Boston Personalism’s Affinities and Disparities with Wesleyan Theology and Process Philosophy

by Thomas Jay Oord

Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multi-disciplinary studies. He is a best-selling and award-winning author, having written or edited more than twenty-five books. A twelve-time Faculty Award-winning professor, Oord teaches at institutions around the globe, and is the director of the Center for Open and Relational Theology. To find out more about him or view more of his works, visit his website or the Center for Open and Relational Theology.

This article was previously published in Thy Name and Thy Nature is Love: Wesleyan and Process Theologies in Dialogue (Nashville: Kingswood, 2001). (PublisherAmazon)


This book continues a dialogue that has emerged during the past generation between process and Wesleyan theologies, featured so far only in the pages of the Wesleyan Theological Journal and a previous Kingswood book (Theodore Runyon, ed., Wesleyan Theology Today: A Bicentennial Theological Consultation, 1985). This is an important conversation to which evangelicals need to pay attention, especially given the current debate regarding open theism within evangelical circles.

A collection of essays pertaining to the relationship between Wesleyan theology and process thought has been recently published under the title, Thy Name and Thy Nature is Love: Wesleyan and Process Theologies in Dialogue.[2] As co-editor (with Bryan Stone) of this book, I was encouraged by the publisher’s general editorial committee to engage in historical research pertaining to previous interactions between Wesleyan and process thinkers. Given the present-day interest concerning the ideological correlation of these two theological traditions, I was surprised at how little had been written about the affinities these trajectories share.[3] After all, when one considers the general affinities Wesleyan theologies have with various philosophical traditions and ideas, and when one examines the philosophical underpinnings of process theologies, remarkable overlaps and common tendencies become evident. These two traditions often end up on the same side of debates about principal philosophical issues.

A particularly important philosophical tradition to address, when considering these overlaps and common tendencies, is the personalist philosophical tradition. In particular, Boston Personalism has influenced, and been influenced by, both Wesleyanism and process thought. Given the basic affinities between Wesleyanism and Boston Personalism, on the one hand, and between Boston Personalism and process thought, on the other, it may be that the present correlation of Wesleyan theology with process thought is a natural development. In this essay, I will explore this possibility by (1) identifying key ideas and figures in Boston Personalism and noting the general influence this philosophical tradition has had upon American Wesleyan theology and (2) discussing the points of contact between Boston Personalism and process thought. Although there are many Wesleyan theologies and process theologies, I will attempt to address main strands in these complex and diverse theological trajectories.

I. Boston Personalism and Wesleyan Theology

John H. Lavely defines personalism as “a philosophical perspective or system for which person is the ontological ultimate and for which personality is thus the fundamental explanatory principle.”[4] As Edgar S. Brightman explains, “any theory that makes personality the supreme philosophical principle (that is, supreme in the sense that the ultimate causes and reasons of all reality are found in some process of personal experience) is given the name personalism.”[5] While, in a broad sense, we might call many philosophers and schools of philosophy “personalist,” the school of thought at Boston University known as “Boston Personalism” is the most representative of the more narrowly designated personalist tradition and the most closely associated with the Wesleyan tradition.

Given personalism’s emphasis upon the person as ultimate explanatory principle, philosophers in this tradition have understandably concentrated upon explicating just what personhood entails. Brightman, for example, defines person as “a complex unity of consciousness, which identifies itself with its past in memory, determines itself by its freedom, is purposive and value-seeking, private yet communicating, and potentially rational.”[6] Personalism, at least in its Boston form, is also identified with the philosophical tradition of idealism, specifically, a theistic form of idealism. As Brightman explains, “idealistic personalism, or personal idealism, makes the . . . assertion that persons and selves are the only reality, that is, that the whole universe is a system or society of interacting selves and persons – one infinite person who is the creator, and many dependent created persons.”[7] At its core, this project of theistic idealism is a metaphysical enterprise by which one seeks to develop the most coherent and plausible theory possible to account for what is given in conscious experience.[8]

Borden Parker Bowne (1847-1910) initiated Boston Personalism. During the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, Bowne’s personalist influence upon American Christianity was immense. In 1936, Henry Nelson Wieman and Bernard Eugene Meland claimed, “[Bowne’s] thinking has probably reached the minds of more professing Christian people than any other philosophy of religion in the United States.”[9] Bowne’s influence upon scholars like Brightman, Lavely, Peter A. Bertocci, L. Harold DeWolf, Ralph T. Flewelling, Georgia Harkness, Albert C. Knudson, and Walter Muelder demonstrates this far-reaching influence.[10] His influence even extends to well-known religious leaders such as Harry Emerson Fosdick and Martin Luther King, Jr.

