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. He is currently reviewing the thought of David Ray Griffin, which is based on the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. This blog is part of a weekly series.

Pastor Pat Bailey in front his church

Pastor Pat Bailey

Griffin views God as deeply enmeshed in the processes of existence and life. All occasions of experience are prehended, shared by God, while each actual entity also is constantly prehending God in all of their occasions.  Furthermore, what is being prehended is not so much information as it is feeling, or a fundamental sympathy for the other; so what one is sharing is their joy and their sorrow, their thriving and their suffering, their rising and their falling.

“Our most fundamental perception of the world is not a conscious, sensory perception of it, in which it is represented by barren, unemotional sense data, but a preconscious feeling of it, in which other things are felt sympathetically.”

Because existence involves the process or series of actual occasions whereby actual entities are being created out of influences from past occasions and then exerting influence on future occasions, creativity is also seen by Griffin as an eternal or ultimate reality. In other words being itself is a creative and experiential process.  This has a couple of implications for Griffin’s concept of God and God’s relationship to Nature.  First, it makes necessary the creation for the existence of God:

“Given this understanding of what it means to be an actual being, not even a supreme being could exist all alone by itself because to be an actual being is to be a unification of a many.”

Second, instead of God’s volition alone being the ultimate creative force, God is instead “the aboriginal instance of this creativity.” 

Third, in this process view of existence, God is not identified with being; rather, “God and being itself are equally ultimate in the nature of things.” 

Separating out being or creativity as an ultimate or eternal process, allows a view of God as being dynamic by nature and wholly integrated in the process of becoming that is existence.

What do you think about the idea that God is in the process of becoming with Nature?  Do you find the notion that God’s existence requires the existence of Nature comforting or troubling?

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