Whitehead, Blockhead, Wholehead
That's actually a fair question. I recently asked it of myself while tending my little amazon kindle garden and noticing the titles under the heading Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.
At the moment there are only two. One of them is The Complete Works of Dostoyevsky, an author to whom -- along with William Shakespeare, Michel de Montaigne, and Maya Angelou -- I am often compared.
The other book is Whitehead's Radically Different Postmodern Philosophy: An Argument for Its Contemporary Relevance.
While that last one may or may not sound intriguing, there's a problem: David Ray Griffin -- probably the most well known process theologian -- is a Category 5 loonibrain and 7.1 assoul on the sphincter scale.
For starters, he is a 911 truther and all-purpose moonbat. He is also co-conspirator of the Center for Process Studies, where kindred spirits talk to each other about such charming subjects as divinity and diversity, the trinity from an eco-womanist perspective, Cornel West’s postmodern theology, process theodicy from an African Perspective, and post-colonial critiques of theopolitical synergies of power.
So there is something about process theology that either turns the mind to mush or attracts mush-heads. I mean, what kind of person takes Cornell West seriously? What next, Whitehead, Sharpton, and Process Poverty Pimpin' ?
Back in the day, I read a fair amount of process theology, but everything I encountered was academic, jargony, coldly technological, politically correct, and devoid of sanctity. Very insular and college campus-y, if you know what I mean, in the same way that the only place one finds Marxists is in universities. Real people don't talk, much less think, like that.
Although one of the premises of process theology is the unification of science and religion, I found that their real objection was to theology, and that they simply misused or misunderstood various scientific principles in order support a secular agenda more to their liking.
As I've said before, a leftist anything is always a leftist first, the whatever a distant second, and this applies perforce to leftist theologies, which in the end (and beginning) attempt to bend theology to the contours of their collectivism, not to derive political philosophy from transcendent truth.
This got me to thinking: surely there must be someone who has used process philosophy to illuminate traditional theology? The closest I've been able to find is a Jesuit professor of theology by the name of Joseph Bracken, but I couldn't get through the first book I tried, which mostly consisted of obvious points couched in unnecessarily technical language, mingled with other apparent points he is unable to express in plain english. Much of it sounds frankly tenured.
So I guess it's down to me again. In order to acquaint myself with the perplexing lay of the scholarly land, I read a book called Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed, despite knowing in advance that the book contains some unalloyed moonbattery and theological error, such as the assertion that "process ethics" sees rights as "relational and contextual" rather than absolute or individualistic.
But why? There is nothing in process thought that mandates such a conclusion.
"Further, process theology does not privilege human experience in terms of possessing absolute value." Nor does "being human" "set us apart from from the rest of creation." Again, these erroneous conclusions in no way follow from a process-view of the cosmos.
Speaking of conflating politics and theology, consider the following gem, which is devoid of theology but full of leftist mischief: "economic decision-making must be for the sake of human beings and the whole biosphere." Nice rhetoric, but how would that work in practice? Like Stalinism, or more like Maoism?
"The goals of justice and planetary sustainability are one and the same." Really? Are you sure about that? A lot of things that sustain the planet strike me as more than a little cruel and unjust.
It indeed reminds me of Chairman Mao's excuse for starving tens of millions of peasants: there are too many people on the planet! It is somewhat appalling that any self-styled theologian would try to derive his ethics from nature, for the biosphere indeed has an ironclad will to sustain itself via death, without the slightest concern for the individual.
How do these people take a perfectly fine philosophy and arrive at such nonsense? Or am I missing something, and is the nonsense built into the philosophy? I don't think so, because it is entirely possible to derive political nonsense from sound philosophy, theology, and metaphysics, e.g., the doctrine of predestination or the divine right of kings.
Rather, it is necessary that each plane in the cosmic hierarchy be explicated separately, but in such a way that it does not contradict first principles. One cannot simply blindly apply first principles to every situation, for this ends in a dogmatic and false absolutism.
This is, for example, what creeps people out about Ron Paul. He says plenty of things -- derived from first principles embodied in the Constitution -- that make perfect sense. However, he always goes too far, in that half of what he says results from a blind application of first principles, irrespective of empirical reality.
The same moral confusion afflicts leftists who wouldn't waterboard a known terrorist with information about an imminent attack, owing to an unthinking allegiance to the principle of "non-torture" -- which any normal person shares, up to a point, the point of suicidal insanity.
So let's think through some of Whitehead's first principles, and try to understand where his wackolytes go off the rails. There is much in Epperly's book with which I am in complete sympathy. Indeed, it is because of Whitehead that I have some views -- or at least suspicions -- that would be considered quite non-traditional, more on which as we proceed.
To put it another way, there are certain principles of process theology that allow me to understand aspects of theology that I otherwise wouldn't be able to accept, because they seem to violate common sense principles I am unable to reject.
For example, if theology posited that gravity doesn't exist, I could only pretend to agree with it -- just as I could only pretend to agree with any young-earth scenarios. If I were forced to choose between these two positions, I would have to reject theology in favor of science. But this is an artificial choice rooted in a false premise. Nevertheless, there's a lot of that going around, e.g., either intelligent design or evolution.
Here is an example of a principle I can wholeheadedly embrace: "Process theology describes the dynamic interplay of permanence and flux, evident in the universe and our own lives" (Epperly).
The critical subtext of this sentence is complementarity, in this case between permanence and flux, which might also be called eternity and time, implicate and explicate, potential and actual, one and many, Godhead and God, etc. I do not come down on either side of the complementarity, but rather hold the complementarity to be key.
To cite one conspicuous example, this is how I approach the Trinity, wherein it makes no sense to say that the Father is prior to, or above, the Son. Rather, there is no Father in the absence of Son, and vice versa.
Furthermore, they are, as in Whitehead's scheme, interiorly related, or intersubjective. The one is "in" the other, and vice versa. In normal logic, such an arrangement would be impossible, while in process metaphysics it is necessary, since the process is the reality.
Clearly, we must all grapple with the undeniable flux of things. This is not only an unavoidable conclusion of thought, but seems to be the very occasion for the dawning of thought (or of thinking, to be precise, since it is posterior to the thoughts it thinks).
As we have discussed before, the infant has no need of thinking so long as the mother is present and the two are merged in such a way that he needn't be aware of need or absence. (You can take this literally, figuratively, or mythopoetically.) But something changes. The Great Mother, the source of all warmth, comfort, and nourishment, is missing!
This is the First Thought. You'd be surprised how often people never get past it.
But that is only one side of the psycho-cosmic economy, for as Whitehead writes, "The other notion dwells on permanences of things -- the solid earth, the mountains, the stones [minus Brian Jones], the Egyptian pyramids, the spirit of man, God." Thus, "in the inescapable flux, there is something that abides; in the overwhelming permanence, there is an element that escapes into flux" (Whitehead, in Epperly).
This is one place where the above-referenced theologians go off the rails, for it seems that they embrace the flux part but cast aside the permanence part. Only in so doing could one affirm (absolutely!) that "there are no absolutes."
At long last, sir, have you no irony?
Yes, relativity is (relatively) real. But only because it is a kind of prolongation of the Absolute, a complement, not a competitor -- any more than God's transcendence competes with his immanence.
I'd better stop. To be continued, if there is sufficient interest.
Complementary -- you know, like ebony and ivory: