Hartshorne's best book, in my opinion, is Philosophers Speak of God (cowritten with William Reese), in which he -- almost in scholastic fashion -- presents the best arguments of virtually every great thinker in history, and methodically pokes holes in each one.
His targets range from the pre-Socratics to the postmoderns. However, since the book was published in 1953, prior to the pandemic of postmodernism, it only touches the hem of that soiled garment, e.g., Freud and Nietzsche, who are as cognitive HIV to the full blown psychopneumatic AIDS of a Derrida, Foucault or Edward Said.
Having said that, I suspect that I might be missing something, because it all seems too easy. I mean, if I can fully understand it, there must be something wrong with it, right?
It's like Giuliani's highly useful definition of art: If I can do it, then it isn't art. For example, I couldn't have painted the Sistine Chapel or carved the Pieta. But I could, say, smear some sheets with blood from a severed toe. How? Oh, I could get a toe, believe me. That's the easy part. There are ways. Hell, I can get you a toe by 3 o'clock this afternoon. With nail polish. These fucking amateur artists...
Speaking of which, I can get you a T.O.E. -- Theory Of Everything -- by 9:12 this morning. Let us proceed by getting back to our special geist, and just hope he's not as unholy as some people seem to think.
Hartshorne begins with the following: "First, the supreme principle is not absoluteness or self-sufficiency, but relativity."
I admit to swallowing this fishy principle, hook, line and sinker. Perhaps you don't. If so, then you're off the hook. You are free to pursue the implications of a fully self-sufficient and changeless whale of an absolute.
But if you pursue these implications and entailments to the belly of the beast, your head will soon be swimming with the fishes. Don't stop halfway at a comfortable or convenient why station. Don't just throw out the little questions, but keep asking the big ones that always get away.
As Dennis Prager always says, it is one thing to vaunt the strengths of one's position, another to acknowledge its weaknesses, trade-offs, and unintended consequences. Leftists in particular never admit to the latter, and we certainly don't want to imitate that chronically intellectually dishonest rabble.
Being that relation is absolute, "This primacy of relatedness is not to be denied even of God." Although this may sound shocking to some, it shouldn't shock the Christian, since the ontological Trinity "speaks of the interior life of the Trinity, the reciprocal relationships of Father, Son, and Spirit to each other without reference to God's relationship with creation."
To me -- and I could be way wrong about this -- the whole point of the Incarnation is to widen out, so to speak, the ontological Trinity, so as to potentially include man within its loving embrace.
Thus, "God, the inclusive Thou, is relative to us, as well as we to Him." This is because Jesus as man is made fully inclusive within the dynamic Trinity, as Son to Father. In other words, the ontological Trinity widens out to include (the man) Jesus, who, as God and man, is (therefore) both economic and ontological Trinity.
This would explain how, "in an incomprehensible way," we may have "an effect upon God." For me, this also explains the paradox of a suffering God who is supposedly changeless. Clearly, to suffer is to be subject to change. Via the Incarnation, God participates quintessentially in the suffering of man.
Steadfast is not necessarily synonymous with changelessness. Rather, one might say that it is what we place our faith in despite all the changes. I mean, we hope God is steadfast, but we also hope he is moved by our suffering, don't we?
Hartshorne acknowledges that "To very many, these are strange, puzzling, or even odious and blasphemous words." However, I believe this blasphemy is intrinsic to Christianity, not extrinsic. It is why "the world will hate you" and "you will be persecuted in My name." In short, it is as blasphemous to suggest that God changes as it is revolutionary to suggest that the earth isn't the center of the physical solar system.
Indeed, Hartshorne characterizes the transition from God-as-substance to God-as-relation as a Copernican Revolution of the spirit.
Much of this debate revolves around the question of freedom, for freedom and relation are inextricably intertwined. In short, "if freedom is denied to man, then it cannot be rationally attributed to God," because "if we experienced no freedom in ourselves, no power of resolving indetermination, we could not even have the idea" of freedom. In a way, we would be God, because with no freedom, nothing in us would be distinguishable from him.
Or, one could say that the denial of human freedom renders us either God or object, for only an unconscious object has zero freedom, so to insist that only God is free is to render man an object, an It. Either way, it is impossible for a being with zero freedom to attribute complete freedom to another.
And isn't freedom inseparable from change? For Hartshorne, it is not a matter of all change bad, pure changelessness good. Rather, if we admit change into the Godhead, then it must be "supreme or ideal" in comparison to our "inferior or deficient" use of freedom.
Or, to put it concretely, we might say that Jesus makes perfect use of his freedom. It is not that he is subject to no change, but rather, participates in perfect change.
But again, I'm sure I'm missing something.