-tuned in all of its many initial conditions, each of which was essential to the later evolution of life” (GNC 250).  

II  Modern Cosmology and the Adequacy of the Process God

I do not propose here to assess or challenge various aspects of the anthropic evidence but, rather, to focus on Corey’s contention that this anthropic universe is “strong evidence” against the process God. I am granting, without argument, that the anthropic evidence demonstrates important yet inconclusive evidence for the existence of cosmic contrivance. I find problematic, however, Corey’s use of the anthropic evidence to affirm classical theism’s God of unilateral coercive power. I think it can be shown that the anthropic evidence is consistent with the persuasive God of process thought, properly understood. My argument is based on Hartshorne’s view of divine power, and while I make explicit use of Whitehead’s texts as well, Whitehead’s understanding of the relationship between God and the universe differs somewhat from Hartshorne’s. My suggestion is to interpret Whitehead’s view in a Hartshornean manner, although I think Whitehead’s view could be defended in a more orthodox Whiteheadian manner.    

The structure of my argument is as follows: it needs to be pointed out that (a) Corey’s use of the term “limited” with respect to the power of the process God is a condescending term which misunderstands the infinite range of power exercised by the process God. Corey’s view is yet another example of how classical theists persist in holding the highly dubious assumption that their concept of a God with “unlimited” power is coherent and meaningful; I argue also that (b) the concept of God as unlimited in power, albeit a power which has been self-limited with the advent of anthropic life, has led to the classical theist’s infamous problem of evil, an issue which process theism has gone far to resolve; I argue that (c) the classical theists’ conception of God as creator ex nihilo is as contentious and inadequate as the closely related concept of God as unlimited, coercive power. Corey, moreover, misinterprets the “panentheistic” alternative of process theism as a dualism wherein the process God supposedly is confronted by an “other” which exists independently of God; and, finally, (d) having dealt with these preliminary issues and misinterpretations of the process view, I outline several arguments in favor of the concept of divine persuasive power, arguments which imply—among other things—that the power of God is consistent with the anthropic evidence. My purpose, I should point out, is not to argue that the understanding of divine power should be based strictly on scientific evidence (i.e., the anthropic evidence); it is, rather, to clarify the process view of divine power, a clarification which shows that contemporary scientific data is not inconsistent with divine persuasive power, properly understood.

But first, I must acknowledge that the process understanding of divine creation has not been explained adequately or defended fully to date. The process view, in fact, has been clouded by its major proponent: Hartshorne’s references to God’s creative act as “imposed,” for example, is a rhetoric which implies the very sort of coerciveness that Corey and much of classical theism assumes the classical God possesses. Despite Hartshorne’s defense of the Whiteheadian view of divine power as operating solely and necessarily  persuasively, the defence of this view requires far more careful attention, since not only has Hartshorne unintentionally described God’s persuasive imposition of natural laws in language which implies coerciveness, but he has referred to God’s persuasive lure with respect to the ensuing, endless concrescences/becomings of creatures in language which likewise implies coerciveness.

With respect to the imposition of natural laws, Hartshorne argues, for example, that “God decides upon the basic outlines of creaturely actions, the guaranteed limits within which freedom is to operate” (NLPE 208); “A divine prehension can use its freedom to create, and for a suitable period maintain, a particular world order; this selection then becomes a ‘lure,’ an irresistible datum, for all ordinary acts of synthesis” (WP 164);[14] “Only God can decide natural or cosmic laws” (NLPE 209); “a multitude of agents could not select a common world and must indeed simply nullify one another’s efforts (PSG 273);[15] indeed, “without God .... individuals could not form even a disorderly world, but only a meaningless, unthinkable chaos in which there would be neither nay definite good nor definite evil. This is the same as no world. With God there is an order, a world in which good and evil can occur” (NLPE 210).

While, according to Hartshorne, it is the imposition of natural laws which renders life and freedom possible, rather than negating it,[16] his references to God’s persuasive interaction with the creatures made possible by God’s imposition of the natural laws imply—unintentionlly—  a coercive power. He admits, for example, that among the lowest levels of life, those lacking human mental sophistication, there is little ability “except to act in accordance” with the divine will (RPP 258).[17] In humans, he says, our awareness of the lure “need not be conscious in the sense of being introspectively evident” (RPP 257); in this sense, the divine lure is “irresistible” (WP 164) and “cannot simply be disregarded” (RPP 258); “God moulds us, by presenting at each moment a partly new ideal or order of preference which our unself-conscious awareness takes as object, and thus renders influential upon our entire activity” (DR 142);[18] God inspires us with such an “appeal, attractiveness, or ‘charm’” (RPP 258) such that we cannot “even wish not to respond”; “we cannot choose but hear” (RPP 260). Indeed, “in the depths of consciousness, we feel and accept the divine ordering” (NLPE 211).

Elsewhere,[19] I have argued that these references are ambiguous, despite Hartshorne’s clear intention  not to imply divine coercion but, rather, divine persuasive action. While Corey does not seem aware of this issue, it seems to me that Hartshorne’s language is—unintentionally—consistent with Corey’s classical theistic view of divine coercive power. Not only do we feel the divine lure, for example, but we also accept it irresistibly and unconsciously. This impies unilateral coerciveness, as do the other references cited above.

There is, nonetheless, a meaningful way to safeguard Hartshorne’s view of divine causal agency as persuasive (and, by implication, Whitehead’s view), with respect to the initial ordering of the chaos and with respect to the subsequent luring of every creature’s creative acts of becoming within the natural laws by which God has structured the universe. More specifically, I wish to suggest how we can resolve the misunderstandings about Hartshorne’s language concerning divine persuasion and, concurrently, refute Corey’s (and other classical theists’) negative assessment of the process God as “weak,” “limited” and, as such, “unworthy” of worship and “inconsistent” with the anthropic evidence. Hartshorne’s God, in my view, is anything but weak, and my interpretation of Whitehead in Hartshornean terms supports a similar conclusion with respect to Whitehead’s God.

While previously I have expressed concerns about the lack of explicit justification about the manner in which Hartshorne and other process theists have defended the understanding of God as solely persuasive in power, I did and continue to share Hartshorne’s view that the Whiteheadian insight of God as a persuasive power is one of the most important insights in western monotheistic history. It implies that the process God acts solely and necessarily persuasively in every act, including the creation of the universe  some twelve to fifteen billions years ago, such that even the divine “imposition” of the initial cosmic variables is a persuasive act. I would argue, however, that this divine imposition of limits is largely indistinguishable from coercion and, indeed, is all-but-coercive while remaining persuasive in principle and, I will contend, in fact (see below).

Hartshorne’s rhetoric of the divine “imposition” of laws and of “irresistible” divine lures which are “unconsciously” prehended, etc., certainly can be misinterpreted as describing unilateral coercive acts. His most recent response, moreover, has not resolved this issue. He has continued to state only that by divine “imposition” he means “that divine decisions are involved and that these decisions work by persuasion” (PCH 646).[20] And in reference to the divine lure being coercively “irresistible,” his response is that “this means only that no creature can threaten the integrity of the world order so far as aesthetically necessary for there to be a world .... Even God could not experience or prehend unmitigated chaos; but the divine power to prevent its occurrence is absolute. Low grade entities have extremely slight creativity and with many of a king, individual eccentricities cancel out statistically” (PCH 646).

It is obvious that much more is required to justify Hartshorne’s understanding of God’s lure as solely persuasive. The basic point, I suggest, is that we acknowledge the vast—indeed, infinite— range of persuasive power exerted by God, some of which—the initial imposition of laws and the divine causation of the lowest life forms—is coercive in all but name, yet distinguishable from classical theism’s unilateral coercive power for reasons of metaphysical necessity and for theoretical consistency in the metaphysical system. Moreover, I hold with Hartshorne that classical theism’s concept of God as a coercive, unilateral power, is a problematic and meaningless concept. Given an infinite range of persuasive power, God is never unilaterally coercive, even when the level of indeterminancy in creatures is almost negligible to the point of being all-but-non-existent, at least to human understanding. The process view of divine power, then, has the advantage not only of consistency but provides a coherent alternative to the meaningless concept of divine power in classical theism, the latter leading to major and long-standing theological controversies—the theodicy issue and its free will defense, in particular, as well as its problematic view of creation ex nihilo.

(a) Is the Process God “Limited?” Corey has fallen into the all-too-common classical theists’ rhetoric of referring to the process God as too “limited,” “weak” and “inadequate” to be the Referent of religious devotion. And such a God is hardly the coercive power suggested by the anthropic argument. Hartshorne, of course, has argued that it is illicit to condemn the process God in this way since to do so implies that the more traditional concept of God as “unlimited” in power is a meaningful and coherent concept. Hartshorne has insisted, convincingly to many of us, that the traditional concept does not have the coherence necessary to render it meaningful. An “omnipotent” God would have “all” the “power,” as the word literally implies, and as the vast majority of classical Christian theologians have assumed. Yet, a God who unilaterally coerces its will on creation in fact acts on nothing; if all the power literally is contained in God, there is nothing over which to exert this power. This is not power at all but pure monism in which there is nothing but God. Dismissing the process God as “limited” and “weak” because its God does not possess this meaningless concept of unlimited power is cavalier, an assumption which lacks convincing argumentation, and which betrays a misunderstanding both of process theism and of the implications of the classical theist’s alternative view of God. As Whitehead argued, the traditional attribution of omnipotence to God is a “metaphysical compliment” (SMW 258),[21] one which attributes to God a kind of power which is at best controversial and at worst, meaningless. Hartshorne rightly has argued that omnipotence is the “greatest theological mistake,” and that persuasive power is a far higher order of power than brute coercive force.      

(b) Unilateral Divine Creation and Theodicy. Directly implicit in the classical theist’s understanding of divine omnipotence is the problem of evil, the problem of reconciling the classical view of God with the world’s evils. This is not the place to pursue the complexities of the theodicy issue, except to note how this problem persists when God is understood as having created the universe ex nihilo and, as such, as having the power to contrive events coercively and unilaterally. The anthropic evidence leads Corey and other classical theists to propose that God acted coercively in establishing the cosmic variables which determined the evolutionary advance toward the creation of significant anthropic life. With the evolution of human life, God then self-limited the divine power to permit human freedom—a view which has become increasingly popular during the past 150 years. Before then, classical theism generally understood divine power as omnipotent in the sense either as having unilaterally caused all goods and evils (Augustine, Luther, Calvin) or as merely permitting evils (Aquinas and Thomism)—although the distinction perhaps is false, since permission from a God with unlimited unilateral power is arguably equivalent to coercive causation. Luther saw this, as did Calvin. The latter writes: “They babble and talk absurdly who, in place of God’s Providence, substitute bare permission— as if God sat in a watchtower awaiting chance events, and his judgement thus depended on human will.”[22]

From the perspective of process theists, the theodicy problem remains problematic  whether God directly causes or merely permits evil. Corey and other traditional theists continue to be confronted with the following questions, none of which are issues for process theists: Why did God need a world in the first place and what real value does the world contribute to God, defined as unilateral power, impassible and immutable perfection? Why did God create this particular universe—with its suffering and evil—among an infinite number of possible worlds? Why did God choose, at a particular point in cosmic evolution, to limit the divine power? Why does God not use the omnipotent power available to intervene and prevent the worst moral and physical evils, in particular the apparently gratuitous physical evils where human freedom is not involved and which do not seem to lead to greater goods which could not otherwise have been achieved?

In short, classical theism’s view of divine unilateral, coercive power, used either to determine all events or as power held in reserve, renders the theodicy issue one of most serious obstacles to belief in God and threatens any genuine human freedom and moral responsibility. In contrast, the persuasive process God cannot unilaterally control or prevent the evil occasioned by the free choices of the highest life forms, human beings—i.e., the moral evils which account for the vast majority of suffering in the world—or the natural evils which arise from the genuine indeterminancy—no matter how negligible—in lower levels. But this is not to presume the process God is weak. God exerts a powerful persuasive influence, more powerful than has been emphasized in the process literature or appreciated by critics of process theism, an influence which all-but-controls lower levels of being and which exerts immense causal power over higher life forms, including human beings. This persuasive God likely has kept the world from far greater evils and misery. In contrast to the classical God of unilateral coercive power, the process God is not at fault for not eliminating the worst of evils, since this kind of divine causal action is meaningless. As creatures evolve to higher life forms, they are increasingly capable of greater moral goods, but also greater evils, the latter occurring when the divine lure is confronted by human freedom which chooses the lesser goods or evils.  God’s persuasive lure provides the opportunity for appropriate aesthetic value for each entity at each stage in its becoming. I have argued elsewhere that this alone justifies our existence and renders it consistent with a good and powerful God.[23] Such justification is not to be found in a divine power which controls events unilaterally (coercively), which hands out goods and evils in this world and the next, and which permits the most ghastly of evils, for reasons supposedly understood only by God.

The classical theist’s problem of evil has moved from discussions of “the logical problem of evil” to “the evidential problem of evil.”[24] The latter challenges belief in the classical God  not as logically incoherent but as evidentially inconsistent with those evils which seem to be purely gratuitous. There appears to be no greater good that is obtained by God’s permission of such evils, no greater good which could not have been achieved without the evil. Moreover, the classical theist’s concept of God as self-limited is confronted with such issues as to why the coercive power God holds in reserve is not used at various times to eradicate the worst of evils. A trifling chemical chance would have prevented countless devastating famines and floods and fires, or would have saved the twenty to forty million lives lost in the world-wide influenza epidemic in 1918, or the several million lives lost in the Nazi Holocaust, or disabled the viruses and diseases which have claimed countless millions of human lives, and etc. Yet God has not used the unilateral power supposedly held in reserve to prevent such evils. It is incumbent on traditional theists to offer convincing reasons why God has not intervened.

The implication of Corey’s classical theistic interpretation of God’s power is that this universe, with its goods and evils, is the universe God decided unilaterally to create and, as such, is “the best of all possible universes” (GNC 196-199). Corey concedes that this is at least one of the best of all possible worlds, though possibly the only one that could support anthropic life. This is not much of a concession, since Corey’s classical God remains responsible for every instance of physical and moral evil; i.e., because God has contrived the universe into its specific structure and laws. With the entry of anthropic life, Corey holds, God supposedly has permitted great moral evils, despite having the power to disallow at least the worst of them. But, then, this God of unilateral power appears less than omnibenevolent. Corey’s classical God supposedly has the ability to prevent each and every evil, including those which seem to us as apparently gratuitous evils, but has not done so. The divine self-limitation of power supposedly insures that creatures have the ability to respond freely and, in human beings, to forge out moral qualities. Here, Corey cites approvingly John Hick’s “soul-making” theodicy, but this does not resolve the traditional problem of evil. From the perspective of process thinkers and others, if God has the power to prevent the worst evils and the apparently gratuitous moral and natural evils, the theodicy question remains: “Why has God not done so?”

This issue is not discussed by Corey but the common answer is that evils can be understood as caused or permitted by God for morally sufficient and justifiable reasons: if God prevented what we regard as the worst evils, this supposedly would prevent the greater goods which would not have been possible without the evil (i.e., those which result from the divine acts of punishments, tests of faith, warnings, discipline, and so on, all of which in fact are goods, instrumental evils). The problem of evil, then, is resolved by classical theism by denying the genuineness of evil. Evils are instruments toward good ends, caused or permitted by God specifically for this purpose. But surely it is counter-intuitive to regard evils and the suffering they bring as goods in disguise. This solution, based on the concept of God as a unilateral coercive power, demands justification, if such is possible.

This classical solution, moreover, is premised on religious beliefs and doctrines, as Hick himself freely concedes. It functions as a theodicy, accordingly, only for those who have a prior committment to those doctrines of faith (i.e., belief in God, belief that God has all the power and that God uses that power justifiably, that evils serve divine purposes which we cannot comprehend, etc.). Classical theodicy does little to respond to the atheological sceptics who do not hold prior commitment to such beliefs. Yet these sceptics have pressed the issue increasingly over the past 35 years, focusing on the problem of gratuitous evil and claiming classical theists cannot answer the evidential problem of evil in a meaningful way, other than presuming prior religious beliefs.

William Rowe’s example of the fawn burned in a forest fire, suffering a slow, painful death describes an evils which appears wholly gratuitous. There seems to be no good reason why God could not have eliminated the fawn’s suffering. Nor does there seem to be any greater good which could otherwise not be attainted as the reason for God’s permission of this suffering. Furhter, as Rowe points out, if all cases of gratuitous evil are considered, not just this one suffering fawn, the evidence against the existence of the classical God is even stronger. Why has God not prevented such evils? Is it simply a matter of proposing that gratuitous evils are disingenuous, serving some unknown greater good (Hick and other classical theists)? If God intervened to prevent one case of apparently gratuitous evil, would there be any place to stop? Or would God know where to stop? I suspect the latter, Hick the former. But even if God has intervened from time to time, as most classical theists hold (despite Hick’s arguments to the contrary), there remain countless instances of apparently gratuitous evils which seem irreconcilable with the classical God’s reserve of unilateral coercive power, power which could have prevented any and all such evils, including those which do not appear to lead to a good ends otherwise unattainable.   

The issues here are complex, but the conclusion I draw (based on a far more detailed and complex analysis) is that the classical view of unilateral divine creation and the continued exercise of coercive power in fact or held in reserve,  has led to an unforgivable problem of evil, a problem which, from the perspective of process theists, is a “pseudo-problem,” based on an incoherent understanding of divine power and, as such, a failure to acknowledge that there is an innate power in all creatures, the power of creativity which God can influence only persuasively.  

