This course will provide an introduction to process philosophy and theology. The primary goal of this course is to enable students to consider critically the ongoing significance of process thought for contemporary constructive theology. What elements of process theology are still valid and important? What must be left behind? Students will be asked to formulate their own theologies in conversation with the process theologians considered in this class.
The course begins with the philosophical roots of process theology by considering Whitehead's metaphysics before turning to the emergence of the concept of God in Whitehead's thought. What work does "God" do in Whitehead's philosophy? The course next takes up the developed process theology of Charles Hartshorne especially his critique of “classical theism.” The course then turns to a substantive engagement with feminist and womanist appropriations of process thought. We conclude with an examination of how the work of John Cobb and David Ray Griffin has shaped recent conversations on process theologies of religious pluralism.
This course is not intended to generate master philologists of Whitehead's corpus or process acolytes. Rather, the course will give students an introduction to the major themes and motifs of process thought: reality as process rather than substance, relational rather than atomistic, the centrality of metaphysics for theology, the need for robust conversation between science and religion, a panentheistic conception of the God-World relationship, and the rejection of supernaturalism in theology. The course is also centrally committed to a critical consideration of process theology's rejection of “classical theism.” Process theologians are particularly committed to rethinking notions of divine omnipotence, impassibility and God's creativity as creatio ex nihilo. Are process thinkers right to reject these features of Christian tradition? Why or why not? Conversation with process theology is essential for renewing and revitalizing the theological imagination. This course will enable you to become a thoughtful participant in that conversation.
In terms of broader curricular outcomes, this course should enable you to “demonstrate an ability to recognize, explain and to critically evaluate major theological themes, issues, and perspectives in Christian thought.”