Dr. Watson’s Wednesdays @Whatever
October 14, 2020
This week I am dog-sitting two Yorkies, one a teacup puppy who is getting neutered as I speak this morning, and the other a regular sized Yorkie that is nine years old. Being in the same house has been rather problematic because the puppy, until today, has been rather obnoxious. He won’t leave his older and bigger cousin alone. That might change after today.
Speaking of change, I continue my series this morning on Process Theology, which is a theological system grounded in the notion of change. In fact, as I pointed out a few weeks ago, it is the theological companion to the scientific theory of evolution. We can’t talk about evolution without talking about change because that’s what the theory of evolution tries to explain: the constant flow of change in the universe on both a macro and a micro level.
Try to think of God and the universe in similar ways, in a constant flow of change. Does it bother you to consider the possibility that God is evolving? Hopefully, you have heard my earlier talks on Process theology the last few weeks, because I don’t want to rehash everything this morning. So, let me get to the next point I want to make:
According to Process theology, God interacts with the changing universe. This point contrasts with the notion in traditional theology, called theism, that God is separate from the universe. In traditional thinking, both the universe and God are sort of stagnant. Especially God. God doesn’t change because the universe has no effect on God.
In process theology, however, God contains the universe. Remember last week I compared the universe to a fetus in a woman’s body. I noted that whatever happens to the universe happens to God because the universe is in God’s “womb,” so to speak.
So, Process theology argues that because God interacts with the changing/evolving universe, God is changeable. That is to say, God is affected by the actions that take place in the universe (just like a woman is affected by the actions that take place in her womb). This is an important point to drive home: God is changeable because the universe affects God.
But that’s not all. Process theology also argues that while God contains the universe, God is not identical with the universe. There is a side of God that interacts with the universe and is thus changeable, but there is also a side of God that is not affected by the universe.
Process thinkers point to the more abstract elements of God, such as goodness and wisdom. These things remain “eternally solid.” The universe affects God, yes, but the character of God never changes. God doesn’t become evil, for example, just because of what is happening in the universe.
Let me introduce another phrase with which you might not be familiar: “Dipolar theism.” Dipolar theism is the notion that God has both a changing aspect and an unchanging aspect. Sometimes we refer to this as God (the living, changing, interacting God) and the Godhead, which is God’s eternal character and essence and therefore doesn’t change. In other words, we don’t believe in a fickle God.