Whiteheadian Thought as a Basis for a Philosophy of Religion by Forrest Wood, Jr.
Forest Wood, Jr. is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg. Published in 1986 by University Press of America, Inc. This book was prepared for Religion Online by Harry W. and Grace C. Adams.
The author offers his philosophy of religion based on the thought of Alfred North Whitehead as it illuminates thinking about the nature of the world, of God and of man.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Whiteheadian thought offers a different way of looking at reality that requires rethinking the way we view God. It begins with a philosophy that endeavors to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas that combines a creative and unique expression of the nature and unity of God. It can lead us to an understanding of our personal faith as well as the religious experience of mankind.
Chapter 2: A Whiteheadian View of the Nature of Reality
Whitehead’s view of the nature of reality offers a new way of thinking about "things," and suggest that reality is not composed of things but of self-creative events, individual units, having both physical and mental aspects, and being internally related to each other. This offers an alternative to the mechanistic view of the nature of reality, and substitutes creativity in place of determinism.
Chapter 3: A Whiteheadian Concept of God: Defining God and Worship
The author turns to Charles Hartshorne to interpret Whitehead’s concept of God as "the one who is worshiped." Hartshorne suggests that "worship is the integrating of all one’s thoughts and purposes, all valuations and meanings, all perceptions and conceptions." And God, the object of this worship, is ". . .the wholeness of the world, correlative to the wholeness of every sound individual dealing with the world." This fits with the Whiteheadian world-view in which each individual entity is an integration of parts into a whole.
Chapter 4: A Whiteheadian Concept of God: God in Science and the Modern World and in Religion in the Making
Relying on the work of Lewis Ford, the author traces the concept of God that emerges in the middle of Whitehead’s writings and develops from its atheistic/agnostic origins into a more fully developed conceptualization of God.
Chapter 5: A Whiteheadian Concept of God: God in Process and Reality
The author examines what Whitehead had to say about God in Process and Reality by dividing the discussion into two parts. First, the primordial or eternal nature of God as the principal of abstraction or originality and the source of the initial aim, and second, the consequent or temporal nature of God in which God, as part of reality, interacts with the rest of reality.
Chapter 6: A Whiteheadian Concept of the Self
In rejecting western philosophy’s concept of the self as substance based on Aristotle, Whitehead offers as an alternative to substance what he calls "an actual entity" which is changing, self-determined and creative. The problem is not the need to explain continuity as explained by determinism, but the need to explain originality which in turn leads to the concept of God as the source of ". . .the initial aim from which self-causation starts" and evolves into people who are self-creating entities, actively participating in their own creation, capable of creating novelty and assuming responsibility.
Chapter 7: The Problem of Evil from a Whiteheadian Perspective
Whitehead’s metaphysical system led to Hartshorne’s exploring the theological implications surrounding the problem of evil and the necessity to reinterpret the omnipotence of God as understood in Thomism. Whitehead suggests that the fundamental category for understanding the universe is aesthetic valuation toward order and that the richness of creativity will sometimes produce aberrations as well as serendipitous outcomes. Destructiveness is to be found in the very nature of the creative process. God is only morally good if we are to understand that his goodness does not entail being without destructiveness.
Chapter 8: A Whiteheadian Conception of Immortality
Whitehead approaches the question of man’s desire for immortality, not by following the traditional path of the soul as having substance, but that every act, every event, every realization of value has everlasting significance and contributes everlastingly to the nature of things. We are part of the universe and part of God, the universe is a part of God, and God is a factor both in our personal existences and in the universe. Our immortality lies in the everlastingness and significance of each existence as a part of the whole.
Chapter 9: Reflection
The author believes that Whitehead’s thought provides us with an unusual opportunity to examine our religious beliefs by giving us a new view of reality, and concludes that Whitehead offers not only productive insights into the understanding of the nature of God and man, but also strong arguments for both objective and subjective immortality.
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