Evil and Persuasive Power: A Response to Hare and Madden

by Dalton D. Baldwin

Dalton D. Baldwin teaches theology at Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California.

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp. 259-272, Vol. 3, Number 4, Winter, 1973. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


Whitehead’s conceptuality explains the rise of good and the rise of evil without making God responsible for any evil which cannot be justified. (A response to “Evil and Persuasive Power” by Peter H. Hare and Edward H. Madden).

Hare and Madden make five major criticisms of process thinkers’ use of the concept of divine persuasive power to explain the presence of excess evil in the world (PS 2/1, 44-48). (1) If there were a good and powerful God, he would in some respects allow freedom using only persuasive power; but if he were good and powerful, he would use more coercive power to prevent destructive evil than is apparently being used in the world. (2) Even where only persuasive power is appropriate, evidence indicates that the persuasion being used is not worthy of a good and powerful God because it is not effective enough successfully to produce the goal envisaged in the persuasion. (3) If these criticisms are answered by saying that God aims his persuasion to produce freedom and creativity more than good acts and experiences, then the restrictions on freedom and creativity in the world show that such persuasion also is not worthy of a good and powerful God. (4) In the absence of an explanation why God does not use more coercive power and is not more effective in his persuasion we may as reasonably conclude that there is a great evil persuasive power behind phenomena in the world as that there is a great power persuading toward the good. (5) The concept of "persuasive divine power is not used coherently by process theists.

I find myself in fundamental agreement with Cobb that the really worthwhile power that God should exercise is persuasive, and I would meet the first criticism by saying that God should not use more coercive power than is apparently being exercised in the world. in agreement with Ford it seems to me that the massive evil present in the world is "compatible with unlimited persuasive power" (PPCT 289), and therefore in answer to the second criticism there is no evidence that the persuasion being used is not worthy of a good and powerful God. If these two positions can be established, they go a long way toward meeting the other criticisms.

There are several different ways to understand freedom, coercive power, and persuasive power. It seems to me that in this discussion some confusion results because there is a use of one of these understandings at one point in the argument and another understanding at another point without an awareness of the shift. There appear to be three sets of correlative meanings for these terms which are in special need of clarification.

I. Persuasion as Final Cause

In one case the terms freedom, coercion and persuasion refer to the distinction between efficient and final cause. Whitehead contrasts "deterministic efficient causation" with persuasive spontaneity that occurs in final cause (PR 374, cf. 75). Efficient causation refers to the determined transition from the total physical actuality of the past world into the physical basis for a becoming actual occasion. In one aspect of final causation the origination of corrective and developmental ideal forms of definiteness aims to free an occasion from damaging aspects of determination by the physical past. The total physical world exercises coercive power through efficient causation. The ideal aim exercises persuasive power through final causation. An event in which ideal forms of definiteness free an occasion from destructive aspects of efficient causation is an event of freedom. In this set of meanings coercive power is efficient causation, persuasive power is final causation, and freedom is realized conceptual innovation.

Whitehead refers to the freedom of conceptual origination as "spontaneity of thought" (AI 59), "appetition" (FR 72) which shows the "germ of a free imagination" (PR 48), "flashes of free thought" (AI 62) and as "this autonomous conceptual element" (PR 374). He says that "wherever ideas are effective, there is freedom" (AI 83). By the onto-logical principle novel forms of definiteness cannot emerge into actuality out of nowhere. The possibility of the emergence of novel forms of definiteness which are relevant to a given actual world is grounded in the "primordial nature of God" (PR 48). That aspect of creativity which consists in the origination of relevant corrective and developmental forms of definiteness in the initial aim comes primarily from God (PR 287, 343, 374, 522). The source of the persuasive power in the initial ideal aim is God. There is a sense in which the world is responsible for coercive power, and God responsible for the persuasive power of conceptual origination. This suggests that God is the primary actor in the freedom which is conceptual origination.