That personalism should have such a broad impact suggests that many religious leaders found its worldview intellectually and religiously satisfying. Indeed, Boston Personalists attempted quite consciously to provide what they considered the most adequate philosophical structure for Christian theology.[11] Apparently, many theologians considered this effort successful. Wieman and Meland state flatly, “a survey of prevalent philosophies yields the conviction that, of them all, the philosophy of personalism is most true to the Christian tradition.”[12]

Of those influenced by Boston Personalism, clearly Wesleyans were in the majority. Bowne’s thought was more important for the work of Wesleyan-oriented scholars in America than any other philosopher’s was in the early decades of the twentieth century. He provided Wesleyans, says Thomas A. Langford, with “a generative philosophical foundation for theological construction.”[13] This made Bowne “the seminal source of the most generally influential school of theology produced by American Methodism.”[14] Bowne and those in Boston’s personalist tradition guarded “the intellectual life of religion,” says F. Thomas Trotter, “[and] clung to the Wesleyan insistence on the practice of vital piety.”[15] This insistence on vital piety in the Wesleyan spirit coincided with the Boston Personalists’ private theological inclinations; all were Methodist.[16]

One reason that Bowne-inspired personalism was so influential in America comes down to sheer numbers. Ministerial students from Wesleyan traditions flocked to Boston University and later left the school to serve as college presidents, professors, and church leaders. Partly because of these graduate masses, personalism was the dominant philosophical position in scores of colleges and churches across the land.[17]

For what reasons did personalism come to hold such an attraction for Wesleyans? In the first place, one of Boston Personalism’s core conceptions was congruent with a basic Wesleyan tenet: God is personal, interactive, and relational.[18] “What we especially have in mind, when from the religious view we speak of the personality of God, is the thought of fellowship with him,” says Knudson. “He is a Being who knows us and loves us and whom we can trust.”[19] “On every count,” argues Brightman, “the metaphysics of personality interprets [deity] more adequately than does any competing view.” To illustrate, he notes that

prayer, contemplation, mystical communion, ethical loyalty, are all personal attitudes and experiences, which acquire their highest worth when directed toward a personal object. Any impersonal view of God is either vague or unsuited to serve as the object of prayer and worship . . . . Such experiences as redemption and salvation have to be interpreted most awkwardly and unnaturally on the basis of an impersonal view of God. The eternal ideals of goodness and beauty, truth and holiness, by which we seek to measure our human vales, are given a clear and rational metaphysical status when thought of as the conscious goals of God’s purpose.[20]

It comes as little surprise that Wesleyans would be attracted to such a conception of deity. John Wesley understood God as a relational deity who intimately interacts with the created order.[21] Certainly, the biblical witness amply attests to the God who is personal in this way. Still, other metaphysical schemes that have dominated the theologies of Western Christianity did not represent this conception of God well. Personalism’s alternative metaphysics came as a breath of fresh air to Wesleyans who sought a philosophical basis for their central convictions about relations with a personal God.

A second reason that Wesleyans found Boston Personalism attractive was that it emphasized the freedom of persons,[22] while opposing mechanistic, behavioristic, or theistic theories that denied persons a measure of self-determination. The personalist claim that God created persons with the capacity to act freely corresponds well with the central Wesleyan doctrine that prevenient grace enables humans to act in free response to God. And, once again, it can be said that this notion of human freedom dominates the biblical witness. Wesleyans felt that the philosophies at the heart of theologies espoused by Augustine and Aquinas, and those at the heart of the Reformed theologies of Luther and Calvin, were not conducive to this emphasis upon genuine personal freedom. Boston Personalism offered a philosophical alternative to these traditions – one that was more consistent with the spirit of Wesleyan thought.

