Recent Classical/Process Dialogue on God and Change

by Philip Clayton

Philip Clayton is associate professor of philosophy at Sonoma State University in Sonoma, California.

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp.194-203, Vol.18, Number 3, Fall, 1989. 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.


The author discusses classical versus process theological dialogue in four central themes: 1. Being and becoming; 2. The question of personal identity; 3. The part/whole relationship; 4. The Trinity.

Contemporary reflection on the theme of God and change is divided into two quite diverse schools or traditions. On the one hand, process philosophers have made important advances under the inspiration of the writings of Alfred North Whitehead, while on the other a group of thinkers has pursued the developmental implications of the classical Christian doctrine of God as Trinity.1 Normally these two discussions proceed with little cognizance of or interaction with one another. This relative silence is unfortunate, since the two conversations clearly hold potential for significant cross-fertilization and mutual inspiration.

A recent collection of articles has broken the usual silence. The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg focuses on the work of one of the handful of trinitarian theologians who have dialogued extensively with American process thought. The contributions by the three process thinkers -- David Polk, John Cobb Jr., and Lewis Ford -- provide a clear statement of the options, positive and negative, in this dialogue, and Pannenberg’s responses bring the discussion one step further. In what follows I evaluate these three recent process interactions with Pannenberg. Using them as a basis. I then consider the state of -- and prospects for -- classical/process theological dialogue in the light of four central themes: being and becoming, the question of personal identity, the part/whole relationship, and the Trinity.


In his contribution, "The All-Determining God and the Peril of Determinism," David Polk explores the meaning of God as the "all-determining power" in Pannenberg’s system.2 The question of power is a difficult one, as Polk shows: if Pannenberg overemphasizes God’s control, he falls into the morasses of determinism alluded to in Polk’s title; conversely, "the freedom of the other" must be "genuinely authenticated" (TWP 159).

Polk paints the decision as one between hard and soft determinism. In hard determinism "God is interpreted as fully constituting what emerges in history" (emphasis added), hence as the only locus of control. By contrast, soft determinism can allow for many real agents acting in history, even though "God finally decides what those emergent realities ultimately mean, what their essence is" (TWP 162). As Polk continues, it becomes clear that he interprets Pannenberg as having in fact already opted for hard determinism: for Pannenberg, whatever happens in history has always already been true in God’s eternity; whatever emerges will turn out to have been true all along. Ultimately, Pannenberg holds to a "changeless eternal co-presence" of God (TWP 167), which entails hard determinism.

Polk’s article correctly zeroes in on one of the major challenges that Pannenberg’s doctrine faces: how to preserve the real openness of the future in light of his insistence on a completed and changeless immanent Trinity, a final eschaton, and the primacy of the future? In Polk’s analysis, theism and soft determinism are best wedded by a process conceptuality. By implication, Pannenberg too must accept a Whiteheadian conceptuality if he is to avoid the unwanted and unacceptable fall into hard determinism. Polk’s own proposed reconciliation is to suggest that God may will, through love, to allow humans to decide their own becoming; God may determine to allow other-determination (TWP 163f). This option maintains human freedom without challenging the divinity of God for Christian theologians.

In his response in the volume, Pannenberg embraces the suggestion that God chooses to give to creatures "some degree of self-determination"; he finds the idea inevitable and views it as "not actually a concession" on his part (TWP 322). But, he claims, God’s causal influence from the future is a retroactive influence that is in principle different from any determinism. However, Polk has remained unconvinced by the contention that a Bestimmung (determination? influence?) from the future might not be determining in the same way that, say, causal determinism from the past would be.3 To advance any further, their discourse would need to turn to the nature of God’s future causality. Since Polk seems willing to grant future causality, there is room for progress here; still, these questions remain unaddressed in Polk’s present piece.

On the question of the nature of God, there seems to be little prospect of achieving conceptual rapprochement. At the same time, such agreement is clearly a necessary condition for classical/process consensus regarding exactly how this God acts from the future. Polk’s notion of God emphasizes features drawn from Whitehead’s consequent nature of God, whereas Pannenberg appeals to the unity of the immanent and economic Trinity as grounds for denying that there is ultimately development in God. That is, Pannenberg denies real divine development on the premise that God’s actions in history directly mirror (or are the outworking of) God’s own eternal being. One notes a significant conceptual distance between Pannenberg’s immanent/economic Trinity and Polk’s "divine adventure, full of novelty and uncontrolled twists and turns even for God" (TWP 167). The only basis for agreement here would be if an immanent-economic unity that takes place in the future could be shown to be equivalent to a becoming God in the present. But Polk does not give us much reason for optimism on this score.

