An Evangelical Overview of Process Theology -- By: F. Duane Lindsey

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 134:533 (Jan 1977)
Article: An Evangelical Overview of Process Theology
Author: F. Duane Lindsey


An Evangelical Overview of Process Theology

F. Duane Lindsey

[F. Duane Lindsey, Registrar and Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

No longer is it as true today as it was a decade ago that non-evangelical theology is “a many-splintered thing.” An increasingly unifying force in modern American theology is the viewpoint known as “process theology.” It is the general purpose of this article to acquaint the reader with this new form of theological liberalism which has been called “a revival of natural theology in the liberal tradition.”1 This article is not intended to be an introductory survey of process theology so much as an initial exposure to the process thought of Alfred North Whitehead as mediated through Charles Hartshorne to an increasing number of nonevangelical theologians. Emphasis will be given to the doctrine of God. One factor which has promoted the growth of this movement is the adaptability of process thought to other modern theologies. Another factor, perhaps, is the desire for a bakery-fresh made-in-America theology.

Actually, American process theology is not really new. Its foundations were laid over fifty years ago when British mathematician and natural scientist Alfred North Whitehead came to Harvard University as a professor of philosophy. But only within the last decade has process theology become a significantly recognized movement, affecting both Protestant and Roman Catholic theological traditions. Since the scope of this article is limited to the process thought based on the philosophy of Whitehead, it does not include Roman Catholic process thought which is based primarily on the thought of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Evidence of the growth of process thought is found in the existence of its own journal,2 its own society,3 and its own study institute.4 The editors of the journal Process Studies have suggested several reasons for thinking the time is ripe for process thought: (1) Whitehead’s thought provides an emphasis on feeling, community, and intimacy without the irresponsibility that accompanies this emphasis in the counterculture. (2) Whitehead’s thought answers the need for an ecologically sound approach to the universe without an impossible return to a pretechnological society. (3) Whitehead’s vision is better understood today because of much literature clarifying his obscure style and terminology. (4) The scientific implications of Whitehead’s thought have stirred great interest in the past decade.

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