Some of the dualisms of the past almost identify the coercive power of efficient cause with evil because it was seen to be so destructive. There are several valuable constructive functions of efficient cause in the cosmological scheme of Whitehead. First, the physicality of efficient cause is essential for real actualization (PR 229, 321; MT 163). The physical feelings of the datum supply the occasion with the basic ingredients which compose the actualized good. Efficient cause is constructive of the really real processive good. In contrast Greek thought puts the really real in a set of static forms, and processive physical events are less than real. For Whitehead there is nothing more real than a processive actual occasion (PR 27). Second, the reproduction of the past in the present through efficient cause is an important element in the regularities described in laws which are so important for science, technology, methodology, scholarship, and speculation (AI 139). Human purpose would be futile if efficient causation did not maintain stable patterns of predictability in the world. Third, efficient causation dependably passes on novelties introduced so that human purpose involving vast reaches of time and space may be expressed. Nerves, muscles, machines, and even social institutions carry out the purposes of man because there is dependable efficient causation. According to the principle of relativity, every physical actuality of the past has an effect on each becoming occasion (PR 33, 101). Whitehead’s dipolar conceptuality provides for dependable continuity with the past in the efficiently caused physical pole and openness to novelty in the mental pole. The coercive power of efficient causation is necessary for actualization, provides for dependable generalizations which may guide human purpose, and furnishes a matrix of relativity in which the purpose may be expressed. Without coercive efficient causation human purpose would be meaningless.

The results of efficient causation are not all beneficial. Over a long period of time there is mutual cancellation of physical feelings which results in a gradual decay of matter. Apart from the corrective and developmental persuasive power of ideality there is a "slow decay of physical nature" (FR v). Without the persuasive power of God the effect of efficient causation would tend toward "a dead level of ineffectiveness, with all balance and intensity progressively excluded by the cross currents of incompatibility" (PR 377). While there is much evidence for physical decay, Whitehead also finds evidence for a trend toward "order" (AI 147) and increasing complexity (FR 4). He explains the trend toward complex order with the divine persuasive power of final cause.

Common usage of "coercion" and "persuasion" might suggest that coercive power could not be rejected. It is not true that a becoming occasion cannot eliminate coercive factors but can eliminate persuasive factors. Elimination of some coercive factors is essential. If every becoming occasion experienced common past occasions with equal prominence every occasion would be nearly identical to every other. Furthermore, the presence of mutually opposing factors would so nearly cancel each other out that each of these occasions would be hardly distinguishable from nothing. "The mere fusion of all that there is would be the nonentity of indefiniteness" (SMW 137). In order for an occasion to be something definite most of the physical data from the actual world must be eliminated. "There is a transition from the initial data to the objective datum effected by the elimination" (PR 338, cf. 225, 321, 346, 353, 483, 517). In efficient causation contrary factors repel and compatible factors attract in mutual determination (PR 224f, 227, 232, 321). Just as there is mutual determination between physical feelings in efficient causation, there is mutual interaction between the coercive and the persuasive, between the physical pole and the mental pole (PR 343, 470). In this interaction some of the factors of the persuasive initial ideal from God are eliminated, becoming the persuasive subjective aim of the occasion which is its final cause (PR 227, 323, 342). Factors can be eliminated and modified in both the coercive power of efficient causation and the persuasive power of final causation. Elimination of factors from the divinely initiated idea] aim reduces the realization of the freedom of conceptual innovation.

This discussion includes two different types of freedom. There is the freedom of conceptual innovation in which novel corrective and developmental forms of definiteness emerge in the mental pole as potentiality for final causation, and there is autonomous self-causation in which a mutually determined synthesis of the physical pole and the mental pole modifies the initial ideal aim to become the subjective aim, which is the final cause. The second type of freedom may be called the freedom of synthesis or whole response. The autonomy of whole response is free in the sense that both the physical and the mental pole may be modified and the outcome is internally determined by the unique developing self-hood of the occasion. Some of the data of efficient cause may be eliminated (PR 248) and some of the potentiality in the initial ideal aim may be eliminated (PR 342). The autonomy of whole response is determined in the sense that which physical data and which potentialities of the initial aim are eliminated is internally determined by the interacting synthesis of the whole. The determined character of the synthesis insures that any novelty which is actualized will be integrally connected with real conditions in the world and provides the continuity necessary for generalizations to be used in science, technology, and culture.