Thirdly, Boston Personalism offered Wesleyans a structure to support the Christian demand for personal morality and social responsibility. “Personality implies freedom and moral responsibility,” argued Knudson.[23] Personalists claim that the world is social; it is a world of mutually dependent and interacting moral beings. “In such a world,” says Knudson, “love is necessarily the basic moral law.”[24] For Ralph Flewelling, this implies that society “should be so organized as to present every person the best possible opportunity for self-development, physically, mentally, and spiritually.”[25] Given statements such as these, those who agreed both with Wesley’s rejection of antinomianism and with his conviction that there is no holiness but social holiness, were likely to find personalism inviting. The fact that Georgia Harkness, the first female theologian at an American seminary, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the most well-known American civil rights leader, were personalists suggests that personalism played a vital role in how some American Christians were responding to matters of gender and race.

A final reason Wesleyans were attracted to Boston Personalism was its emphasis upon love. Wesley’s own words illustrate the primacy of love in Wesleyan theology: “Love is the end of all the commandments of God. Love is the end, the sole end, of every dispensation of God, from the beginning of the world to the consummation of all things.”[26] Wesley also reminds us, “It is not written, ‘God is justice,’ or ‘God is truth’ (although he is just and true in all his ways). But it is written, ‘God is love’.”[27] Boston Personalists likewise argued that God’s primary volition is love.[28] Furthermore, the nature of love requires interpersonal relationships, both for deity and creatures. Brightman contended that, “if God is love, his love needs free companions who return his love.”[29] God seeks to increase love in others: “the personal God is one who works – whether with us or in spite of us – to attain the highest values and the most perfect love.”[30] What made personalism so attractive to those who placed love at the center of their theological construction, then, was its personal and interpersonal categories, which lent themselves to lucid analysis of divine and creaturely love relations.

The fact that many Wesleyans were drawn to Boston Personalism in the twentieth century does not mean, however, that it was accepted by everyone as the most adequate philosophy for the Christian faith. Some Wesleyans were suspicious of the idealism at the root of personalism; they preferred, instead, the realism of a commonsense philosopher such as Thomas Reid.[31] Others opposed various novel theological formulations proposed by specific Boston Personalists. For example, many considered Brightman’s notion of a finite God, for whom evil is something of a “given” within the divine self, religiously inadequate. So too, some recognized that traditional Christian doctrines were not easily couched in the theistic idealism of personalism. Even Knudson admits, “the traditional doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement do not easily fit into the framework of our current personal idealism.” He maintains, however, “this may point to the need of the reformulation of these doctrines rather than to any want of harmony between personalistic philosophy and the essentials of the Christian faith.”[32] Wesleyans varied among themselves regarding the extent to which they thought such doctrines needed reformulation.

II. Boston Personalism and Process Thought

With even this introductory sketch, we can perhaps already recognize some significant commonalities between Boston Personalism and Whiteheadian-Hartshornian process thought. It is understandable, then, that personalist and process philosophers have been generally appreciative of each other’s views since the early decades of the twentieth century. In fact, Brightman called both Whitehead and Hartshorne “personalists,” and he praised Whitehead, saying, “the greatest Anglo-American philosopher of recent times, A.N. Whitehead, came from a realistic tradition, but his doctrines . . . all point to panpsychistic personalism.”[33] Brightman’s published work and personal correspondence reveal that, through his reading of Whitehead and his exchanges with Hartshorne, he slowly drifted away from hard-core personal idealism toward doctrines more characteristic of process thought. However, although Hartshorne considered Brightman to be a process theist and was influenced somewhat by Brightman, Whitehead did not appear to be significantly influenced by Bowne, Brightman, or others in the Boston Personalist tradition.[34]

A number of similarities – both thematic and methodological – between process and personalist philosophies have proved to be of great interest to Wesleyans. Both philosophies are adventures in speculative metaphysics; both are grounded in an analysis of experience, which leads to the testing and construction of metaphysical suppositions in the light of that experience. The resulting philosophy is hypothetical; it is always subject to reassessment and revision.[35] Lavely suggests that “the affinities between and the common motifs of personalism and panpsychism are such that both positions have more at stake in reinforcing each other than in repudiating each other. . . . Jointly panpsychism and personalism may be the . . . best hope of metaphysics.”[36]

