Editor’s note: In his doctoral dissertation, Pastor Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church is claiming the need for a re-visioning of the Christian church’s theology and its understanding of mission, the need for a more natural, integrative theology and for an earth-focused, contextual approach to mission. To that end, he is reviewing the theology of three contemporary theologians whose thought is very integrative of Nature and Spirit from three very different approaches. This blog is part of a weekly series.

Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church

Pastor Pat Bailey

I am currently reviewing the thought of David Ray Griffin, which is based on the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.

Griffin offers a naturalistic theism in the sense that it does not infer the power to interrupt the world’s normal causal processes. He affirms that God is able to exert variable divine influence, is a personal being “in the sense of responding consciously to the world,” and that God is “an actuality distinct from the totality of all finite things, an actuality with its own experience, its own power of self-determination, and its own power to exert influence on other things.”  This is all conceptualized within a framework of naturalismns (as indicating nonsupernatural). Thus he is able to avoid pantheism on the one side and atheism on the other while at the same time affirming Whitehead’s rejection of the idea of “one supreme reality omnipotently disposing a wholly derivative world.”

Griffin’s approach is a naturalistic theism also in that “the basic God-world relationship lies at the very nature of things.” While God’s existence is not dependent upon the current cosmic epoch or particular world, “being related to a realm of finite actualities is part and parcel of the very nature of God.”  This means that the metaphysical principles belong to the very nature of God, and so it makes no sense to envision God as interrupting or violating the causal chain at work within and including all of Nature.  Griffin prefers the term panentheism to speak of the world as being internally related to God. So, God is not to be treated as an exception to all metaphysical principles, but instead as their chief exemplification.

Do you think that a nonsupernatural conceptualization of God is possible, that the word “God” need not imply a separate entity wholly outside or beyond the realm of Nature?

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