An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Process Theology

A theological approach that understands ultimate reality in terms of a dynamic process of becoming and ongoing change. This processive understanding may be contrasted with static notions of being that are based in Aristotelian and scholastic categories. Existence is understood in terms of the mutual interaction of entities, through which change occurs. Process theology is derived from the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, whose Gifford Lectures were published as Process and Reality (1929). Not all process theologies are alike, but God tends to be understood in ways that differ from classic theism. God is understood as a participant in a larger creative process, so that God influences and is influenced by other entities. God is understood to participate in development through intercourse with a changing world, and may be seen to be subordinate to a larger creative process. God's power to create change in the world is persuasive rather than coercive, and exercised within the limits of the creative process. This limitation of God's power resolves questions about God's responsibility for evil in the world. But process theology tends to contradict the traditional Christian understanding of God's transcendence and perfection. Process thought has been developed by Charles Hartshorne, John B. Cobb, Jr., David R. Griffin, and Schubert Ogden. W. Norman Pittenger was the most prominent Anglican process theologian. See Pittenger, W. Norman.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.