Just as contrary to common expectation some factors in coercive efficient cause may be rejected in the autonomous becoming of an occasion, there are some factors in the persuasive power of final cause which can-not be autonomously rejected. Whitehead refers to men as being "driven by their thoughts as well as by the molecules in their bodies, by intelligence and by senseless forces" (AI 58). He mentions the "compulsion of the truth" (AI 86) and describes the "potentialities" in the final cause as "dictating the form of composition which produce the issue" (MT 128f). He refers to the "overpowering rationality" of God’s "conceptual harmonization" (PR 526). The most dramatic example illustrating unavoidable persuasion is vibration observed in physics. Whitehead explains "vibration and rhythm" as "due to the origination of reversions in the mental pole" (PR 423, cf. 285). The variation in vibration is produced by persuasive power in that it originates in the mental pole as final cause, but it is coercive in the sense that it is not possible for autonomous activity to reject what is initiated. Spectrographic evidence from light sources billions of light years away would seem to indicate that the persuasive power which maintains these regular patterns of predictability cannot be avoided by autonomous activity in the occasions involved even over long periods of time.

In the first set of meanings the difference between coercive power and persuasive power has to do with the physicality of the coercive power and the ideality of the persuasive power. Freedom consists in the realization of developmental and corrective forms of definiteness.

II. Persuasion as Autonomously Avoidable Moral Ideal

In the second set of meanings freedom consists in the autonomy of moral responsibility. This freedom is different from the freedom of conceptual innovation as well as the freedom of whole response. In this context coercive power is power which is not subject to morally responsible acceptance or rejection, and persuasive power is subject to morally responsible acceptance or rejection. The persuasive power of conceptual innovation in the vibration of an elementary particle is not subject to morally responsible rejection by the particle and is therefore coercive in this second sense. The persuasive power of some conceptual innovation in a highly complex human occasion is subject to morally responsible rejection and is therefore persuasive in this second sense as well.

It becomes important to discuss some conditions necessary for a morally responsible free choice. An elementary particle is not morally responsible for its vibration because it is neither conscious of a morally better or worse alternative nor capable of choosing either alternative. One condition of a morally responsible choice is consciousness of better or worse alternatives (AI 21; CNT 92, 97). Another condition is the ability to choose either of at least two alternatives with all causal conditions the same up to the choice (LP 188f, 231). This means that an occasion must be able to choose either the better or the worse alternative with a given set of initial data mediated by efficient causation with a certain initial ideal aim. A mutually determined resultant of determinants could have only one outcome with a given set of initial data and a given initial aims so the freedom of synthesis or whole response would not provide for this ability to choose either the better or the worse alternative. If in the course of a synthesis there were consciousness of better or worse alternatives and the ability to choose either, that aspect of the choice would be a morally responsible free choice.

It seems clear that Whitehead intended to provide for morally responsible free choice. He says that the "final decision of the immediate subject-superject, constituting the ultimate modification of subjective aim, is the foundation of our experience of responsibility, of approbation or of disapprobation, of self-approval or of self-reproach, of freedom, of emphasis. This element in experience is too large to be put aside merely as misconstruction" (PR 74). He provides for the consciousness of better and worse alternatives when he describes the common practice of man. "He assumes alternatives in contrast to the immediate fact. He conceives an ideal, to be attained or to be missed. He conceives such ideals as effective in proportion as they are entertained. He praises and he blames by reason of this belief" (AI 292). The ability to choose either the better or the worse alternative is clearly inferred in the worthiness of praise or blame. Murphy concludes that "Whitehead attributes freedom of libertarianism to some actual entities and he is therefore justified in maintaining that such actual entities are morally responsible for their actions" (PMR 134).

The question arises why morally responsible freedom is valuable. It is not valuable because it encourages the emergence of more complex and creative novel definiteness. The initial ideal aim as envisaged by God is the "best for that impasse" (PR 373). The maximum complex creativity desirable is already present in potentiality in the freedom of conceptual innovation provided for in the initial ideal aim. Morally responsible freedom accepts this best alternative or something less creative.

Morally responsible freedom is valuable because it makes possible self-transcending voluntary love (SCE 125-36). When a person is loved by the instinctive actualization of the conceptual innovation in the ideal aim of his dog, it does not have the same experienced value as when he is voluntarily loved by another human being. Even God values voluntary human love more than love instinctively caused or motivated by self-interest (EGL 113,159,308-10).

The possibility for self-transcending morally responsible love is also the possibility for great extremes of evil. "The finest achievements of man and his most hideous crimes" (SCE 123, cf. 125; GW 135, 95) arise out of the possibility for voluntary love. If the scope of morally responsible freedom were reduced so that a free wrong choice would not be very damaging, its value as voluntary love would be correspondingly reduced. If the only free alternatives were of such limited magnitude as whether one kissed his wife on the right cheek or the left, the experienced value of the voluntary quality would be insignificant. If man’s loving worship of God were as autonomously unavoidable as the conceptual innovation in the vibration of an elementary particle, it would not have the same experienced value for God as if it were voluntary love. Voluntary love of great value requires the possibility of equally great extremes of destructive evil.

The conceptual innovation in the ideal aim of a human being for which he is morally responsible is persuasive in both senses. It is persuasive in the sense that it has the character of ideality and of final causation in contrast to the coercive quality of efficient causation. It is also persuasive in the sense that it is autonomously avoidable with moral responsibility in contrast to that conceptual innovation which is not autonomously avoidable.

III. Persuasion as Information about Natural Consequences

There is one further way in which Whitehead sometimes uses the words persuasion and coercion that should be mentioned. This usage is similar to the kind of persuasion and coercion which Hare and Madden hold that God should exercise. They use an analogy to show that the manifestation of God’s power should not be "solely persuasive." "It would not do to excuse a mother for the grossly evil habits of her child by appealing to her use of persuasion only, when sometimes there have been Situations in which some coercion was morally required" (PS 2/1, 45). They argue that as a mother should occasionally use coercion to secure beneficial behavior, so God should use coercion.

Whitehead does recognize that coercion of the type mentioned in the analogy must be exercised. Families use a mixture" of "persuasion, and compulsion" (AI 87). Young children cannot be subjected to the "vagaries of individual teachers" if a social group is to survive. There must, therefore, be some coercive limitation to the "freedom of teaching" (AI 78). Since a social group may profitably organize itself around more than one set of ideals (AI 356f), it becomes necessary to use a certain amount of "compulsory dominion of men over men" in order to secure "the coordination of behavior necessary for social welfare" (AI 108f, cf. 218). "A few men in the whole caste of their character, and most men in some of their actions, are anti-social in respect to the peculiar type of any society possible in their time. There can be no evasion of the plain fact that compulsion is necessary and that compulsion is the restriction of liberty" (AI 71). It would be safe to conclude that Whitehead recognizes that in these types of situations the sole use of persuasion is unsatisfactory and that coercion is morally required.

Precise description of the nature of coercion in this third sense is very difficult. It is of interest that all of these instances where coercion is recommended involve human beings dealing with other human beings. None of these examples consists in one human being’s moving the other person’s hand to make him act, moving his legs to make him walk, or holding him down so that he remains seated. Analysis shows that coercion in the punishment of a child, in firing a teacher, or in government enforcement of socially adopted laws consists in withholding rewards or applying penalties.

In this third set of meanings coercion refers to the inducement by an agent of behavior in another person through rewards for desired behavior and/or penalties for rejected behavior. The rewards and penalties are produced by manipulation of corpuscular societies and structured societies so as to change the strength of beauty (very roughly, the measure of pleasure or pain) experienced by the person who is being coerced. Persuasion in this sense consists in communicating information about the advantages of a certain course of action to gain strength of beauty from natural consequences unmanipulated by the voluntary action of other people. Freedom exists in a situation in which there is only persuasion being used by the agents involved with no application of the coercion of rewards and penalties produced by voluntary manipulation of the environment. Freedom is the absence of extrinsic motivation.

A mother whose only effort to keep her child from playing in the street is verbal explanation about how badly it would hurt to be hit by a car; a school board which only explains why a teacher should teach responsibly; and a government which only explains to industry the need to control prices: these are only using persuasion. A mother who threatens and spanks a child if he runs into the street, a board which threatens and fires a teacher if he teaches irresponsibly, and a government which fines an industry that does not control prices are all using coercion. Coercion is the inducement of behavior through extrinsic motivation. A child Is free to play in the street if he is never punished. A teacher is free to teach however he pleases if no sanctions are exercised. An industry is free to regulate prices if no controls are exercised. Freedom consists in the absence of extrinsic motivation. A person feels free, even where penalties are threatened, if he has no desire to engage in the proscribed behavior. It is possible for a person to respond with his responsible freedom to the persuasion in a situation even though coercive penalties are also promised.