The epistemological point of departure for both Whiteheadian process thought and Boston Personalism is self-experience. Bowne contends that self-conscious and active intelligence is the presupposition for knowledge of ourselves, others, the world, and God.[37] “What we immediately experience is the starting-point of all our thought and action,” says Brightman, “and the present fact at all times is our own self.”[38] Personalists claim that what we find in our personal relationships provides the basis to construe everything in terms of personality. Here, however, process thought differs from personalism as to the types of self-experience that inform epistemology. Boston Personalists limit their notion of self-experience to experience that is conscious, sensory, and value-based. Process philosophers, in the tradition of Whitehead and Hartshorne, also acknowledge the epistemological validity of unconscious and nonsensory experience. This broader approach to experience is seemingly more suitable to Wesleyan concerns about how God relates to creation and, specifically, how God guides and assures us through what Wesley calls the “spiritual senses.”

Especially appealing to Wesleyans is another current running through both personalist and process philosophies – namely, the relational metaphysics of each. For process thought, all actual existence involves, in Whitehead’s words, “an essential interconnectedness of things.”[39] Bowne, sounding like a relational metaphysician, also argues, “the notion of interaction implies that a thing is [influenced] by others, and hence that it cannot be all that it is apart from all others. . . . Its existence is involved in its relations.”[40] At least later in his life, Brightman spoke of interconnectedness when claiming that personalism posits “an interacting and intercommunicating universe,” which means that the basis for this philosophy “is essentially interpersonal, and therefore social.”[41] However, as contemporary personalist Rufus Burrow, Jr., admits, “it must be conceded that neither Bowne nor Brightman worked out the fuller implications of a relational metaphysics.”[42] An illustration of this failure to work out a relational metaphysics is Brightman’s denial of literal participation of selves in one another; he concludes that “monads have no windows through which existences or concrete realities may interact. Only purposes may interact.”[43] Whitehead and process metaphysicians contend that monads do have “windows,” whereby each actuality is internally related to others who have preceded them.[44] The uniquely process way of conceiving real internal relations shares strong affinities with the Wesleyan emphasis on the prevenience of grace and the transforming presence of God within all creation.

Continuing in the philosophical tradition of Gottfried Leibniz, personalism affirms what Brightman calls “quantitative pluralism” and “qualitative monism.” Quantitative pluralism refers to the claim that human persons are to be distinguished from each other and from the divine person. Qualitative monism refers to the claim that only persons are truly real, with God and conscious non-divine individuals sharing the common characteristic “personhood.”[45] Process thought also affirms the essence of Brightman’s understanding of pluralism and monism, although its qualitative monism extends to all actual existents. Process philosophy’s quantitative pluralism is more thoroughgoing, because each actuality essentially enjoys a moment in its becoming that is causa sui. Or, as Whitehead puts it, “every actual entity . . . is something individual for its own sake; and thereby transcends the rest of actuality.”[46] Furthermore, Hartshorne’s qualitative monism is more thoroughgoing than Boston Personalism’s, because, for Hartshorne, even God embodies the metaphysical characteristics conditioning all persons. Brightman’s God remains an exception to these metaphysical principles.

I have already noted that the emphasis on God as personal, which resides at the core of Boston Personalism, is attractive to Wesleyans. Although the similarities between Whitehead and Hartshorne are so great that both are generally regarded as the primary inspirations for process theology, Hartshorne’s thought is decidedly more congruent with Boston Personalism at this point; his doctrine of God more easily generates a conception of God as personal. In the section of The Divine Relativity that Hartshorne entitles “Divine Personality,” he argues that God should be conceived “as a supreme person.”[47] As person, God enjoys successive “states” of existence analogous with the states of existence enjoyed by other personally ordered societies of occasions of experience.[48] Whitehead’s God, however, does not lend itself to personalist categories, because deity subsists in a single, ever-becoming state.[49]

Process theism also shares important similarities to personalism with regard to theodicy. A glimpse at how prominent scholars in these traditions address the problem of evil reveals that, in general, both personalism and process thought seek to reconceptualize divine power to account for divine love. Sounding like Whitehead, although writing nearly twenty years earlier, Bowne rejects classical theology’s construal of divine power: “A great deal of our theology was written when men believed in the divine right and irresponsibility of kings, and this conception also crept into and corrupted theological thinking, so that God was conceived less as a truly moral being than as a magnified and irresponsible despot.”[50] Wesley reconceived divine power similarly, although he hammered this out in the context of broader soteriological concerns, especially related to the question of predestination.