John Cobb Jr. is also concerned with the freedom question. In his article, "Pannenberg and Process Theology," he states the crucial stumbling block: Whitehead’s acceptance and Pannenberg’s rejection of the open-endedness of an infinite future. For Whitehead there is closure in each moment and hence no need for a final future; for Pannenberg the meaning of any present moment can only be settled by a still outstanding future. Cobb insists that Pannenberg’s stance poses insuperable difficulties for the freedom of the creation. Actual occasions are the final arbiters over what they will become, though the valuation by future occasions remains open. If the future decision of God is constitutive for the actual being of individuals, it is hard to see how they are free to choose their own fate. Once again, the debate turns on the nature of the influence exercised by this God of the future. If we are "collectively destined" for God’s kingdom, then divine rule already exercises ‘determinative efficacy" and human freedom becomes ipso facto impossible (TWP 67).

In order to reach consensus with Cobb, Pannenberg would have to grant that future determination by God allows for "formal freedom" in the present, viz, that creatures "could have acted otherwise" (TWP 69). But the German theologian has made it clear that he will not go this far. Further, he and Cobb wish to stress very different aspects of the freedom issue: Pannenberg "would rather focus on the phenomenon of conscious choices" (TWP 329), while Cobb’s interest lies with the "much subtler decisions that characterize life from moment to moment" (TWP 69). Phenomena of consciousness are not ultimate for the process thinker -- the goal is a metaphysical framework that treats conscious and nonconscious entities in a unitary manner. This metaphysical disagreement gives rise in turn to a theological one: will the actual occasion or the future God be the ultimate source of determining what the actual occasion is? The only way that Pannenberg could appropriate Whitehead’s analysis would be to affirm a doctrine of personal becoming which stresses individual concrescence more and ascribes a less important role to consciousness, especially consciousness of the whole of history. Yet it is clear from his recent metaphysics book that this is a move Pannenberg is still unwilling to make (MG, esp. chap. 3).

At its base, Pannenberg’s compatibility (of divine all-determination with human responsibility) stems from the unique nature of a determining activity that has its locus in the future. This move depends, obviously, on an acceptable defense of future causality, which in turn points us back toward the question of the nature of this God of the future: is the trinitarian tradition an adequate way of conceptualizing God? How are we to construe God’s influence or rule? Both thinkers give a central place to divine influence in time, hence to the importance of history for God, and both agree that human self-determination always takes place within narrow limits (e.g., TWP 63). However, such peripheral agreements do not amount to a shared understanding of God and change.

The articles by Cobb and Polk, then, do not offer much ground for effecting a meeting between the two traditions. The tenor of Cobb’s article is a regretful but firm acknowledgement that his work and that of Pannenberg have not, after twenty-five years of contact, achieved significant overlap. Polk’s suggestion of a self-limiting on the part of the all-determining God Pannenberg accepts as compatible with his understanding of God’s power as love; still, in other respects the conceptual foundations of their two doctrines of God appear to diverge widely.

The situation is somewhat different with Lewis Ford, whose article in the collection, "The Nature of the Power of the Future," continues his long-term effort to forge a bridge between Whitehead and Pannenberg.4 The crux of Ford’s project is to reconceive God as pure becoming and the source of all becoming (creativity, novelty). This corrective to Whitehead is consistently carried out in Ford’s suggested modifications. Thus eternal objects are to be understood as abstractions from the "real possibilities" that are contained in God as Creativity (TWP 84n24), belief in an end of history is compatible with Whitehead when interpreted subjectively as the unification of all experience in God at a particular time, and a process God could even be said to "create" the world -- "from" the future, as Pannenberg also holds -- if this means "determining [the] role and significance [of each individual act] in the unity of the final whole" (TWP 86).