An illustration from history which risks oversimplification may clarify some relationships between the three types of freedom. The church-state establishment in medieval Europe used extrinsic motivation to enforce many good laws as well as to require assent, among other things, to one concept of questionable validity, namely, that the earth is the center of the universe. Copernicus experienced the freedom of conceptual innovation originating from God in which he became conscious that the earth is not the center of the universe. With responsible freedom he decided to act on this new idea and rather inconspicuously made the information available. Bruno acquired this freedom of conceptual innovation secondhand and then used responsible freedom to make public his assent to the new idea. The church-state establishment threatened penalties if he did not recant this, along with several other "errors." Thus they removed his freedom from extrinsic motivation. He used responsible freedom to refuse to recant and suffered the consequence of death. Galileo also experienced the freedom of conceptual innovation mediated through a human source and at first used responsible freedom to accept and act on the new idea. When the establishment threatened to penalize him, he used his responsible freedom to pretend to recant.

No coercion of the type that one man can apply to another short of extinction can remove the second man’s responsible freedom. A man can use responsible freedom to murder even when he is certain of receiving the extrinsic consequence of the death penalty. Martyrs of all ages and all faiths have demonstrated that a man can use his responsible freedom to choose to act in a way contrary to the maximum coercion that can be applied with penalties and rewards.

The question may be asked whether God uses a mixture of persuasion and coercion in the sense of penalties and rewards extrinsically applied. Cobb notes that the New Testament makes use of threats and promises, but he includes these threats as an element in persuasion (GW 90). Man as an agent relates to nature differently from God as an agent relating to nature. Man as an agent is dependent on enduring patterns of natural law which continue long enough to bring about the consequences intended when he exercises his responsible freedom to initiate an action. Man as an agent is external to nature and is dependent upon constancy in nature in order to accomplish his agency. God as an agent is constantly initiating new patterns of order which overcome evil and tend toward greater strength of beauty. God’s action as agent is intrinsic to nature. One aspect of God is a nonderivative order of eternal objects which is the basis of the order of nature (PR 522, 527; RM 94; MT 68; AI 214). There is not just one order (PR 128) which is statically "built in’ to nature. God is constantly acting to initiate novel order in nature (PR 135, 377). The physical pole of each occasion maintains continuity with the past by a determined response to every actual entity of the past. The mental pole includes developmental and corrective novel order initiated by God. Information about the probable course of nature then must be derived from "two distinct elements in the universe" (PR 306). Scientific study is able to present statistical information about what may be expected from the determined action of efficient cause. Whitehead also speaks about the possibility of deriving "an intuition of the probability respecting the origination of some novelty" from the "graduated order of appetitions constituting the primordial nature of God" (PR 315). What is intrinsic to nature cannot be limited to efficient causation. Nature is dependent upon final causation operating in the mental pole as manifest, for example, in vibration. A satisfactory cosmology must show that efficient and final causation are "interwoven and required, each by the other" (FR 23). It can be seen, then, that information about the type of novel action God will take if a wrong responsible free choice is made, even when it is expressed as a threat, is persuasive in the sense that it is a description of the way in which nature will operate in the absence of manipulation extrinsic to nature. The inclusion of God’s action as intrinsic to nature for the purpose of deciding what is intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is not meant to suggest that God is not transcendent of nature. The normal ongoingness of nature cannot occur without the action of a transcendent God.

In this third set of meanings coercion refers to the inducement of behavior through the application of extrinsic motivation, and persuasion refers to the communication of information about the natural consequences which will occur with various alternative behaviors. Freedom consists in the absence of extrinsic motivation.

IV. Divine Persuasive Power

With these three sets of meanings for the terms persuasion, coercion, and freedom it is now possible to make some clarifying distinctions in the discussion of the criticisms made by Hare and Madden. In some cases a subscript number is added after one of these words to show whether it is to be understood in the sense used in the first, second, or third, section of this paper.

