Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes
by Charles Hartshorne


The occasion which led to the writing of this book was somewhat sudden and quite concrete. It was the near coincidence of two conversations, each with an intelligent, educated lady, different in the two cases, who was troubled by what she felt were absurdities in the idea of God with which she was familiar. In this way I was made more aware than ever before of a large number of people (represented by these two) who, not trained but seriously interested philosophically and theologically, know little or nothing about some important but relatively recent changes in the philosophy of religion. The objections that the two, and many others like them, make to a traditional and still widely accepted form of theology (which I call "classical theism") have been felt also by a number of penetrating, technically trained philosophers and theologians, especially in the present century, and these writersnot all of them as famous as they should behave been working out, with increasing clarity and competence, a revised form of theism which some call "process theology" and I call "neoclassical theism," applying this term especially to my own version of the doctrine. This book is an attempt to present and defend the revised idea of God as simply and forcefully as I can. It is not written primarily for trained philosophers or theologians, although, to be candid, I should be surprised and disappointed if they could not learn from it, especially if they want to be able to meet a widespread need in contemporary society.

Since philosophers as well as theologians disagree, and no consensus is in sight, what they can honestly offer lay persons is not a doctrine to be accepted on their authority, but a clarification of the options for reasonable belief and of the arguments for and against these options. The final decision has to be individual, by each person at his or her own peril. Multitudes of people today are told by newspapers, and popular magazines or books, about options in nonreligious matters, but they are told little or nothing about the options in religion. The accessibility of options for belief is part of what religious freedom ought to mean. The options should be made more generally accessible than has been the case in the past. In this book it is one option that is directly presented, but it is defended against one vastly more widely known and for this reason may furnish a new opportunity to a fairly large class of people.

I have learned from responses to my previous writings that lives can be changed by showing that some of the traditional problems of belieffor instance how to reconcile the power and goodness of God with the evils we encounter in lifeare genuinely solved, or at least greatly allievated, by the view presented in this book. In writing it I have tried to avoid needless technicalities and professional paraphernalia in order to communicate with a wider circle of readers.

This is a candid book. I am not a fundamentalist in religion, and I make this entirely clear. But I definitely believe in God, in divine love as the key to existence, in love for God as (ideally) the all-in-all of our motivation, and in love for fellow creatures as valuable and important, judged by the same principle of value-to-God as we should judge ourselves by. In other words I accept what Jesus said was "the Law and the Prophets," that is, the gist of religion. If that makes me religious I think I am as religious as anybody. But it does not cause me to look down upon pious Jews (and there are some Jews who like my ideas), or upon Unitarians (ditto), or members of many other religious groups. I express thanks to Colleen Kieke, whose typing, equal to the best encountered in a long writing career,

I have for some years been enjoying. A superb typist, what a blessing that is!

As usual, but more than ever, I have reason and readers will have reason to thank Dorothy C. Hartshorne for her editorial help in the making of this book, the rapid writing of which made this help all the more necessary. It is the only book that I have ever written (apart from fine details) in five weeks. The book that preceded it and the one that is to follow it required many years to compose. Qualitative differences accompanying this quantitative difference are for others to judge.

C. H.