Each of these modifications is fueled by the shift to a God of becoming rather than of being. A "God of the future" in Ford’s sense is the source of all possibility; indeed, by an act of projection or objectification on our part, we may even conceive of God as appearing to us as this possibility. For Ford, God gives rise to and is influenced by the process of becoming in history, yet does so without taking away the freedom of the creation. Moreover, Ford’s shift to becoming has no trouble with (a type of) future causality since, like Pannenberg, he too inverts the order of causality normally found among existing things, that is, from past to present. In this new theory of becoming, the future is that which is fully indeterminate now but will become progressively determinate as it moves from future (undecided) to past (decided, determined).

However, even Ford’s article in the volume does not actually claim to achieve a fusion between process metaphysics and classical trinitarian theology. The body of his paper moves a significant distance in this direction, with its series of statements of compatabilities between a modified Whitehead and Pannenberg. But Ford’s appendix, in which he defends Whitehead against eight objections by Pannenberg, provides evidence that deep disagreements still remain. In the following section 1 would like to explore four of these remaining disagreements -- if not to overcome them, at least to define them more clearly.


(i) Being and Becoming. The ontological task that Whiteheadians and Pannenberg share is to establish a relationship between being and becoming. I worry that Ford’s approach, which treats the two as radically disparate realms, will have difficulty providing a unitary metaphysical account of how the contact and reconciliation of the two principles can actually take place. Surely, all other things being equal, it would be preferable to reconceive being in terms of process or becoming, rather than to concede it to the proponents of static ontological categories and to settle on pure becoming instead.

The classic theories of becoming in the history of philosophy, at any rate, have not treated becoming in abstraction from being. To mention just two: for Aristotle becoming meant generation, or the "movement" from nonbeing to being. Such a metaphysics, though not successful in introducing development into being, at least correctly locates becoming as an important locus of ontology, namely as involved in those peculiar movements Aristotle called generation and corruption. The study of ontology cannot be carried out without attention to the beginning and final end of beings (onta). Building on Aristotle, G. W. F. Hegel introduced becoming, almost at the outset of the System, as the category that synthesizes being and nonbeing, in which their difference is both transcended and preserved (aufgehoben). This early incorporation of becoming provides the core of a dynamic ontology which -- in principle if not in Hegel’ s actual practice -- could be adequate for conceptualizing human subjectivity, natural change, and the pervasiveness of historical development

The views of both Aristotle and Hegel are motivated by the need to bind becoming and being. Indeed, the inadequacy of any final dichotomy should make itself felt at both extremes: being without becoming is left an empty category, inapplicable to most things which are (Seiende), since they are in the mode of being-in-change. Likewise, becoming without being remains inapplicable, for we can only apply the concept when we can conceptualize something as becoming. This constraint applies most pressingly to God. Hence Pannenberg contra Ford: "it still seems unavoidable (as long as one is not an atheist) to admit that God ‘is’ becoming" (TWP 326, emphasis added).

Now there is a viable response to this line of argument: suppose we reserve the term becoming exclusively for the transition from nonbeing to being. We can then sharply distinguish the change that existing things undergo from genuine becoming, referring to the former as simple process or change. Under this view, becoming connotes only the nontemporal process by which something that does not yet exist comes into existence.’ Since something "is" only at the last (nontemporal) moment of this transition from nonbeing to being, the argument continues, we should expect that being and becoming will tend to dichotomize: when something is becoming, it is not yet and when it exists, it has already become.

Still, I fear that the transition view alone is not sufficient. How is the verbal notion of becoming to be related to beings the substantive? Here I prefer Hegel, who weds Being with Becoming in the first triad of his System. Likewise, Whitehead’s strength is to construe God’s being, and ours, as fundamentally in process: I am a new instance of becoming, a new concrescence, at every moment. The brilliance of the theory of actual occasions is precisely this implication that our being lies in becoming. Classical theists can appropriate this insight, while insisting in return that what occurs is being.