(1) Hare and Madden use the analogy of a parent and child and argue that just as a parent is morally required to use enough extrinsic motivation on his child to protect the child and society so God should use coercive power to prevent excess evil. They specifically attack Cobb’s statement that the only worthwhile power is persuasive.

Confusion occurs in this criticism because Hare and Madden use meanings for terms that fit a different metaphysical system. Their concepts of coercion and persuasion are closer to the meanings given in section III whereas God’s persuasion and coercion are better described with the meanings in sections I and II. They seem to assume that nature is something that can operate autonomously, that morally responsible freedom can emerge out of and function in a material base, and then they suggest that if there is a God he should occasionally intervene when things get too bad. They hold that a God who is limited to persuasion is too weak to do what needs to be done.

Whitehead describes a metaphysical situation in which God’s action is solely persuasive. Cobb is right in limiting God’s power to persuasive power. God’s action in the world is limited to the persuasion of the conceptual innovation of final cause. God cannot act coercively in the sense of counteracting evil with brute efficient causation. "God’s role is not the combat of productive force with productive force, of destructive force with destructive force; it lies in the patient operation of the overpowering rationality of his conceptual harmonization" (PR 525f).

God’s action in the world must be limited to persuasive final causation, or there will not be a matrix of efficiently caused relativity in which responsible freedom can be expressed. Coercive efficient causation sustains the expression of responsible freedom, and persuasive final causation defines and constitutes a thrust tending toward the emergence of good. A metaphysical situation with static laws of nature could not account for the rise of the good which we experience. Whitehead shows that materialism cannot account for the emergence of the good (SMW 156f; FR 4f). A materialistic nature with static properties could not provide for the expression of responsible freedom. Whitehead also shows that mechanistic materialism cannot account for the accountability which a responsible person has for his bodily actions (SMW 113-17).

For a person to be responsible for the actions of his body, the molecules in the body must be able to respond differently depending on how he chooses. The expression of responsible freedom requires some system in which the internal unitary character of units of reality is relative to all conditions in the causal past. In materialism the units are static and only change external relations. Whitehead’s principle of relativity in the philosophy of organism provides that each unit of reality includes a response to all of the causal past. The possibility of responsible freedom is dependent on a metaphysical situation which provides a real medium which is sufficiently plastic to be manipulated by responsibly free agents. The efficiently caused physical pole of each actual occasion uninterrupted by divine action provides the medium for the expression of responsible freedom.

Because God’s action is limited to the persuasive action of the conceptual origination of final cause, God overcomes evil in an equitable way without cutting off the expression of responsible freedom. Madden and Hare suggest that "God could mitigate a particularly terrible result in a stop-gap fashion by a miraculous intervention" (ECG 75). Such stop-gap intervention is bound to produce inequities of the type illustrated when a farmer growing corn prays for rain and a farmer next door growing grapes prays for clear weather. God does not intervene in a stop-gap manner. He intervenes in every actual occasion with the best persuasive corrective and developmental novelty for that impasse (PR 373). Without such constant intervention the universal relativity expressed in the efficiently caused physical pole would make everything run down to a dead level of nondifferentiation in which every unit of reality would be just like every other unit of reality (PR 377; FR 28; AI 147, 368; RM 104; MT 12). Most of God’s persuasive intervention is coercive. Like the conceptual innovation resulting in the vibration of an elementary particle, it is autonomously unavoidable. Even this coercive, persuasion does not cut off the expression of past responsible freedom carried by determined efficient cause. The final outcome in a becoming occasion is a combination of the factors in the efficiently caused datum and the finally caused ideal aim.

Whitehead’s God whose action is limited to persuasion, is more powerful than a God who omnipotently determines every event that happens. Cobb points out that every child has the power to lead a troop of tin soldiers but only a few men have the power to lead men who wield power of their own (GW 89). By acting only with conceptual origination in the mental poles of occasions, God overcomes the entropic running down effect of universal relativity; he overcomes much evil in the world; and he maintains a matrix of occasions whose relativity makes them open to the expression of responsible freedom. That God’s persuasion successfully overcomes the evil of entropy is shown by the fact of the existent universe. We are real and really engaged in searching for that type of thinking which would be most effective in cooperating with the upward trend.