Chief among notable answers to the problem of evil given by Boston Personalists is the relatively controversial one offered by Brightman. The fact of evil, he claims, “indicates that the Supreme Self is achieving value in the temporal order under difficulties.”[51] The impetus of these difficulties is found in the improper use of human freedom and in God’s own self-imposed conditions of reason and goodness, but these impetuses do not account entirely for the presence of evil. A crucial aspect of what Brightman considers an adequate theodicy developed through his reflection upon the divine nature. He speculates that, residing within Godself, is a measure of recalcitrance and perversity he calls “the given.” This resistant and retarding factor “constitutes a real problem to divine power and explains the ‘evil’ features of the natural world.”[52] Although neither created nor condoned by God, this nonrational given inevitably conditions the divine experience internally making it impossible for God to overcome all evil.

In contrast to Brightman’s controversial solution, Boston Personalists have generally simply affirmed divine self-limitation as a way to preserve perfect divine love in the face of genuine evil. In providing power for freedom to creatures, they say, God became self-limited; most prefer the notion of divine self-limitation, then, to Brightman’s notion of a finite God. Although many process theists also reject the language of divine finitude, they do not embrace the personalist notion of divine self-limitation. Process theology’s criticism of a self-limited God is that this deity, who incessantly enjoys the capacity to become un-self-limited, ought to overcome self-imposed limitations periodically in the name of love.[53] Process theologian David Ray Griffin, for example, rejects Brightman’s notion of a God internally burdened with a nonrational given, and calls this deity an imperfect Being unworthy of worship.[54] Unlike Brightman’s God, whose internal conflict prevents unqualified expressions of love, the process deity Griffin proposes expresses perfect love everlastingly, albeit through the metaphysical conditions that God and all other actualities embody.

Personalism and process thought both emphasize the immanence of God. Speaking like a naturalistic theist in the process tradition, Bowne begins his book, The Immanence of God, with these words: “The undivineness of the natural and the unnaturalness of the divine is the great heresy of popular thought.”[55] However, Boston Personalists speculate that God’s immanent relation with the world, in contrast to the immanent relations of process God, is volitional rather than necessary. Personalism “insists on God’s free relation to the world,” says Knudson.[56] Or, as Bowne says more subtly, God “is the most deeply obligated being in the universe. And, having started a race under human conditions, he is bound to treat it in accordance with those conditions. God is bound to be the great Burden-bearer of our world because of his relations to men.”[57] Process thought, in contrast, denies that God voluntarily relates with nondivine creatures, or, as Whitehead says, “the relationships of God to the World should lie beyond the accidents of will.” Instead, these relationships should be founded “upon the necessities of the nature of God and the nature of the World.”[58] This implies that some realm of finite actualities or another has always existed;[59] God does not omnipotently dispose “a wholly derivative world” ex nihilo.[60]

Ultimately, we can trace the greatest differences between process and personalist thought to the philosophical traditions upon which they draw; process thought draws heavily from realist traditions and Boston Personalism draws heavily from idealist traditions. These different starting points lead each to regard the non-personal entities of nature quite differently. For Bowne and other theistic idealists of the Boston Personalist tradition, unconscious entities, e.g., rocks, plants, and cells, have no degree of independent reality. One reason that non-personal entities possess no independence whatsoever is that, for these personalists, individual “experience” is synonymous with “consciousness.” Personalists account for the presence of the non-personal world by claiming that it depends entirely upon, and acts as an element of, the divine mind.[61] Brightman states this idealist position succinctly:

Personalism may be taken to be that philosophical system which holds that the universe is a society of selves, unified by the will and immanent causality of a Supreme Self, and which, therefore, defines matter and the whole system of physical nature in terms of the active, conscious will of that Supreme Self, while it regards human selves (and whatever other selves there may be) as enjoying an existence of their own, dependent, it is true, upon the will of the Supreme Self, yet no part of it.[62]