(ii) The Question of Personal Identity. If we add the Whiteheadian societal reconstrual of personal identity to the problematic explored in (i), the alleged harshness of the being/becoming dichotomy may be further mitigated. There are deep continuities between the "I" that became a moment ago and the "I" that becomes now; I2 inherits a much larger set of initial data from I1 than it does from distant or discontinuous events, since I1-I2 forms a particularly significant thread in the relevant nexus of inheritance. Whitehead writes, "An enduring personality in the temporal world is a route of occasions in which the successors with some peculiar completeness sum up their predecessors (PR 350/531). Nonetheless, despite the close links, each one of these atomic "l’s" remains a unique culmination of a process of becoming: it is in the same determinate sense that any past fact (datum) is what it is for the duration of history. Likewise, according to Hartshorne, God as an actual occasion is at the completion of each process of becoming (thereby becoming a datum for all future occasions), though the society of occasions that we label God shows development or change.

With this argument we have reached another central metaphysical difference between Whiteheadian and Pannenbergian theism6 Pannenberg has rejected the Whiteheadian treatment of God in favor of a metaphysic that lays greater stress on consciousness. He may eschew the German Idealists’ belief in the ultimacy of the category of subjectivity, along with their insistence that the subject can be self-creating or hold itself in existence without any supernatural foundation (MG 47ff). Yet he still defends (something like) their concept of subjectivity as a basic requirement for maintaining the personhood of God. We have here a sort of recapitulation of the battle between Hume and Kant. Whitehead offers us a variant on the Humean notion of the self as a bundle of instances -- though he of course provides a metaphysical account of the becoming of each instance where Hume took them as ultimates of experience. Kant, by contrast, found It necessary to posit a transcendental unity of apperception to account for the phenomenon of self-consciousness and for our awareness of identity through time. For Pannenberg, of course, this transcendental unity will lie not in the present but in the future. Still, Pannenberg shares with the idealists an insistence on an enduring, developing, subjective center of self-consciousness to ground ontological identity through time: each "I" is a numerically identical subject of experience persisting through many temporal moments.

The Humean and idealist approaches are two of the major competing options for a theory of personal identity in modem philosophy. Their differences cannot be ignored, and I am unable to synthesize them into a single view. At best, I suggest, they can be viewed as two complementary ways of conceptualizing the individual. There are contexts in which we want to speak of an individual existing through time -- certainly our subjective experience prompts us to speak in this manner. Whitehead’s view, in contrast, does justice to the strict demands of the concept of identity: two things are only identical when they are exactly the same.7 A person at two different moments of time is not the identical person; he or she should therefore be understood as composed of many different occasions, and as "one person" only by extrapolation.

I tend to side with Pannenberg’s "loose" sense of identity -- continuity through time of an individual -- as phenomenologically more adequate: it does express the subjective sense of sameness through time of which persons are aware. However, the task which the Whiteheadian critique poses for Pannenberg is to specify a framework for grounding the real metaphysical identity of individuals, given his criticisms of the idealist project (e.g., MG 45). He clearly means to accomplish this metaphysical task via a final eschaton, that future reconciling of time and eternity in which a whole is formed that can give meaning to all moments of history. For Pannenberg, there is an important sense in which this future reconciliation has already been accomplished in Christ.

By contrast, I wish to treat it now only as a standard or goal. The final point at which the identity of all individuals will be both constituted and revealed is at present only a posit or regulative principle of reason, which we treat as if (in hopes that?) it will one day become an actual reality. In both cases it provides a point of reference for determining that individuals are not yet who they will become; they are not yet completed or self-identical.8 Note that the regulative view stands closer to Ford’s position. The divine aim seeks to unify the various temporal contents into one final unity, although the success of that project is at present unclear. Indeed, even the language for discussing a final future remains projective, possibly fictive.

(iii) The Part/Whole Relationship. One difficulty with Pannenberg’s theory of identity through time lies in his understanding of the part/whole relationship on which it depends. Pannenberg wishes to ascribe primacy and objectivity to the concept of the whole. Present anticipation of a final whole at the end of history is central to his ontology, his theory of truth, his doctrine of God -- in brief, to his entire project.9 Emphatically, for him it is only an objective ontological whole that can give meaning to each historical moment -- that is, can determine what each object really is.

