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It is to explain this concrete world, with its emergent order and value, that the concept of God is required metaphysically. Yet it is also true to say that what comes to be has its consequences in creating new possibilities for what may happen hereafter. As a process, the future is based upon the past; what has happened and what does happen determines, in a general way, what is to happen. If God be the supreme exemplification rather than the contradiction of metaphysical principles required to explain the world, then it can be said that what happens enters into the continuing decisions which are made by deity for the establishment of further actualities.

In his "consequent" nature, which is as real as but much more concrete and specific than his "primordial" aspect, God is affected by that which occurs in the created order, for what happens enters into his life and influences his "decision" by providing new possibilities for his further activity. While he always remains God as the chief principle of explanation for such concrete emergents of the good -- in all its variety -- as do in fact appear, he is "enriched" both by satisfaction in what happens and by the provision of possibilities of future action by that which has happened.

Therefore time -- or succession as the world exemplifies it -- is real to God.

He is not above and outside all temporality, in an eternity which negates succession; rather temporality is both a reflection of his own dynamic life and also enters into his own reality. What happens matters to God. And it matters to him in more than a superficial sense, as if he simply observed and knew in an external way what was going on in the world.

On the contrary, what goes on in the world is a genuine manifestation of the living process which is his own nature; and it also makes a difference to him, for it makes possible the novelty of adaptation, the emergence of new actualities, and the appearance of real possibilities, which otherwise would not be available to him. History, historical occurrences in time, are real to him, for him, and in him.

Now what is involved here is a radical historicizing not only of the order of nature and of all that is in nature, but also of deity in his concrete reality. A Christian may be allowed to say that, if ever there were a philosophy which took seriously the kind of portrayal of God in relation to his world which we find in the biblical record, it is the philosophy of process. God is faithful, the Bible tells us; the world in process, and the chief principle of explanation in that processive world, are self-consistent and harmonious, the philosophers of process affirm.

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These two assertions are remarkably similar. If God is the source of all possibilities, as "primordial deity", there is a sense in which he may be called abstract and "eternal"; but God is also infinitely related to and influenced by the world, and hence as "consequent deity" is concrete and "everlasting". In other words, while the possibilities are "eternal" and while they are "abstract" until in one way or another they are actualized, the actualizations which are selected and used by God for further achievement of his purpose of good in the world are themselves concrete and in process; when taken into God they establish deity as being himself also concrete and processive.

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Chapter 2: God and the Divine Activity in the World

But it is the dynamic, processive, and becoming aspect which, in one sense, is more important to us than the abstractive aspect. Thus there is a polarity in this concept of God: he is both abstract and concrete; he is both "eternal" and "everlasting"; he is both himself and yet endlessly related; he is both transcendent and immanent; he is both the chief principle of explanation and yet participant, working with, and influenced by, all that is to be explained. But the priority is with the concrete, not with the abstract, set of terms.

What then of "evil" in the world? Here three things are to be said. First, in a world which is in movement, which is an evolutionary process, and which is at the same time "open-ended", in which novelty is present and new possibilities are always becoming available, there is inevitably the chance of error. Error here means that the adjustment of means to end, the fulfillment of end by means, and the consequent adaptation of each succeeding occasion to the aim which is its basic identity, may be missed in this or that given instance. If the world were conceived as in some fashion a static entity, such error would hardly be possible to understand; but in a world which is processive and dynamic, error is not only possible but on occasion it is highly likely.

There is always some element of "risk" in such a process. Furthermore, as the process goes on there is always the possibility that what we might call "backwaters" will remain. Here and there, in this instance and in that, there will be a certain recalcitrance, negativity, a refusal to move forward for the creation of greater good and towards more widely shareable and more widely shared life. And since the world has a radical freedom, being in fact the realm of choice, such as we know at the human level in conscious decision but which in differing mode is present at every level, this may be not only a "natural" recalcitrance but a quite definitely elected refusal to move.