Process theism, arising out of realist philosophies, postulates that the unconscious actualities of the natural world do have a degree of independence, and even autonomy, vis-à-vis God. Without this postulation, say process philosophers, persons have no good reason to claim that unconscious entities even exist, let alone possess intrinsic value. The postulation that non-personal and unconscious actualities have a measure of independent reality does not lead process thought to espouse mindless materialism, however. Instead, process thought puts mind in matter; experience occurs at all levels of existence. This avowal of panpsychism or, more happily, panexperientialism[63] offers a way to affirm the reality of mentality generating purpose, freedom, and value; it also offers a way to affirm the commonsense notion that a real world of unconscious natural actualities exists with a measure of autonomy. One way to characterize process panexperientialism, then, would be to claim this doctrine considers “personhood” to extend from the most complex to the least complex of all entities in the world. In this postulation, personhood need entail neither consciousness nor the degree of complexity required to sustain enduring individuals. At the risk of oversimplification, one might say that if, as Boston Personalists contend, idealism is the antithesis of materialism, panexperientialism is the synthesis.

The implications of panexperientialism for process thought are significant, and the extent to which these implications result in significant differences between process theology and the idealism of Boston Personalism is far-reaching. I mention three briefly. First, although Boston Personalists sometimes argued for a responsible environmental ethic, their idealist presuppositions made it difficult to formulate ethical schemes that regard non-human individuals and the elemental actualities of nature as intrinsically valuable.[64] Only persons are real, which implies that only persons can be intrinsically valuable. Second, Boston Personalism, because of its adherence to idealist premises, struggles to provide a satisfying solution to the mind-body problem; it provides no adequate theory for how a person (human self or mind) could interact naturally with a person’s bodily members (matter). Third, because of its idealism, Boston Personalism aligned itself with a position in the science and religion dialogue that many today find unsatisfactory.[65] Knudson expresses this position when he argues that, “If both scientists and theologians had understood that science is by its very nature confined to the phenomenal realm and that religion by its nature is concerned simply with the ultimate power and purpose that lie back of the phenomena, most of the conflicts between them in the past would have been avoided.”[66] “It is [best],” he concludes, “to adopt Bowne’s distinction between phenomenal and ontological reality, and then to say that science is concerned with the former and religion with the latter.”[67] Process thought rejects the distinction between phenomenal and ontological reality – and, therefore rejects a hard and fast distinction between science and religion – partly because of its doctrine of panexperientialism.

Although personalism still shapes Wesleyans and personalism is by no means a dead philosophical school,[68] the last half of the twentieth century has witnessed a stronger Wesleyan attraction to process thought. I have addressed reasons for this attraction in this essay; a fuller exposure of such reasons is found in the essays of Thy Name and Thy Nature is Love: Wesleyan and Process Theologies in Dialogue. My present task, however, has involved proposing rationale for why Boston Personalism has been attractive to Wesleyans and for why this attraction naturally carries over to a contemporary process thought.

For more from the author Thomas Jay Oord, see his website or the Center for Open and Relational Theology

  1. This essay is dedicated to the memory of the many scholars within the Wesleyan/Holiness tradition who were strongly influenced by Boston Personalism. In many ways, I consider myself an heir to their legacy.

  2. Bryan P Stone and Thomas Jay Oord, eds., Thy Name and Thy Nature is Love: Wesleyan and Process Theologies in Dialogue (Nashville: Kingswood, 2001). Special thanks are due to Bryan Stone, who not only read and made various suggestions regarding this essay, but who also suggested a few sentences here and there. I believe the essay is much stronger because of his help.

  3. See the introduction of Thy Name and Thy Nature is Love for an account of Bryan Stone’s research on this matter.

  4. . John H. Lavely, “Personalism,” in Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Collier-Macmillan, 1967, 1972), 5:107.

  5. . Edgar Sheffield Brightman, An Introduction to Philosophy, 3rd ed., rev. Robert N. Beck (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1963), 330.

  6. . Edgar Sheffield Brightman, “Personalism,” in A History of Philosophical Systems, ed. Vergilius Ferm (New York: The Philosophical Library, 1950), 341.

  7. . Brightman, An Introduction to Philosophy, 330.

  8. . Ibid., 331.

  9. . Henry Nelson Wieman and Bernard Eugene Meland, American Philosophies of Religion (Chicago: Willett, Clark, and Company, 1936), 134.