Ford’s view is similar in several respects. It also allows for some type of final unification of all moments, for God’s experience constitutes "the unity of the final whole." As we saw, Ford is even willing to label this final unity an eschaton -- although the term final may convey overtones of absolute finality that are dissonant with his broader process position. The status of his synthesis remains unclear to me, however. The final unity must remain subjective: it is the subjective whole of God’s "final" valuation. But Ford’s is not ultimately a metaphysics of subjectivity; what is ultimately real are individual actual occasions. This leaves Ford’s "eschaton" with a decidedly secondary ontological status: can it be anything more than one arbitrarily chosen moment in the continuing subjective experience of God? Either God’s valuation is less real than the data that it unifies (if viewed as an element of the process of concrescence) or, if fully real, it is such only as a datum that is available for future occasions or future moments of God’s experience. Finally, God is not now complete, so any valuations in the present are preliminary. If God does anticipate God’s final valuation, it can only be as wish or hope.

These concerns notwithstanding, I continue to resist Pannenberg’s alternative conception as well. The primacy of the whole, the conceptual unification of all particulars, is undoubtedly a central goal for any systematic philosopher. We can observe this search for a unifying principle at work in the history of philosophy, developing from Thales’ water, Plato’s Form of the Good, and Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover, through most of medieval and early modern philosophy, and on to the objective anticipation of the final whole around which Pannenberg centers his system. But after the deadends and Holzwege encountered during 2,500 years of metaphysical reflection, the requirements for an adequate unifying principle are staggering. Consequently, the system ideal, like the notion of personal identity sketched in (ii), is perhaps better viewed as a regulative principle guiding philosophical reflection than as a philosophical reality that we can appropriate and elucidate in the present. 10 If we interpret the system ideal in this way, we will find ourselves, per necessitatem, building up from the parts in the effort to construct larger and larger coherent theories and sets of theories, in a manner reminiscent of Nicholas Rescher’s "coherence machinery."11 However, there is no clear sense in which the whole would be prior to the parts in this case, except in the guise of a guiding ideal or lure that motivates the endeavor.

(iv) The Trinity. The final classical/process conflict is perhaps the most serious of all, viz, the apparent incompatibility of trinitarian and non-trinitarian notions of God. Reacting to criticisms from classical theologians, Pannenberg has given increasing attention to the doctrine of the Trinity, and now makes it the pivotal point of his entire systematic theology (GST 2, chaps. 3-5; ST). In developing his position, he ascribes to "Rahner’s Rule," the equivalence of the immanent and economic Trinity. 12 In other words, an adequate trinitarian theology cannot develop a notion of God’s actions in history that is incompatible with its claims about God’s own eternal nature.

If God acts in real response to events in time, then, it seems, there must be some place for change in the immanent Trinity as well. Yet for Pannenberg Rahner’s Rule does not necessitate belief in a becoming God, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. The economic Trinity, God acting in history, is always -- Pannenberg would say: will always have been -- the God who was before and will be after time, the immanent Trinity. The trinitarian relationships within God are eternal relationships, though they are also the actual relationships that we see manifested in God’s actions in history. In short, the ontological movement in Pannenberg’s thought must be said to be from God’s internal nature to a description of God’s actions in history. For the classical theologian, the theology of the immanent Trinity must finally set the constraints for any claims made about the economic Trinity.

But there is no place within a Whiteheadian conceptuality for this sort of trinitarian God. Whitehead obviously does not see himself constrained to incorporate or even draw on the New Testament and church councils, be their conclusions trinitarian or otherwise. Instead, where the classical theologian begins with the actions of the three persons in history, Whitehead sets out from a specification of the single (though dipolar) essence of God. Moreover, for Whitehead God must be conceptualized in conformity with other beings. The God who reacts to a set of initial data at a given moment is simply the divine occasion that emerges from that process of concrescence -- and likewise for all other moments. Since no other actual occasion is trinitarian, there can be no place in Whiteheadian metaphysics for a divine three-in-one. 13 By contrast, God for the classical theologian is fundamentally trinitarian; the Trinity is the beginning and end of all reflection on God and the heart of theology.14


Given these radically distinct treatments of the four themes, will not any parallels that emerge between (e.g.) Whitehead and Pannenberg have to be mere analogies or coincidences rather than substantive metaphysical agreements? Not necessarily -- as long as we find a common commitment to systematic reflection, interaction with the metaphysical tradition, and mutual interest in the themes here discussed: God and change, time, becoming, identity. As long as these criteria are satisfied, there is the possibility of reciprocal internal criticism.

