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Process Theology: A Basic Introduction Paperback – 1 Jan 1993


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Product details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Christian Board of Publication (1 Jan 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0827229453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0827229457
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 809,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 23 May 2005
Format: Paperback
One of the hallmarks of process theology, and the process philosophy that underpins it, is that it views all of actual reality as being in process, either becoming or decaying (which is, in fact, becoming something else), but that there is no static 'thing', that actual entities are in fact always in flux -- this is in keeping with modern science, philosophy, and culture, but also makes a sort of timeless sense. There are, to be sure, unchanging principles, but to be actual, to be real, is to be in process.
The two primary philosophical leaders of process theology are Alfred North Whitehead (protege of Bertrand Russell) and Charles Hartshorne; Mesle and Cobb discuss their work, along with the work of other theologians and philosophers, as they develop the topics theologically.
As things are in process, they are also in relationship with each other. There is an interdepence of all things, and things are relative to each other in creation -- here it is worth noting that Whitehead did extensive work with Einstein's theory of relativity. Creativity is of primary importance, and the issue of novelty and unique character is very important for process. God is involved in all things, at every stage, but not in a controlling manner, but rather as a persuasive element, pulling all of creation toward God's ends, but permitting continued freedom of action within the current framework of time and history.
It is probably beyond saying that process does not subscribe to any particular set of denominational doctrines or dogmas -- process ideas can inform and shape, and in turn be influenced by, the direct experiences and religious sentiments of people.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Froxfield_Reviewer on 15 April 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent overview of process theology. Easy to read and explains concepts clearly in short chapters - I got it because I wondered if Whitehead might be a bit heavy going as a starter due to the amount of people saying they found him hard to read! Recommended, although I thought it a little less interesting towards the end - but before the Cobb section.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 18 reviews
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Primer; Best first-timer text I've seen 9 May 2004
By Heather - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is probably the best introduction to process theology out there. The primer is very basic (and affordable!) but covers all the bases in a brief but eloquent way. Unlike some more advanced intro texts, this book has excellent clarity on its points and those who aren't fond of advanced philosophy will be able to follow along.
While there are other good introductory texts (like Cobb and Griffin's "Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition"), those are more advanced in language and explanation and may lose first-time readers on process thought. Unlike those, this primer is much more simple without being dumbed-down.
If you're new to process theology and want a very basic explanation, this is the place to start. At the very least, this book will allow you to decide whether there's something in the theology worth investigating further (and buying more advanced texts) or whether you find it too radical to continue studying.
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
God according to Mesle 26 July 2005
By D. Rigas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The title of the book should have been Process Theology according to Mesle, since in his own words "it describes the form of process theism that makes the most sense to me." Not being a theologian I cannot judge if this is an accurate description of process theology or not, although it does appear that there do exist conflicting views, one of which is appended at the end of the book.

Technically, the book is a pleasure to read. It uses words and syntax that will not scare away even a high-schooler and breaks the subject matter into little sections and short chapters so that the reader can easily assimilate it. (A very minor annoyance is that occasionally the same idea is repeated a couple of sentences apart, as at the top of p. 63. An editor should have caught these.) As one turns the pages in the first two parts of the book the author's God is slowly defined and described:

* God has always existed and will always exist, and the world has also existed in some form (49).

* God is perfectly loving (15).

* God experiences everything that every human, animal, plant, matter, even electrons experience(2, 50).

* God by himself cannot do anything, but tries to persuade us (and everything else in the world) to do good; he cannot force us to do his bidding (20).

* God knows everything that can be known at a particular time, but he does not know the future since all creation has free will. Thus God's knowledge changes with time (50).

* The universe is the becoming of events that are self-creating, something which requires freedom, so nothing is preordained.

* God's guidance of evolution is limited to prompting radiation particles to move in the direction that might result in more favorable mutations.

In the third part of the book, the author extols the advantages of process theology compared to traditional Judeo-Christianity. Actually he enumerates many of the drawbacks found in classical Judaism and Christianity, such as acceptance of slaves, divine right of rulers, favoritism for the rich and powerful, acceptance of the oppression of the poor and weak, etc. (Some of these, of course, were against Jesus' teachings, but are inherent in the teachings of Paul and of the Fathers.) Even more important, since Mesle's God is not omnipotent he cannot be blamed for the existence of evil in the world, or be required to perform miracles.

The two chapters of the book are intended to differentiate Mesle's Process Theology, which he now calls Process Naturalism, from the ideas of Tillich, Whitehead, Wieman, Hartshorne, and John B. Cobb Jr. Mesle wrote one chapter and Cobb another, but the terminology is not consistent either between these two chapters or with the rest of the book. Unfortunately this part does not share either the clarity or the simplicity of the rest of the book. Perhaps it is not possible to compress all the material in twenty pages and end with a readable account, especially when it is handled by two different authors who do not see eye to eye in what they believe.

I gave Mesle's book five stars because I think that he accomplished well what he had set out to do. The content of his ideas, however, is another matter. Why should one believe his theory?