(2) Hare and Madden complain that the extent of evil in the world indicates that the persuasive power used by God must be very weak since so few are persuaded.

This criticism seems to imply that persuasion is a partial cause and that the outcome will be proportional to the strength of the persuasion. This is partly true for persuasion,. That part of God’s conceptual innovation which is not subject to morally responsible free rejection is always proportionally effective. The success in maintaining dependable regularity in elementary particles over a long time is such an example.

The outcome is not proportional to the strength of persuasion. Persuasion, as conceptual innovation is coercive to the extent that it cannot be rejected and persuasive to the extent that it can be rejected by morally responsible freedom. An increase in the proportion of conceptual innovation which is persuasive, also increases the possible tragic evil if a wrong choice is made. Removal of this excess evil by increasing the proportion of conceptual innovation that is coercive, would reduce the value of responsible freedom by reducing the possibility of voluntary love.

If there is real morally responsible freedom, no amount of coercion, could secure desired results. The fact that many martyrs used their moral freedom to act on what they thought was God’s ideal aim, even at the cost of their lives, shows that no coercion as the voluntary application of extrinsic motivation can insure a certain outcome for a morally responsible free choice. Even God could not apply enough coercion as extrinsic motivation to secure a right choice if it were a morally responsible free choice. Ford is right in saying that unlimited persuasive power appropriate for a God is compatible with any tragic evil resulting from a wrong choice rejecting that persuasion.

(3) The third criticism says that the failure of persuasion to produce good acts and experiences cannot be explained by saying that divine persuasion seeks freedom and creativity more than good acts since such persuasion is not successful in producing freedom and creativity either.

There seems to be a confusion of the various types of freedom in this statement. If God’s persuasion, as producing the freedom of conceptual innovation were very successful and his persuasion, in terms of moral ideals had a wide scope so that many individuals were able freely to reject some of that conceptual innovation, then there would be more need in society to reduce the freedom, of the absence of extrinsic motivation so as to coordinate society. Maximum morally responsible freedom, could coexist with the freedom, of absence of extrinsic motivation without massive evil if morally responsible freedom, were determined by God. Yet Hare and Madden agree that "it is ‘double talk’ to say that ‘God decided my decisions . . . yet they are truly mine"’ (PS 2/1, 45). If God were to give more of the freedom, of conceptual innovation coercively, the possibility of valuable voluntary love would be reduced.

God could successfully produce freedom, of conceptual innovation and freedom, of moral responsibility, and then some men could use their autonomous ability to reject conceptual innovation by subjecting their fellows to unjust coercion. This would in turn require the rest of society to apply just coercion, to prevent them from harming their fellows. The just presence of someone in jail does not say that God is not successful in producing freedom, if by freedom we mean the freedom of moral responsibility.

(4) The fourth criticism suggests that it is just as possible that the good in the world is free resistance to an evil persuasive power as that the evil is free resistance to a good persuasive power. I have no desire to deny the existence of a supreme evil persuasive power, but I do think that Whitehead’s arguments for the existence of a good persuasive power are convincing. If there were no good persuasive power to furnish novel positive forms of definiteness, there would be no way to overcome the running down effect of universal relativity. That the running down effect is being overcome is apparent from the upward tendency in the universe.

(5) In the fifth criticism there is a protest against any attempt to affirm the existence of God which ignores the fact of massive excess evil in the world. The charge is that the concept of persuasive power in God’s relation to evil is incoherent with the massive amount of excess evil in the world.

This protest seems to be aimed at Hartshorne’s argument for the existence of God which is immune to any empirical evidence that could occur in any world. Among the many advantages of Whitehead’s solution to the problem of evil is his recommendation that the factuality of real evil be included in the assemblage of data which form the basis of philosophical investigation (MT 70f, 109f). There is no attempt to evade empirical evidence. In fact, there is an exhortation not to ignore any evidence, especially the fact of massive excess evil.