(c) The Mind-Body Analogy. Another common misunderstanding among classical theists, repeated in Corey’s rejection of process theism,[25] is the interpretation of process metaphysics as proposing that God and the “other” (matter/energy, the entire physical universe) has co-existed eternally and independently, such that God was confronted with this independent “other” and limited by it. If such were in fact the case, Corey contends, the process God would have had “no choice but to act in accordance with those causal laws that are an intrinsic feature of the natural realm” (GNC 248). Corey’s alternative classical theistic view is that there was no pre-existent matter to limit God’s unilateral control in the act of creation, since the anthropic evidence shows that God imposed the initial order coercively and ex nihilo.[26]

Corey’s view, which he terms “supernatural naturalism,” posits a God which  possesses absolute power and which created the universe and its naturalistic laws ex nihilo, but then deliberately chose not to act in ways that transcend these limits. This, of course, brings us back to the troublesome theological view espoused by Hick and many other classical theists, that God’s power is capable of unilateral coerciveness but is self-limited in order to permit genuine human freedom and soul-making (GNC 249). But, further, what is also problematic is Corey’s understanding of the alternative process view. He assumes, as do many classical theists, that process thinkers are dualists who hold that God is confronted by an independent “other.” But this is not the process view I hold, nor is it my understanding of the implications of Hartshorne’s view, nor for that matter, of Whitehead’s. I interpret the process view as holding that God is the whole of reality, that God contains the realm of infinite potentiality (a disputed point, perhaps, among process thinkers) as well as the realm of all actuality—the latter (the “other,” the entire physical universe) being but the small part of God’s potential which has been actualized by cooperative action by God and myriads of creatures. The universe need not be understood as external to God nor as independent of God, but rather as an aspect of God. It is, as such, ontologically dependent on God, sine qua non. The common belief among traditional theists—that God is eternal, uncreated and necessary—can be extended in process metaphysics to include the world as an aspect of God. The “dipolar” God of process theism, in other words, is not just an abyss of infinite potentiality, but also exists in a concertized actuality. In this sense, the world and God are co-eternal, but the world is ontologically dependent on God for its being. The world is in God (“panentheism”), while God is all of this actuality and all of potentiality. As such, Hartshorne could claim that “some world must exist, but not necessarily this particular world.” There is an infinite number of worlds that could have evolved freely. This is not, then, the “best of all possible worlds,” even though God has exerted significant persuasive power (see below) to insure a world of significant biological and anthropic life.

The process understanding of God implies that the “other” has some minimal, innate power vis-à-vis God, such that God cannot exert complete unilateral/coercive influence over the “other.” Creation by God ex nihilo, on “the other” hand, implies that God has absolute, unilateral control over the “other” unless God chooses to self-limit the divine power. And, of course, even should the latter occur, the classical God still has the power in reserve to affect whatever changes God wishes without interference. My view is that it is more appropriate to understand the “other” as God, as an aspect of God which, as such, is co-eternal with God, and as that aspect of God’s infinite potentiality (or awareness of potentiality) that has been actualized, concretized. This mind-body analogy for God and the world I take to be literal, and this implies that the “other,” as an aspect of God, has innate power with respect to which God must act solely persuasively. God and the other are really two aspects of one divine reality. God, as the infinite Mind, can interact with the world only persuasively, since that is how minds influence minds. To act coercively, as humans do, God would need a physical body.[27] In this sense, God acts through the world’s creatures, but not coercively. God must influence the minds, the psychic pole of the entities involved to effect the divine causal influence. The world’s creatures are, in fact, psychic realities, groupings of actual entities which have mental and physical poles, or—as Hartshorne prefers to say—abstract and concrete natures. The latter, however, is constituted by social patterns/extentions of the former. Mind is the primary reality, in other words, while physical existence is an abstraction.

Although far more complex than can be outlined and defended here, this view is more meaningful and more coherent than the classical theists’ view of a self-existing God creating the “other” from nothing and, as such, having unilateral coercive power over it. I suggest that  this clarification of the process view disputes Corey’s understanding of the process God as having been confronted by an independent “other” over which the divine persuasive power supposedly had little influence, i.e., not enough to have contrived an anthropic universe. The mind-body analogy suggests otherwise: God has immense influence over the “other” by means of persuasive power, a power which approximates coerciveness in the pre-anthropicstages of the cosmos (see below), while remaining persuasive.

This conception of God and the “other” as one reality, i.e., a mind-body, is not a Spinozist monism in which the “other” is independent or indistinguishable from God and has no power of its own. The “other” in fact has a genuine innate power of indeterminancy, as the human body has with respect to the human mind. Moreover, the extension of this Hartshornean view to Whitehead’s metaphysics seems to me a legitimate and useful extension.  Whitehead’s understanding of the co-dependency of the basic elements in his system—God, eternal objects, actuality entities and creativity—can be understood, I suggest, as closely equivalent to Hartshorne’s mind-body analogy, despite other interpretations of Whitehead which might challenge this proposal. Whitehead’s criterion of coherence states that  

the fundamental ideas, in terms of which the [metaphysical] scheme is developed, presuppose each other so that in isolation they are meaningless. This requirement does not mean that they are definable in terms of each other; it means that what is indefinable in one such notion cannot be abstracted from its relevance to the other notions. It is the ideal of speculative philosophy that its fundamental notions shall not seem capable of abstraction from each other. In other words it is presupposed that no entity can be conceived in complete abstraction from the system of the universe, and that it is the business of speculative philosophy to exhibit this truth. This character is its coherence. (PR 3)[28]  

In brief, “there is no meaning to ‘creativity’ apart from its ‘creatures’ and no meaning to God apart from the ‘creativity’ and the ‘temporal creatures’ and no meaning to the ‘temporal creatures’ apart from ‘creativity’ and ‘God’” (PR 213). A similar passage relating eternal objects to God, temporal actual entities and creativity can be found also in Whitehead’s writings (see PR 257). There is, in sum, no meaning for God without the “other.” God, eternal objects, creativity, and actual entities are one reality. This is the alternative to the solitary classical God who unilaterally created the world ex nihilo. If the “other” is understood as an aspect of God, the physical pole, then the interaction is persuasive, as is the case with the human mind vis-à-vis its body.  