True, I personally do prefer his non-being god to the anthropomorphic god of Judeo-Christianity (although defining god as love turns god into an emotion, something I find difficult to comprehend and does not fit with the rest of his discussion). That it sounds reasonable is no justification. Many things may be reasonable but not true. Where did his ideas originate? Was he inspired directly by God as prophets maintained in the old days? Were they relayed through prophets as most major religions claim? Did he reach his conclusions after closely examining the universe, as a scientist-type person might have preferred? None of the above. My guess is that he just sat down and wrote about the kind of God that he would be most comfortable with.

(The writer is the author of Christianity without Fairy Tales: When Science and Religion Merge.)
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A primer on process theology without the jargon... 17 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For those who want to read what process theology is, but do not want to have a dictionary handy to look up every five words, this book is the one. It provides a basic understanding of process theology and how it relates to various issues without theological/philosophical jargon.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
A good starting point 23 May 2005
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
One of the hallmarks of process theology, and the process philosophy that underpins it, is that it views all of actual reality as being in process, either becoming or decaying (which is, in fact, becoming something else), but that there is no static 'thing', that actual entities are in fact always in flux -- this is in keeping with modern science, philosophy, and culture, but also makes a sort of timeless sense. There are, to be sure, unchanging principles, but to be actual, to be real, is to be in process.

The two primary philosophical leaders of process theology are Alfred North Whitehead (protege of Bertrand Russell) and Charles Hartshorne; Mesle and Cobb discuss their work, along with the work of other theologians and philosophers, as they develop the topics theologically.

As things are in process, they are also in relationship with each other. There is an interdepence of all things, and things are relative to each other in creation -- here it is worth noting that Whitehead did extensive work with Einstein's theory of relativity. Creativity is of primary importance, and the issue of novelty and unique character is very important for process. God is involved in all things, at every stage, but not in a controlling manner, but rather as a persuasive element, pulling all of creation toward God's ends, but permitting continued freedom of action within the current framework of time and history.

It is probably beyond saying that process does not subscribe to any particular set of denominational doctrines or dogmas -- process ideas can inform and shape, and in turn be influenced by, the direct experiences and religious sentiments of people. An understanding of God in action must be gained through specific experiences, but none of these should cloud the initial aim of God, which is the enjoyment of all things (enjoyment here being different from a purely hedonist enjoyment) by all creation.

Process theology sees Jesus as the incarnation of God that expresses the creative love of God and the creative transformation that is possible for all of us. Jesus is not a mere symbol, nor some otherworldly figure simply to be worshipped or feared -- interestingly, while the majority of people who wear WWJD bracelets and the like might be suspicious of process theology, in fact they are tapping into one of the key components of process -- that Jesus serves as a model to help us create the future. This leads quickly to the eschatological idea that we help to create the realm of God, and as such we must have a care for the ecology, the politics, the economy and all else that concerns humanity and humankind's better existence in the world.

Process ecclesiology challenges the churches to explore both their history and their potential for being agents of transformation in the world. Cobb describes the churches today as having suffered a loss of nerve, being unable to participate in the creative advance of society -- ironically, they describe the history of the church in medieval, Reformation and Counter-Reformation times as being more creative and willing to engage society and the critical thought of the day than they are at present. This must change, particularly in a world that still suffers from a precarious situation so far as survival is concerned.

John Cobb taught at Claremont, which has of late become the primary centre for process theology. C. Robert Mesle teaches at Graceland, and is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Northwestern, also places with strong process credentials. Both are authors collaboratively and individually of other works on process theology. Mesle's work is one of the more accessible introductions to the general topic of process theology - it does presume some philosophical underpinnings, but keeps this to a relative minimum.

Quoting Robert McAfee Brown, Mesle wrote 'Any philosophy or theology I do must put "the welfare of children above the niceties of metaphysics. Any theology that provides for creative growth of children will make it satisfactorily on all other scores." ' This value is apparent in much of his text.

It is a good overview of the subject, brief but comprehensive, engaging for the most part, and well worth investigation by anyone interested in the connections between theology and philosophy, theology and science, theology and culture, and general twentieth century theological thought.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
The "Cliffs Notes" to Process Theism 31 Oct 2005
By Invisible Man - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I first discovered process theism as an undergraduate at Point Loma Nazarene University. I had run into some problems with the classical view of God and it just didn't make sense anymore. I had to take a break from it and see what else was out there.

Then I discovered this book. It offers a more plausible view of God, in my view, and offers reasons for why that's the case. Mesle contrasts the "classical" view of God (steeped in a Greek metaphysics) with a "process" view of God (influenced by not the static worldview of the Greeks but by the dynamic/changing world shown to us by contemporary physics and biology). He also takes us through biblical criticism and the horrors of the 20th century, showing us how the God of process theism deals with these questions better than the classical God does.

This book is for those coming to process theism for the first time. If you're a Christian but can't believe in the classical God anymore--or if you're a skeptic but would like see a plausible view of God spelled out in an easy-to-understand way, this book is for you. Mesle takes otherwise difficult concepts and breaks them down into mentally digestible pieces. If you're new to process theism, or just want a thorough review of its basic concepts, start here, then move onto "A Process Perspective" by John B. Cobb.

Also recommended: How to Lose Your Faith in Divinity School
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