  10. . Others strongly influenced either directly or indirectly by Bowne’s brand of personalism include John W. E. Bowen, Olin A. Curtis, Paul Deats, Jr., Nels F.S. Ferre, Carroll D. Hildebrand, Francis J. McConnell, Richard M. Millard, Wilbur Mullen, Harris F. Rall, Edward T. Ramsdell, Carol Sue Robb, J. Deotis Roberts, S. Paul Schilling, William H. Werkmeister, H. Orton Wiley, and J. Philip Wogaman.

  11. . In the words of Albert C. Knudson, Boston Personalism “seeks to provide religion with a philosophical underpinning, to give it a cosmic framework in which it will fit, to create for it an intellectual atmosphere in which it will thrive” (The Philosophy of Personalism: A Study in the Metaphysics of Religion [New York: Abingdon, 1927], 328).

  12. . Wieman and Meland, American Philosophies of Religion, 133.

  13. . Thomas A. Langford, Wesleyan Theology: A Sourcebook (Durham, NC: Labyrinth, 1984), 149.

  14. . Thomas A. Langford, Practical Divinity: Theology in the Wesleyan Tradition (Nashville: Abingdon, 1983), 175.

  15. . F. Thomas Trotter, “Boston Personalism’s Contributions to Faith and Learning,” in The Boston Personalist Tradition in Philosophy, Social Ethics, and Theology, eds. Paul Deats and Carol Robb (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1986), 21.

  16. . Paul Deats, “Introduction to Boston Personalism,” in The Boston Personalist Tradition in Philosophy, Social Ethics, and Theology, 13.

  17. . Ibid.

  18. . This was presented in a more coherent way by Brightman and his students. Bowne argued for a personal, interactive, and/or relational God, but rejected divine mutability and temporality. For a discussion of the problems Bowne faced because of this rejection, see Jose Franquiz Ventura, Borden Parker Bowne’s Treatment of the Problem of Change and Identity (Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico: University of Puerto Rico, 1942).

  19. . Albert C. Knudson, The Doctrine of God (New York: Abingdon, 1930), 298.

  20. . Edgar S. Brightman, “Personality,” in Personalism in Theology: A Symposium in Honor of Albert Cornelius Knudson, ed. Edgar S. Brightman (Boston: Boston University Press, 1943), 62-63.

  21. . See Randy L. Maddox’s discussion of Wesley’s relational, interactive God in Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology (Nashville: Kingswood, 1994), ch. 2.

  22. . Knudson reports that “personalism . . . holds to the libertarian as against the deterministic view of [humans]” (The Philosophy of Personalism, 74).

  23. . Ibid., 83.

  24. . Albert C. Knudson, Principles of Christian Ethics (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1943), 118.

  25. . Ralph T. Flewelling, “Personalism,” in Twentieth Century Philosophy: Living Schools of Thought, ed. Dagobert D. Runes (New York: Philosophical Library, 1943), 325.

  26. . Sermon 36, “The Law Established through Faith, II, Works, 2:39.

  27. . Predestination Calmly Considered, §43, John Wesley, 445.

  28. . Borden Parker Bowne, Studies in Christianity (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1909), 94.

  29. . Edgar S. Brightman, Is God Personal? (New York: Association Press, 1932), 64.

  30. . Ibid., 46-47.

  31. . James E. Hamilton makes this claim in “Epistemology and Theology in American Methodism,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 10 (1975).

  32. . Knudson, The Philosophy of Personalism, 80.

  33. . Brightman, “Personalism,” 344.

  34. . The key word in this sentence is “significantly.” On this and related subjects, see Randall E. Auxier, “God, Process, and Persons: Charles Hartshorne and Personalism,” Process Studies 27/3-4 (Fall-Winter 1998): 175-199.

  35. . Brightman, “Personalism,” 345-47.

  36. . John Lavely, “Personalism Supports the Dignity of Nature,” The Personalist Forum 2:1 (Spring 1986), 37.

  37. . Borden Parker Bowne, Personalism (Norwood, MA: Plimpton, 1908, 1936), 217.

  38. . Edgar S. Brightman, quoted by Wieman and Meland in American Philosophies of Religion, 140.

  39. . Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (New York: Free Press, 1968; New York: Macmillan, 1933), 227.

  40. . Borden Parker Bowne, Theism (New York: American Book Co., 1902), 57.

  41. . Brightman, “Personalism,” 347, 350.