(d) Divine Persuasive Power. On the basis of the discussion thus far, I think it may be clearer how the process God can be understood to influence the world solely and necessarily persuasively and, indeed, (for our present purposes) how this persuasive power is consistent with the divine contrivance which apparently is implied in the anthropic evidence. My interpretation of the process God’s persuasive lure is that this power all-but-determines the actions of low-grade, unconscious actual entities and groupings of such: all-but determine, but not determine all. There is always at least a minimal indeterminacy, even if it is negligible and assumed only to insure consistency in the metaphysical system (see below). Properly understood, the process vision of God’s power avoids many of the problems inherent in classical western theism, problems generated by an incoherent understanding of God as unilaterally omnipotent.[29] In summary fashion, I wish to conclude this essay by outlining the main arguments in support of divine persuasive power, some of which have been noted briefly above.

(i) The classical theistic view that God acts unilaterally and coercively is an incoherent concept which sees God as the source of all power, as both playwrite and sole actor in the cosmic drama, despite long-standing attempts to render this view compatible with creaturely freedom and responsibility. The compatibilist/incompatibilist controversy, of course, continues to be debated, but from the perspective of process theists, it is meaningless to hold that classical theism’s God of coercive/unilateral/absolute power is compatible with free creatures. The traditional view which attributes omnipotent power to God, power which causes all actions and decisions in creatures—or permits such action, since God has self-limited the divine omnipotent power and holds it in reserve— denies the reality of the creature and has led to the unanswerable theodicy challenge: why has this omnipotent God not used unilateral, coercive power to eradicate the worst of evils? The process view of God’s power as solely persuasive resolves this and other long-standing problems, divine omnipotence vis-à-vis human freedom, in particular, and the implications for ethics and theodicy. 

(ii) There is no good reason to think that a God who could act coercively but has self-limited its power is any less incoherent in itself or with respect to theodicy than a God who literally has all the power and who uses that power to determine all worldly events. A God who has self-limited its power would have the power in reserve to eliminate the worst gratuitous evils, but apparently has not done so. As noted, the problem of gratuitous evils has led to the contemporary “evidential problem of evil,” replacing the “logical problem of evil” as the most serious threat to belief in the classical understanding of God. I have attempted to show elsewhere[30] that the “evidential problem of evil” can be resolved by process theism, based on its concept of divine persuasive power and its aesthetic theory. The problem cannot be resolved, however, as long as the traditional view of divine omnipotence is held.

(iii) There would be no point—even if it were possible—for God to determine any creature’s acts and decisions unilaterally, since this would be a meaningless act for a God who seeks interaction with genuinely free creatures, especially at the highest levels, with a view toward aesthetic gain (for the creatures and for God) in this interaction. For process theists, it is aesthetic value which is fundamental: God offers to each creature at each stage in its “creative advance” the potentials which have the most aesthetic value for each and every moment. These values are the aesthetic mean between the extremes of too much intensity and too much triviality, and between too much order and too much chaos.[31]

(iv) The mind-body analogy best describes God’s eternal and interdependent relationship to the “other.” This is a far different analogy than the classical theists’ view of God as a ruling Caesar, as a sovereign power which exerts (or which could exert whenever it wishes) unilateral coercive power over creatures. The mind-body analogy implies a persuasive interaction. This is not to say the participants are of equal power, of course: God is the greatest conceivable power but not to the extent that this power has coercive, unilateral control over creatures. God, as cosmic mind, rather, influences the mental poles of the entities via persuasiveness, not by bodily coercion. Only a physical body can coerce another physical body. Mind can only persuade—not coerce—another mind.[32] For God to achieve the desired aesthetic ends, God must influence creatures persuasively. As noted above, all reality is, in fact, psychic, with bodily structures (extention), secondary to minds. The mind-body dualism of actual entities is such that the mind is basic, with the body merely the abstraction known to sense experience. Bodies are constituted by the complex social patterns formed by myriads of societies and nexus of actual entities.

(v) One fundmaental aspect of process theism which has been overlooked by its critics and not emphasized by its proponents is the infinite range of divine persuasive power.[33] There is no reason to think the divine lure does not have an infinite range of causal effectiveness, from that which is all-but-coercively effective to that which is more evidently persuasive. God, as such, has more than enough power to have contrived an anthropic universe and to have done so  persuasively. Between complete divine influence and no divine influence, there is an infinity of possibilities or levels of influential persuasive power. Hartshorne considers the range of possibilities presented to the creature by God to be infinite (within the confines of the particulars of each situation—as, for example, there is an infinity of numbers between 1 and 2, or between 2 and 3). Likewise, I see no reason to think the range of divine power vis-à-vis creatures/entities  is not infinite, some of which seems all-but-coercive when the response of the entity is all-but-determined by God’s persuasive lure. Whatever creativity or indeterminancy exists at the lowest levels, as such, it is minimal and effectively controlled by God’s initial aim and by God’s causal influence on other entities which likewise exert controlling influence on each other. God’s persuasive lure, at this level, is so effective that Hartshorne referred (unhappily, perhaps) to the laws of nature as being “imposed” and “irresistible,” and so on (see above). He does not mean to imply a unilateral coercive divine action, but a persuasive act which met with minimal resistance. At the more advanced levels of life-forms, the divine lure becomes far less effective, since the powers of self-determinism have become more evolved. Paradoxically, of course, the divine lure is more highly effective at the higher levels when the creature chooses to actualise the possibilities (or, rather, the range of indefinite possibilities) presented by God. These possibilities, according to Hartshorne, are not specific until the creature actualised them, always in a unique way (see note 33).

(vi) The causal effectiveness of the divine lure, I suggest, is contingent on the level of the actual entities, societies, and/or nexus being influenced by God. Further, not only does God exercise an effective persuasive power over the “other,” but there is even more of a persuasive (i.e., all-but-coercive) effect at work when we consider that each entity is influenced also by God’s influence on the entity’s own immediate past states and on other entities in its immediate past. And we must consider the highly influential controlling power of the nexus and societies on the individual constituent entities. Those entities which may stray minutely from the norm of the past, from the nexus and societies, and from the divine lure, in exercising what nominal indeterminancy or creativity may exist (at the level of entities in the initial chaos, in the evolutionary stages up to the level of anthropic life, and in the continuing low-level entities which are by far the majority of entities), would be lured back into the norm not only by the influence of the nexus and society, but also by God, and by the surrounding entities, and by the entities’ own past states which were in concurrence with the lure. There is strong, controlling persuasive power at work here, power which is all-but-coercive, all-but-determining, but which does not determine the “other” completely.