In the second place, it is characteristic of God, in his consequent aspect, to take into himself all that has in fact occurred. Whether this be good or evil, whether it be directed to further prospective fulfillment or a denial of that end, whether it be adjustment or maladjustment: all is accepted by God and in one way or another can be used by him. None the less, he remains God, which means that he is ceaselessly working towards the most widely shared good. Hence a mysterious but genuine part of the divine agency in the world of which more will be said later in this chapter is the way in which the error, the maladjustment, the refusal to move forward, the "evil" in the world, precisely because and precisely in the degree that it enters into the divine concern, can become the occasion for new possibilities of good.

In other words, God makes the best of everything, even of that which we can only describe as "evil"; and out of it is able to distil goods, some of which otherwise would not have been in the realm of genuine possibility.

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The third point in respect to "evil" may be approached by noting that in speaking of the creative process we have been obliged to use the word "good" to describe what God is "up to" in the world. The word has been employed to indicate that which can be shared for mutual enrichment; and this use leads us to the description of God as being essentially "Love".

It is of the nature of love to pour itself out for others; to take into itself all that is made available to it; to absorb the evil which is there and out of it to distil something good; and to do all this not for self-aggrandizement but for the benefit of the entire relationship in its widest and richest sense.


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Love is both self-giving and unitive. Thus we may say that God is love because he is infinitely related; he is love because he enters into and participates in his creation; he is love, supremely, because he absorbs error, maladjustment, evil, everything that is ugly and unharmonious, and is able to bring about genuine and novel occasions of goodness by the use of material which seems so unpromising and hopeless. So the third point about evil is that in the concrete world of experience, and especially in human relationships, we see that it may provide the opportunity for deepening love and for widening participation in the good -- although this must never be taken to mean that evil is, in itself, a good.

It is not; but it may be used for good. The objection has been raised by some that such a view of God as that found in process-thought may be satisfactory enough on the basis of philosophical enquiry, but that it provides no "religiously available" deity for men. This suggests two questions about which something must be said. First, does this concept of God in fact arise from genuine experience or is it purely theoretical? To this we have already given the answer; the God who is here portrayed is not derived from theoretical considerations alone, although of course these have entered into the picture since God is taken to be "the chief principle of explanation".

But the way in which he has been described has come in the main from the observable facts of experience and from our observation of how things go in the world. Hence God as here "described" an almost blasphemous word! But -- and this is the second question -- is such a God in any sense describable as "personal"? Here we are obliged first of all to define what should be meant by the adjective. Whitehead, for example, seems to have been in two minds about the viability of the idea of God as "personal", largely because he felt that as commonly used the term was overtly anthropomorphic and did not provide adequate explanation of that kind of experience which stresses the sheer "given-ness" of process.

We must agree that if "personal", when applied to deity, means that God is to be taken as an enlarged replica of what we know as person, as if he were so to say "a very big man", then it is obvious that the adjective is entirely inappropriate. If, on the other hand, we define more carefully what is meant by "personal", perhaps there can be no objection to employing the word when speaking of deity. By "personal" we can and I believe we should mean such characteristics as awareness and self-awareness, capacity to communicate or enter into active-reactive relationships, freedom of action within the limits of consistency and possibility, etc.

All these characteristics are quite readily applicable to deity as seen in process-thought. In that sense, then, God may properly be called "personal" -- provided of course, that we are constantly on guard against restricting the sense of these "personal" elements in him to the merely human level on which we ourselves know personality. So far we have not discussed the area of human life which is known as the "religious experience", the awareness of the "more-than-human" impinging on ordinary experience. Yet this kind of experience is certainly central in the historical and theological development of the concept of God.

In the main, it should be noted, process-philosophers have been quite ready to use such religious experience as part of the data which must be taken seriously in the effort to understand the world. They have accepted the fact that vast numbers of members of the human race have spoken or written about some such awareness, however it may have been conceived, of a presence which is believed to be more than human, and they have told us that they have experienced a power that seems to come from beyond, above, and below the level of human enabling.

How this sense of presence and power has been expressed in words is another matter, differing from age to age, place to place, and culture to culture.


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But the awareness of "the sacred" is too widespread to be dismissed by any responsible thinker. The history of religion is the continuing story of the refining of the meaning of such awareness. In primitive man, sheer power may well have been dominant in his conception of the meaning of the sacred. But as men became more and more aware of moral principles and as their thinking was "rationalized", the way in which the sacred was understood, the way in which men came to interpret the more-than-human, was in terms of love and of "persuasion" as Whitehead put it , although it never lost the awesome quality which evoked from them worship and adoration.