  42. . Rufus Burrow, Jr., Personalism: A Critical Introduction (St. Louis, Mo.: Chalice, 1999), 232.

  43. . Brightman, Letter of May 13, 1939. Quoted in Auxier, “God, Process, and Persons,” 181.

  44. . Later in his life, and subsequent to reflection upon the thought of Hartshorne and Whitehead, Brightman attempted to correct his deficient hypothesis regarding internal relations. See Auxier’s article regarding Hartshorne’s influence upon Brightman pertaining to this matter (“God, Process, and Persons,” 175-199).

  45. Edgar S. Brightman, “Personalistic Metaphysics of the Self: Its Distinctive Features” in Studies in Personalism: Selected Writings of Edgar Sheffield Brightman, ed. Warren E. Steinkraus and Robert N. Beck (Utica, N.Y.: Meridian, 1984), 18.

  46. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, corrected edition, ed. David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne (New York: Free Press, 1978; orig. ed., 1929), 88.

  47. . Charles Hartshorne, The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1948), 142. See also Hartshorne, “God, as personal” in Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Virgilius Ferm, (New York: Philosophical Library, 1945), 302-303.

  48. . Charles Hartshorne, “Whitehead’s Idea of God,” in The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, ed. Paul Arthur Schilpp (New York: Tudor, 1951), 530.

  49. . Whitehead’s doctrine of God does not easily lend itself to speaking of God as personal, because he conceived God to be a single, ever-concrescing, actual entity. Although interaction with others is part of what it means to be personal, it is difficult to imagine how a single actual entity, which everlastingly becomes, can affect other actualities. That is, if interaction requires an individual to oscillate between being and becoming, or object and subject, as Whitehead contends, it is unclear how God could interact personally. For a critique of Whitehead on this point, and for an alternative doctrine of God similar to Hartshorne’s, see the classic work on the subject: John B. Cobb Jr., A Christian Natural Theology: Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965).

  50. . Borden Parker Bowne, Studies in Christianity, 151.

  51. . Brightman, quoted by Wieman and Meland in American Philosophies of Religion, 142.

  52. . Ibid.

  53. . Among pertinent material criticizing divine self-limitation from a process theological perspective, see Tyron L. Inbody, The Transforming God: An Interpretation of Suffering and Evil (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997), 148-50.

  54. . David Ray Griffin, God, Power, and Evil: A Process Theodicy (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), 246.

  55. . Bowne, The Immanence of God (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1905), preface.

  56. . Knudson, The Philosophy of Personalism, 329.

  57. . Bowne, Studies in Christianity, 144.

  58. . Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 215.

  59. . This does not deny, in principle, the theory that our particular universe may have begun with a Big Bang, only that such an event, if it occurred, was not the beginning of finite existence.

  60. . Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, 166. For an examination of the relevance of God’s voluntary or necessary relations with the world, see Thomas Jay Oord, Matching Theology and Piety: An Evangelical Process Theology of Love (Ph.D. Dissertation, Claremont Graduate University), chs. 6-7; and Mark Lloyd Taylor, God is Love: A Study in the Theology of Karl Rahner (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986), ch. 11.

  61. . Borden Parker Bowne, Kant and Spencer (Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat, 1967), 133ff.

  62. . Brightman, quoted by Wieman and Meland in American Philosophies of Religion, 139.

  63. . David Ray Griffin suggests that “panexperientialism” better depicts what is entailed in process philosophy’s version of panpsychism (“Some Whiteheadian Comments,” in Mind in Nature: Essays on the Interface of Science and Philosophy, eds. John B. Cobb, Jr., and David Ray Griffin (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1977).

  64. . Rufus Burrow, Jr., wrestles with this criticism in Personalism, 235-240.

  65. . For a brief explanation and criticism of the kind of position Boston Personalists take regarding the relationship between religion and science, see Ian Barbour, Religion in an Age of Science (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990), 10-17.

  66. . Knudson, Philosophy of Personalism, 253.

  67. . Ibid., 330.

  68. . Contemporary personalists include Douglas R. Anderson, Randall E. Auxier, Thomas Buford, Rufus Burrow, Jr., Charles Conti, Mark Y. A. Davies, Frederick Ferre, Erazim Kohak, James McLachlan, and Josef Seifert.