God’s lure, as such, can be understood to have presented various mathematical and logical possibilities for actualization to each entity in the process of creating this universe, and could have done so with little, if any, resistance. This, as such, would be consistent with the anthropic evidence which indicates to Corey that God’s supposedly coercive, unilateral contrivance does not appear to have met with resistance. The process view holds, however, that divine persuasive power is active—at some minimal level—and that the alternative of unilateral coercion is not a coherent or meaningful alternative.

It is relevant also to note that even for the most complex entities, those in the human brain, the powers of self-determinism are surprisingly limited. Freedom (i.e., indeterminacy at the unconscious/pre-conscious lower levels) is limited not just by the causal influence of God’s initial aim (the final cause) as persuasive lure, but by God’s lure on all of the past entities of the regnant nexus, the mind, and also by the causal influence of the entities on one another and of their immediate pasts (for example, our genes, our character, etc., i.e., the efficient causes). All of this does not amount to a great deal of self-determinism or freedom at the human level, and it is consistent with Hartshorne’s view to say that while there is genuine freedom, we are almost completely determined by the past, by God, by our past selves and by other entities in our immediate past.[34] This is not the deistic view Corey supports. The process God continually lures each and every entity to actualise the most appropriate value for its unique circumstance, but the range of freedom in the entity is greatly limited (as there is a limited yet infinite potentiality between the numbers 1 and 2).[35] The free decisions we make even to reject God’s persuasive lure and, hence, lose the higher aesthetic values that were possible, results more from the causal influence of our past selves than our free choice. We act mostly “in character,” although various acts of freedom slowly can forge a “new” character (as Hartshorne often has noted).

(vii) This interpretation of Hartshorne’ view of divine persuasive power can, I think, be extended to Whitehead as well, although a full justification for this Hartshornean interpretation of Whitehead theism cannot be accomplished here in this limited space. Whitehead proposed, against classical western theism, the new paradigm of divine power as solely persuasive. He extended this concept of power to refer not only to God’s interaction with humans but to God’s interaction with all entities, down to the lowest and most primitive levels of entities. The reason he did so was important, since it insured consistency in his metaphysical system. The ability of low-level entities to act with independence against the divine lure is “negligible,” a term Whitehead used several times in this context. He does not attribute more to these entities than as having the primitive roots for mentality and for genuine indeterminacy: “Here we find the patterns of activity studied by the physicists and chemists. Mentality is merely latent in all these occasions as thus studied. In the case of inorganic nature any sporadic flashes are inoperative so far as the powers of discernment are concerned. The lower stages of effective mentality, controlled by the inheritance of physical pattern, involves the faint direction of emphasis by unconscious ideal aim” (MT 167-168);[36] “The subject aim ... is the lure for feeling ... [that] is the germ of mind” (PR 85); “In its lowest form, mental experience is canalized into slavish conformity. It is merely the appetition towards, of from, whatever in fact already is. The slavish thirst in a desert is a mere urge from intolerable dryness. This lowest form of slavish conformity pervades all nature. It is rather a capacity for mentality, than mentality itself. But it is mentality. In this lowly form, it evades no difficulties: it strikes out no new ways: it produces no disturbance of the repetitive character of physical fact” (FR 33-34);[37]“in the temporal world for occasions of relatively slight experient intensity, their decisions of creative emphasis are individually negligible compared to the determined components which they receive and transmit” (PR 47); “...inorganic actual occasions ... are lost in the sense that, so far as our observations go, they are negligible.... [they] are merely what the causal past allows them to be” .... [they] are vehicles for receding, for storing in a napkin, and for restoring without loss or gain” (PR 177).

For Whitehead, the vast, overwhelming majority of human experience are unconscious, and the great majority of actual entities are unconscious, lacking mentality and, as such, exercise little more than negligible indeterminism or creativity. God’s lure, as such, is highly effective, without being completely coercive. Whitehead theorizes that mentality and indeterminancy exist at all levels, no matter how trivial and minimal. For this there is no proof except consistency in the metaphysical system and its basis in human experience and, as I have suggested above, the lack of a meaningful alternative.

In more technical language, Whitehead distinguished four grades of actual entities (PR 177), the first being the occasions in “empty space,“ those in the society of the extensive continuum and electromagnetic societies. These occasions exhibit only social order, influenced by other entities in their immediate world of influence, and “physical purposes” which repeat the past. Their concrescences terminate with the initial integration of physical and conceptual prehensions, and there is no novelty except that which is unexploited and inherent. The second grade of occasions is found in “enduring non-living objects,” electrons for example. These entities are influenced by the first grade occasions, those in the extensive continuum and in the electromagnetic field, and also by the social order among themselves; again, only “physical purposes” are displayed, although the possibility for “propositional feelings” is real, in principle, and likely in fact, since “[w]ithout this possibility, it is difficult to understand how the amazing diversity of inorganic forms, which must have been novel at some time, could arise.”[38] The third grade of entities are those in “enduring living objects,” influenced by the aforementioned lower grades and comprising the myriad of “living bodies” from cells to the complexities of the societies and nexus which constitute the human body. These entities are capable of “propositional prehensions” which go beyond the mere initial integration of physical and conceptual feelings into more complex stages of concrescence to produce “propositional feelings,” terminating in “unconscious purposes” (the integration of propositional and physical prehensions). Here there is the exhibition of novelty in response to the data prehended. And finally, the fourth type of entity is that found in “the life histories of enduring objects with conscious knowledge,” occurring only in “living bodies” complex enough to sustain a central ordering function, a “living person.” These occasions alone are capable of intellectual feelings, consciousness, sense perception, and intuitive judgements. Here, concrescence does not terminate in “unconscious purposes,” but continues on to “conscious intellectual feelings,” terminating in “conscious purposes.” Such occasions are capable of significant novelty in response to the data received (see PR, passim).    


In conclusion, I suggest that the understanding of divine persuasive power, as a power which exerts a causal effectiveness over a wide—virtually infinite—range, avoids the meaningless alternative of an absolute, unilateral divine coercion.  This view not only is the more coherent understanding of divine causal power, but (as concerns our purposes here) is consistent with the anthropic data. The lure operates in a way which is similar to an initial deistic coerciveness, i.e., creating the laws by which the present universe operates, albeit statistical and approximate laws with respect to which actual entities have only nominal creativity. The creation need not be understood as  ex nihilo—a very problematic concept—since nothing in our experience comes from nothing, nor does there seems to be a good reason why God would create ex nihilo and then proceed to control creaturely acts and decisions, etc. Creation of the universe out of the “other” which exists co-eternally with God (and as an aspect of God) may have been an all-but-coercive with respect to such primitive entities, those in a state of chaos or empty space, yet the vast range of divine persuasive influence permits us to regard this action as persuasive even when it is all-but coercive in effectiveness. There is no need, as such, to propose that God decided (and presumably violated the divine immutability, etc.) at a particular time to limit the divine power and then resolved to resist using the power held in reserve to eradicate even the most horrendous of gratuitous evils.

Corey and other classical theists do not seem to have considered the vast, infinite range of persuasive power available to the process God. As such, Corey’s argument—that only the “deistic-type God who created and designed the Big Bang perfectly from the beginning” could have set up the anthropic conditions—is hardly a valid critique of process theism. The process God, according to Corey, “had to resort to persuading these initial actualities to do his creative bidding at various intervals along the way” (GNC 253), and without coercive power, the process God is limited. Here, Corey seems to have anticipated part of my response: if, he claims, the process God had been able to persuasively influence the initial conditions in such a way as to appear similar to a deistic coerciveness, this would be a coercive deism which “contradict the very essence of the process God” (GNC 254). But we are not faced with this all-or-nothing, this either-or, persuasion or coercion option. I have suggested that the essence of the persuasive power of the process God is an infinite range of persuasive power. And, as Hartshorne has shown, it is persuasive power, rather than classical theism’s unilateral coercive power, which is the more meaningful and coherent conception of divine causation.

Lewis Ford has referred to divine power as “indirectly coercive” yet “directly persuasive”;[39] David Griffin proposed that there is “an intertwining of elements of coercion and pure persuasion on the continuum of the forms of persuasion,” in contrast to “pure persuasion”;[40] Daniel Day Williams suggested that “there are large coercive elements in the governance of the world” for Hartshorne’s God,[41] while Norman Pittenger noted that the process God of Whitehead and Hartshorne acts “primarily persuasively, and ... coercively in a secondary way.”[42] Gerald Janzen likewise suggested that the “effort to conceive of God’s activity solely in terms of persuasion” is misconceived; it is understood better “in terms both of efficacy and of finality, of coercion and of persuasion.”[43] None of these suggestions has been developed in sufficient detail, although Griffin’s account is the most detailed. I submit the present essay as further clarification of the understanding of the process God as acting solely persuasively, based on an appreciation of the infinite range of persuasive effectiveness available to God, such that what may seem to be coercive acts by God are, in fact, persuasive lures, despite being so highly effective that there is little more than negligible or theoretical response in the subjects being persuaded by God. Much more needs to be said to explicate this view, but my time is up.[44]  


 [1] Barry L. Whitney is Professor of Philosophy of Religion at the University of Windsor, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He is the editor of the academic journal, Process Studies, which dedicated Volume 25 (1996) to Charles Hartshorne, on the occasion of his 100th birthday. Dr. Whitney’s publications focus on the problem of evil. Among his publications is Theodicy: An Annotated Bibliography on the Problem of Evil (Philosophy Documentation Center, 1998).

[2] Stephen Ely, The Religious Availability of Whitehead’s God (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1942).

[3] David Ray Griffin, Evil Revisited: Responses and Reconsiderations (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991).

[4] OOTM: Charles Hartshorne, Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1984).

[5]  NLPE: Charles Hartshorne, “A New Look at the Problem of Evil,” Current Philosophical Issues: Essays in Honor of Curt John Ducassé, edited by F.C. Dommeyer (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, (1966), 201-212.

[6] CSPM: Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1970).

[7] GNC: Michael Corey, God and the New Cosmology: The Anthropic Design Argument (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1993).      

[8] Book Two in the series is Back to Darwin: The Scientific Case for Deistic Evolution (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994); Book Three is The Natural History of Creation: Biblical Evolutionism and the Return of Natural Theology (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1995).

[9] “Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology,” Confrontations of Cosmological Theories With Observations, edited by M.S. Longair (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1974).

[10] See John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 19860. They formulated the “Weak Anthropic Principle”: “The observed values of all physical and cosmological quantities are not equally probable but they take on values restricted by the requirement that there exist sites where carbon-based life can evolve and by the requirement that the universe be old enough for it to have already done so” (ACP 16). Carter devised the “Strong Anthropic Principle,” formulated later by Barrow and Tipler as follows: “The universe must have those properties which allow life to develop within it at some stage in its history” (ACP 21). John Wheeler’s “Participatory Anthropic Principle” is yet another version: “Observers are necessary to bring the universe into being” (ACP 22). The “Final Anthropic Principle,” formulated by Barrow and Tipler, is as follows: “Intelligent information-processing must come into existence in the universe, and, once it comes into existence, it will never die out” (CAP 23).

[11] God and the New Physics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), The Accidental Universe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982), The Cosmic Blueprint (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), Superforce (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), The Mind of God (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), etc.

[12] Value and Existence (Oxford: Blackwell, 1979), Universes (New York: Routledge, 1989), Physical Cosmology and Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1990), “Anthropic Principle, World Ensemble, Design,” American Philosophical Quarterly 19 (1982), etc.

[13] Paul Davis, The Accidental Universe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

[14] WP: Charles Hartshorne, Whitehead’s Philosophy: Selected Essays, 1935-1970  (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1972).

