Ebony Raptor says "My questions have to do with how to describe the be-ing of God. Theologians I talk to see Hartshorne as saying questionable things about God's immanence in nature. There's something troubling to them about how he describes ontology."
Well, I suppose one must specify the things that trouble them. Hartshorne does say that God is immanent in nature, but also transcendent. Thus, this is not pantheism but panentheism, the latter of which is entirely orthodox.
Oopsie. At the end of that section we read that Hartshorne was a Unitarian, which for me is a little like finding out Don Colacho was a scientologist, or worse, Schuon was a Muslim. As I said yesterday, we need to rescue the poor man from himself. Or at least kidnap his heathen ideas and raise them in a proper Christian home.
Mushroom stumbles over the notion of change in God, which is perfectly understandable. In the classical view, if something is capable of change, then it isn't perfect. In other words, it if can develop, it implies that it wasn't perfect.
Here I think we need to be very careful about projecting our words onto God, and then being trapped in them. Furthermore, we need to be cautious about making deductions about the nature of God based upon such abstract logic, and then using the abstraction to trump the concrete. Doing so is a little like emphasizing transcendence to the exclusion of immanence and coming out with half a God.
Think of some of the primary attributes of God that render the concept of changelessness extremely problematic: personhood, creator, love, life, self-giving, etc. Again, if these words mean what they mean, then I don't see how they can possibly be reconciled with changelessness. What would it mean, for example, to be an unchanging person? Basically being dead, or insensate, or in a coma, or autistic, or an MSNBC host.
For Hartshorne, God is both absolute and relative: absolute in the abstract but relative in the concrete. In short, absolute/relative is an irreducible complementarity, something which I believe is a fundamental lesson of the Trinity.
The Trinity cannot be further reduced to something less (or more) than itself (i.e., a monad) without thereby losing its identifying features of love, relationship, knowledge, creation, etc. Behind or before the Father is not an ontological bachelor; we might even say that the Trinity is just as much an effect as a cause of eternal love-in-relation. Certainly it is a way to conceptualize, frame, and think about this eternal love.
For me, one of Hartshorne's most helpful ideas -- and it can be used in many contexts -- is that when faced with a complementarity, the more concrete of the two complements is the more fundamental. Thus, for example, the abstract and unchanging God is the form of "the supreme personality as such." It is like saying Joe is Joe. Without ever actually meeting him in the flesh, we can affirm that Joe is Joe, has always been Joe, and will always be Joe. In that sense, Joe is unchanging, for Joe=Joe.
But there is also the concrete state of "God as person caring for the creatures he has created." This is the real Joe, not just the idea of Joe. For Hartshorne, "The abstract does not act, only the concrete acts or is a person." Furthermore -- and this is the (for me) revolutionary part -- "it is the divine Person that contains the Absolute, not vice versa" -- just as "the man contains his character, not the character the man."
Here is where, I believe, human language lands the champion of changelessness in the soup. "Any concrete case," writes Hartshorne, "contains the entire unlimited form." For example, consistent with Aristotle, there is no abstract realm of disembodied ideas.
Rather, the idea is in the concrete expression: any man is an instance of man-as-such. Thus, the abstract form appears "unlimited, not because it has all possible cases in actualized form, but because it has no actual case within it, being the common form of all actuality, and no actuality whatever."
In short, abstract possibility "is unlimited because it is not actualized at all. It is everything in the form of possibility, nothing whatever in the form of actuality."
Therefore -- and I realize this is a Big Leap for many people, "God as merely absolute is nonactual," whereas God-as-relative is concrete person.
I love that "merely" absolute. For example, if someone tries to sell me on Islam, the first thing I would say is: "Allah? He is merely absolute. He can't be the real thing. He can't even be actual. He's just an abstraction, not a concrete person."
Perhaps this is why the only way to relate to the abstract Father is through the concrete Son, always and forever. God is our eternal relative, and we his.
[A]s absolute God is 'simple,' has no constituents. But this only shows once more that it is God as relative that is the inclusive conception.... A wholly absolute God is power divorced from responsiveness or sensitivity... --Hartshorne