There was a gradual substitution of tenderness for sheer power, of goodness for omnipotence, and of deep and intimate concern for arbitrary dictatorship. So the religions of the world, as they have developed through the centuries, have tended to react against despotic conceptions of deity and to regard the sacred as holy love.

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As this movement has proceeded, there has also been an increasing readiness to relate the so-called religious experience to the aesthetic experience -- to the sense of the harmonious and the beautiful as this was perceived by a deeply felt appreciative capacity in man. And here we come to a matter of quite enormous significance. We have already emphasized that in the refusal to separate primary from secondary qualities process-thought has reversed the over-rationalizing philosophical tendency of western man. Feeling-qualities, the sense of empathetic identification, and the valuational aspect in all human experience have been given serious attention by most process-thinkers; this was why words like "good" and "love" and "harmony", and their opposites, could be used with some freedom in the preceding discussion.

What this suggests to us is that religion, as an inescapable element in that human experience, is one of the ways -- indeed it may be the chief way -- in which man feels his way into, finds identification with, and becomes participant in, the ongoing "movement of things". If this is so, the experience is not only with the "movement of things" but with the dynamic power which makes that movement actual; in a word, with God himself. There can be no doubt that countless men have felt themselves caught up into what in more thoughtful moments they have regarded as the working of supreme actuality as it operates ceaselessly in the world.

They tell us that they have known themselves to be empowered in this relationship. Their limited concern for their own self-hood and for self-assertion has been redeemed, they insist, into concern for others and for greater good. They say that they have been refreshed, invigorated, renewed, made better because of it.

And they declare that they have experienced the judgment of an all-inclusive love on their pettiness and pride, while at the same time they have been the recipients of a forgiveness or acceptance which comes when their previous stupidity and cupidity have in some strange fashion been taken away and they have been given the opportunity and occasion for genuine enrichment in fellowship with their human brethren.

In other words, they tell us that they have known the energizing of God in their own experience as the loving Companion who is also the sovereign Ruler -- not the despot, not the oriental sultan or dictator, but the One who "rules" and who works for good which can be in "widest commonalty spread". They are sure that precisely in his boundless creativity God can guarantee the eventual triumph of good, no matter what may be the evil with which he must work and the risks which such working necessarily implies.

In our common human experience, God is often "the void", as Whitehead once said, although he said it in a very different context. The defender of the classical doctrine of inspiration must argue along the following lines:. Human activities such as penning a book can be totally controlled by God without violating human freedom. This argument is as much an argument for the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture on the assumption of confluence as it is an argument for inerrancy.

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The key premiss is 2. Detractors of plenary, verbal inspiration will regard 2 as self—contradictory.

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The only way God could have totally controlled an expression Basinger and Basinger take to be synonymous with "infallibly guaranteed" what the human authors wrote would have been to take away their freedom. The defender of classical inspiration, on the other hand, must affirm 2 if he is not to fall into a dictation theory of inspiration.

Although Basinger and Basinger go on to argue that the defender of classical inspiration cannot, in view of his endorsement of 2 , utilize the Free Will Defense with respect to the problem of evil, I think that the price of "placing direct responsibility on God for each instance of moral evil in the world" is so great that their appeal to the problem of evil is more perspicuously understood in terms of evil's constituting evidence against 2.

Given the reality of human evil and the fact that God cannot be the author of evil, 2 must be false. Accordingly, one can then argue:. Human activities and their products cannot be totally controlled by God without violating human freedom. The doctrine of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible entails God's total control of the words of the Bible. If one persists in affirming the doctrine of verbal, plenary inspiration, then, since 7 is true virtually by definition, one must deny 1 ; that is to say, verbal, plenary inspiration implies dictation.

The bottom line is that the doctrine of the plenary, verbal, confluent inspiration of Scripture is incoherent. The response to Basinger and Basinger on the part of defenders of classical inspiration has not been encouraging. New Testament scholar D.