[15] PSG: Charles Hartshorne and William Reese, Philosophers Speak of God (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1953).

[16] Charles Hartshorne, “Response to Barry Whitney,” Hartshorne, Process Philosophy and Theology, edited by Robert Kane and Stephen Philips (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989), 184-185.

[17] RPP: Charles Hartshorne, “Religion in Process Philosophy,” Religion in Philosophical and Cultural Perspective, edited by F.C. Feaver and William Horosz (Princeton, NJ: D. von Nostrand, 1967).

[18] DR: Charles Hartshorne, The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God (New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 1948). [

19] See my “Process Theism: Does a Persuasive God Coerce?” Southern Journal of Philosophy 17 (1979), 133-143; Evil and the Process God (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1985), and “Hartshorne and Theodicy,” Hartshorne, Process Philosophy and Theology, edited by Robert Kane and Stephen Phillips (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989), 53-69.      

[20] PCH: The Philosophy of Charles Hartshorne, edited by Lewis Hahn (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1991).

[21]  SMW: Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (1925; New York: The Free Press, 1967).  

[22] See David Griffin, God, Power and Evil: A Process Theodicy (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1976 and Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1990), 188.

[23] See my “An Aesthetic Solution to the Problem of Evil,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 40 (1994).

[24] For the past three or four decades, the “logical problem of evil” has been the center of debate. The issue was whether religious belief in God as omnipotent and omnibenevolent is logically consistent with the existence of evil. It is acknowledged now that the free will defense resolves this formulation of the theodicy issue: it is probable that God could not create free creatures without the risk of these creatures using that freedom for evil as well as for good. The “evidential problem of evil” is now the center of debate: it challenges theists to explain how  our experience of apparently gratuitous evils is reconcilable with belief in God. For an excellent discussion of this issue, see William Rowe, Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction (Belmont, CA: Dickinson, 1978), Chapter 6. More recently, see his “The Evidential Problem of Evil: A Second Look,” The Evidential Problem of Evil, edited by Daniel Howard-Synder (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996), 262-285.           

[25] There are significant differences among process thinkers on this issue as well. While Hartshorne sees the laws of nature imposed by God on the “other,” Whitehead sees the initial divine act of creation (at least for this present cosmic epoch) as immanent, a cooperative interaction between God and the “other.” This seems to imply that the combined action of God, actual entities, creativity and eternal objects—the ultimates or formativeaspects—are distinct and  independent but interdependent ultimates. My suggestion is that Whitehead can be interpreted in a Hartshornean manner (based on the mind-body analogy) such that everything other than God is, in fact, an aspect of God, immanent in the divine reality. The “other,” I am suggesting, is not strictly distinct from God, i.e., independent of God, but are aspects of God within whom all else exists. Justification of this interpretation would require far more space than I have here, but the issue is discussed briefly later in the text.

[26] In support of this conclusion, Corey cites physicist Paul Davies’s contentious argument that particle physics involved in the Big Bang necessitates creation ex nihilo (see GNC 246).

[27] David Griffin has argued this point in Evil Revisited: Responses and Reconsiderations (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991), especially Chapters 6-8.

[28] PR: Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality (1929; New York: The Free Press, 1978).

[29] Omnipotence, of course, is just one of the divine attributes defined by classical theism which is challenged by process metaphysics. Immutability, omniscience, impassibility, etc. likewise have been redefined radically by process theists, by Hartshorne in particular.

[30] “An Aesthetic Solution to the Problem of Evil,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 40 (1994).

[31] See note 30, and also Whitehead’s and Hartshorne’s various discussions of aesthetics. For Hartshorne, see especially CSPM, and BS (Born to Sing: An Interpretation and World Survey of Bird Song [Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1973]).

[32] See note 27: David Griffin has elaborated upon this point.

[33] See my “Does God Influence the World’s Creativity? Hartshorne’s Doctrine of Possibility,” Philosophy Research Archives 6 (1981), 613-622.

[34] Hartshorne has accepted this as his view (that we are almost completely determined), in conversations with me, dating back to 1975.

[35] See my “Does God Influence the World’s Creativity? Hartshorne’s Doctrine of Possibility,” Philosophy Research Archives 6 (1981), 613-622.

[36] MT: Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought (1938: New York: The Free Press, 68).

[37] FR: Alfred North Whitehead, The Function of Reason (1929; Boston: Beacon Press, 1958).

[38] Thomas Hosinski, Stubborn Fact and Creative Advance: An Introduction to the Metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993), 140.

[39] Lewis S. Ford, The Lure of God: A Biblical Background for Process Theism (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1978). 44     

[40] David Ray Griffin, “Creation Ex Nihilo, The Divine Modus Operandi, and The Imitatio Dei,” in Encountering Evil, edited by Stephen Davis (Atlanta, GA: John Knox, 1981), 97.

[41] Daniel Day Williams, “How Does God Act? An Essay in Whitehead’s Metaphysics,” in Process and Divinity, edited by William Reese and E. Freeman (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1964), 177.

[42] W. Norman Pittenger, “Process Theology,” Expository Times (1973), 107.

[43] Gerald Janzen, “Modes of Power and the Divine Relativity, Encounter 36 (1975), 405.

[44] I was grateful for the invitation to participate in the 1988 University of Texas celebration in honor of Charles Hartshorne, whose published writings have contributed more than any other philosopher to clarify what we mean by “God.” To Charles Hartshorne, we owe a lasting debt. All of us who have been influenced by him, are the better for it. The original version of the article was presented at the University of Texas in Austin.


Author Information: Barry Whitney was Professor of Christianity and Culture, and Philosophy of Religion, at the University of Windsor, Windsor ON Canada from 1976 to 2013. He was Editor of the journal, Process Studies, from 1996 to 2009. He is now retired in Ottawa, Canada where he continues his research.

© BARRY WHITNEY, 2009. Please request permission from the author at DrBarryWhitney@mac.com to use this publication in whole or in part in web publications or in other forms of publication and dissemination. An earlier version of this article was published in the philosophy journal. The Personalist Forum 1998.