Consider the question of the Trinity. A variety of problems have been raised from a classical Christian perspective regarding non-trinitarian conceptions of God, including the problems of creation, salvation, divine self-consciousness, God’s relation to the eternal ideas and to Creativity, and religious adequacy. Likewise, process thinkers have helped to expose serious difficulties with trinitarian thought. Critics have always worried about conceptualizing the unity in three, of course, but also about the relationship between God prior to creation and the God who acts in history. If the economic Trinity is not essentially one with the immanent trinity, then it is not the preexistent God who in fact acts in history; if they are one, we face (e.g.) the paradox of saying that the human individual Jesus was really in God prior to the creation of the world. The only prospect for progress on these issues depends on the existence of effective and mutual criticism of inadequate positions.

For example, Pannenberg insists that we take as our starting point the three persons who are implicated in Christian revelation and expounded in the early creeds, rather than beginning with a single essence or any theory of the unity of God. But will this methodology not inevitably separate theology from philosophy? Of course, Pannenberg requires that theology not insulate itself; but this requires only that it hold its claims up to philosophical scrutiny. It apparently does not mean that theology must begin with a theory of the essence of God as a philosopher would. When theology does expose its traditional doctrines to criticism in this manner, Pannenberg admits, the results are not all rosy. The task of showing both the unity and the separateness of the immanent and economic Trinity is "in the general theological discussion so far unsolved"; in fact, to show the unity of the trinitarian God "has formed the central problem of Christian trinitarian theology" since the fourth century (ST 362,370). Christian theologians’ continuing difficulties, and Pannenberg’s humility about his own efforts at a solution, provide a continued opening for input from process-metaphysical options.

Pannenberg has been an effective critic of process thought, as both Cobb and Ford acknowledge in their articles. He has raised important internal difficulties with process theism (PS 14/1: 21-30), and argued for increased attention to the task of synthesizing Whiteheadian and other process conceptualities. The state of metaphysical discussion would be healthier if Whiteheadians became equally as effective at raising internal criticisms of recent work in the classical tradition. Philosophy of science provides an interesting analogy here. Whitehead and Pannenberg do not work from within a single paradigm, with only a few "puzzles" to be solved to make them compatible, as in T. S. Kuhn’s "normal science." Nor will the decision between them be made for us by a decisive falsification instance -- either of Whitehead’s atomism or of Pannenberg’s trinitarianism -- à la Karl Popper; metaphysics simply does not work that way. Instead, we have two competing research programs, each with its own fundamental intuitions and program of inquiry to pursue, as in Imre Lakatos’s philosophy of science.15 Only "over the long haul" can we judge which will be more progressive more able to handle the classical challenges raised by the entire history of metaphysics, by dialogue with existing religions (Christian and otherwise), and by the experience of contemporary religious believers.

In conclusion, despite my insistence on the irresolvability of these two models, in Pannenberg and in Ford’s modified Whitehead we do find a narrowing of the gap. There is some agreement on the primacy of the future as the place where the required unity is achieved: in Pannenberg’s case, the unity of immanent and economic Trinity; in Whitehead’s case, the unity of the primordial and consequent natures of God; for Ford, the unity of final becoming or emergence. The God who thus emerges is a different God in each case. Still, the locus of emergence is the same. And many of the qualities of this God -- temporality, responsiveness to the world, the granting of freedom to creation, the effecting of unity through a subjective unification of the parts (data) available to God -- are in fact shared by the various approaches. If process and trinitarian conceptualities do not in fact overlap, at least they share many of the attributes and part of the philosophical framework that underlies them. This fact allows for continued dialogue and the possibility of change, compromise, critique. That any full mediation remains future should not surprise thinkers who have made the category of the future central to their thought.16


GST -- Wolfhart Pannenberg, Grundfragen systematischer Theologie. 2 vols.

Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1967, 1980. (David Polk is currently preparing a translation of vol. 2 for Westminster Press.)

MG -- Wolfhart Pannenberg. Metaphysik und Gottesgedanke. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1988. (The English translation, Metaphysics and the Idea of God, will be published by Eerdmans in 1990.)

ST -- Wolfhart Pannenberg. Systematische Theologie, vol. 1. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1988.

TWP -- The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg: Twelve American Critiques. Ed. Carl E. Braaten and Philip Clayton. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1988.