Another important strength of Whitehead’s solution to the problem of evil is that he provides a coherent explanation of the nature of good and evil and accounts for their production. Materialism cannot account for the rise of the good. Monistic and idealistic systems cannot account for the rise of evil. Traditional theology which describes God as omnipotent in the sense that he determines every event makes God responsible for all evil. Whitehead shows how excess evil arises without making God responsible. Support for these statements deserves more extended treatment.

The God described by Whitehead is more powerful than the God of traditional omnipotence who produces and determines every event. He can permit and persuasively overcome real opposition. He actively innovates and sustains a matrix of relativity in which responsible freedom can be expressed. He is active in the production of a situation in which real opposition can be carried out. He, then, persuasively, and not coercively, overcomes that opposition. The love which a society of responsibly free persons has for God is enhanced by their knowledge that God overcomes their rebellion solely with the use of persuasion. Hare and Madden complain that the inability to measure God’s power calls in question the reality of that power (PS 2/1, 48). Every existent thing that can be measured in the universe is evidence of the persuasive power of God.

The argument that a solely persuasive God is more powerful than the traditional coercive God is in some tension with the explanation that God does not intervene coercively to prevent excess evil because he does not have the power. To explain that God is still a good God even though he does not intervene coercively because he does not have the power to do so implies that if he had the power he ought to intervene. This, in turn, suggests that God would be a better God if he had the power and did occasionally intervene to remove excess evil.

I would like to suggest for the critical evaluation of process thinkers four reasons why God would not coercively, intervene to remove excess evil even if he had the power. First, intervention with anything but persuasive, power to remove excess evil would cut off and remove the expression of responsible freedom. If there is no neutral matrix of efficient cause in which to express responsible freedom, there is no responsible freedom. Maintenance of a plastic matrix in which responsible freedom can be expressed requires that God not arbitrarily interrupt the far-reaching outcome of free wrong choices in that medium.

Second, Whitehead recognizes a valid use for pragmatic considerations in the evaluation of the validity of perception, ideals, and philosophy (PR 275, 411, 512; FR 64f; MT 144; 5 31). The ease with which socially induced conventions can be confused with intuitions of God’s ideal aim points to the need for pragmatic criteria for differentiation. Sometimes the full evil character of a choice is not manifest for some time in the future. Arbitrary intervention would distort the evaluation that is based on pragmatic evidence.

Third, man’s agency is dependent on sufficient continuity in the order of nature so that he can make inductions on the probable course of nature and then act with some confidence that a consequence remote in time will occur. Arbitrary and unpredictable "stop-gap" intervention on the part of God would destroy the continuity which is needed in science, technology, and human cooperation in civilization. Pollution, population, and the energy crisis are examples of situations demanding responsible free choice expecting consequences remote in time.

Fourth, occasional intervention with coercive efficient causation to counteract excess evil is not as equitable to all occasions in the world as the constant intervention in every occasion with final cause tending to overcome evil. Such intervention can be regular and predictable on the basis of intuitions of the order of eternal objects in the primordial nature of God and can, therefore, be taken into account in the planning and responsible free choosing of men.

The concept of divine persuasive power in Whitehead is coherent with the massive excess evil evident in the world. He is right when he says that materialism cannot explain the rise of the good, that monistic and idealistic schemes cannot explain the rise of evil, and that traditional concepts of God’s power make God the despotic cause of all evil. Whitehead’s conceptuality explains the rise of good and the rise of evil without making God responsible for any evil which cannot be justified.



CNT -- John B. Cobb, Jr. A Christian Natural Theology. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1965.

ECG -- Edward H. Madden and Peter H. Hare. Evil and the Concept of God. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas, 1968.

EGL -- John Hick. Evil and the God of Love. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

GW -- John B. Cobb, Jr. God and the World. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969.

LP -- Charles Hartshorne. The Logic of Perfection and Other Essays in Neoclassical Metaphysics. LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company, 1962.

PMR -- Frances Harder Murphy. "The Place of Moral Responsibility in the Philosophies of Whitehead and Peirce." Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy, Brown University, September, 1940.

PPCT -- Lewis S. Ford. "Divine Persuasion and the Triumph of Good," in Delwin Brown, Ralph E. James, Jr., and Gene Reeves (eds.), Process Philosophy and Christian Thought. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.

SCE -- John B. Cobb, Jr. The Structure of Christian Existence. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1967.