1See Eberhard Jüngel, The Doctrine of the Trinity: God’s Being is in Becoming (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976)/and God as the Mystery of the World, trans. Darrell L. Guder (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1980); Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), and God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985); Robert Jenson, The Triune Identity (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982).

2Polk’s full-length treatment of the subject is now available; see David P. Polk, On the Way to God: An Exploration into the Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg (Washington: University Press of America, 1989).

3For instance, after reading Pannenberg’s response to his criticisms, Polk reiterated them, without modification or retraction, at the 1988 American Academy of Religion meetings in Chicago (Pannenberg session).

4In addition to his article in the present volume, see e.g., "A Whiteheadian Basis for Pannenberg’s Theology," Encounter 38 (1977): 307-17; "A Dialogue About Process Philosophy" (with Wolfhart Pannenberg), Encounter 38 (1977): 318-24; "God as the Subjectivity of the Future," Encounter 41 (1980): 287-92; ‘The Divine Activity of the Future," Process Studies 11/3 (Fall 1981): 169-79; and "Creativity in a Future Key," in New Essays in Metaphysics, ed. Robert C. Neville (Albany: SUNY Press, 1987), pp. 179-97.

4In general this seems to be the assumption that underlies Ford’s position. Cobb gives a helpful exposition of a related idea on p. 62.

6The difference may be even more pronounced in the case of Lewis Ford, who renounces the notion of God as a society of divine occasions in favor of a single everlasting concrescence which is imprehensible (personal correspondence).

7Whitehead’s position could be defended on other grounds as well: e.g., it gives us a single type of experience for all existing things; it provides a single metaphysical basis for the natural and social sciences; it stresses the difference between the becoming of a not-yet-existing occasion and the relations between existing things.

8Indices of Pannenberg’s full position on this matter can be found in GST 2, chap. 3, "Person und Subjekt," and in his Anthropology in Theological Perspective, trans. Matthew O’Connell (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985).

9See Pannenberg, "The Significance of the Categories ‘Part’ and ‘Whole’ for the Epistemology of Theology," trans. Philip Clayton, Journal of Religion 66 (1986): 369-85 (forthcoming in the English translation of MG); and Clayton, "Anticipation and Theological Method," in TWP 122-50. For an excellent exposition of this concept of anticipation, see Lothar Kugelmann, Antizipation. Eine begrffsgeschichtliche Untersuchung (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1986).

10See Philip Clayton, "Being and One Theologian," The Thomist 52 (1988): 645-71.

11See Nicholas Rescher, The Coherence Theory of Truth (Oxford: Clarendon, 1973).

12For an excellent exposition of Pannenberg’s position on this issue, see Roger Olson, "Wolfhart Pannenberg’s Doctrine of the Trinity," Scottish Journal of Theology 42 (1989).

13See Lewis Ford, "Process Trinitarianism," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 43 (1975), e.g., p. 207.

14I have not been able to interact here with the two important articles by Joseph Bracken, SI., on process philosophy and trinitarian theology (PS 8/4: 217-30 and PS 11/2: 83-96). Particularly important is his proposed equation of the Thomistic act of being with Whitehead’s Creativity (PS 11:86). As Bracken’s concluding appeal to Ricoeur’s hermeneutics makes clear, no one is claiming that Whitehead intended PR to be read in a trinitarian fashion. As a suggested modification of Whitehead, then, Bracken’s new position offers an intriguing framework for wedding Whitehead and trinitarianism -- for those who are interested in doing so. It is hard to discern that many process thinkers are interested in the marriage, however: To convince them that they ought to be, or even what it would mean to say that they ought to be, is a daunting task, and one that I have not undertaken here. Probably the answer is: only if historical Christianity can be made (philosophically, ethically, politically) attractive to modem readers through efforts such as Pannenberg’s Systematische Theologie.

15See e.g., Lakatos, The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes, Philosophical Papers, vol. 1, ed. John Worrall and Gregory Currie (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1978). I expand Lakatos’s work into a general theory of rationality in Explanation from Physics to Theology: An Essay in Rationality and Religion (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1989), chap. 2.

16 I have profited from discussion with Steven Knapp and Wolfhart Pannenberg during work on this article, and from extensive and constructive written criticisms by Lewis Ford.