Steve Watson, Goodreads:
Part I The Process Model: Theology in a Relational World
The philosophical, social, scientific, and technological climate of modernity and postmodernity invites us to express and experience Christian faith through “the relational model of existence utilized by process theology.” (11)
The “cumulative acts of human beings in society are the source of the demonic”(15) – culture and history and forces that turn us away from well-being. Sin is assent to the demonic. It is response to death in its many forms that closes ourselves off from the future that is possible for us. Sin imprisons. It harms others and lessens our capacity to be the gift to others we could possibly be. Sin distorts reality. It is “the Lie.” (27)
God is the entity that envisions all possibilities, without restraint or sin. God is relational, providing the world with possibility, receiving the effects of all responses, evaluating and integrating them in an everlasting process of transformation that invites transformative response.
Part II God For Us: A Process Doctrine of God
Suchocki discusses God’s “touch”, God’s offering of possibility and the development of consciousness. I think we could argue that a process understanding of Pauline “walking in the spirit” is to live increasingly in harmony with the preconscious aims/opportunities/invitations from God.
God’s presence is a balm to our profound loneliness in the world, “releasing us from loneliness to presence” and so reengaging us in “the creation of meaning.” (59) “Presence – human and divine – insists upon and achieves the meaning of love.” (61)
Traditional theology has positive God’s timeless omniscience to help resolve the human terror of perishing. And yet this theology denies the reality of time and of God’s participation with us. God’s knowledge of all that is possible and God’s inclusion of all that has ever existed into the divine adventure yields forges God’s tremendous wisdom, which invites us to partner with God in responsive trust, co-creating a more beautiful present and future.
God’s power is to eternally self-create and to eternally integrate all influences into a vision of just harmonious possibility. God’s power of influence is to stir hope and preserving action toward a more just world.
Part III God as Presence. God in Christ: A Process Christology
Jesus reveals God’s love through incarnation. In process, incarnation – Christ being human and divine – is easy to explain. How Jesus is uniquely God incarnate is harder. In Christ, though, four conditions make for a unique incarnation – the expectancy or fullness of time, the initial aim of God toward Jesus, the full adoption of that aim by Jesus, and the ongoing process of Jesus’ complete reception of God’s aims throughout his life.
God’s participation in Jesus’ suffering on the cross is revelation of and grounds for God’s deep understanding of the human experience. “My pain … is also God’s pain” and God loves us in our pain. (110) All sins of society are also sins against the God who feels, and in God’s suffering with us, God knows us well enough to give us possibilities that shape transformation.
Resurrection reveals the center of God – beauty, joy, and life, even while receiving and integrating all pain and tragedy. God continually lives by pattern of resurrection: within Godself, integrating received death into the life of God, and within the world, receiving death, ugliness, and misery, and returning transformative possibilities for life, beauty, and joy. “Love is the basis of the resurrection and the firstfruit of the resurrection, becoming the ground for trust and hope.” (125)
Part IV Wisdom. Christ in God: A Process Ecclesiology
Faith is needed to respond to God’s possibilities, while faith also presupposes grace, both in the proclamation of the gospel one receives through the church and through God’s presence and God’s initial aims offered to us. The church is the community of those whose identities are being formed by faith, in response to Christ, and who are proclaiming the gospel through word and deed, that others may respond.
The church’s apostolicity is its relationship to the past in its “constant testimony to the resurrection.” (138) Its unity is a quality of its future, as people and communities are formed into “our bond of kinship in Christ.” (146) Its holiness is in its present, “in the living dynamism” of “love and justice,” “openness and mutuality” of Christ and Christ’s kindom. (149) There is a constant pole to all this – the church’s reference point in Christ – and a relative pole, the degree to which communities are responding to Christ in their own diverse circumstances and cultures.
Suchocki discusses the sacraments of baptism and Lord’s Supper in terms of constancy and relativity, constancy of proclaiming Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, relativity of community’s response to these re-presentations of Christ. There is a beautiful discussion of these two sacraments as modes of apostolicity – re-presenting the past and future of people united with Christ; unity – communities becoming community around and in Christ; and holiness – the effect of love and justice in community as we respond to Christ.
The universality (or catholicity) of the church is that it can be expressed in all cultures throughout the earth, not that it must be the faith system for all people. It is available to all peoples, not needing to be first or dominant for all peoples.
Part V Power. The Reign of God: A Process Eschatology
“The reign of God”, the focus of the teaching of Jesus, is “to live deeply and richly in this life through personal and social structures of love, and to participate everlastingly in the life of God.” (183) Key means by which God in Christ leads Christians toward deep and rich life are eschatological forgiveness and reversal of values. Suchocki calls for liberation from demons both “out there” and “in here, within one’s own psyche and kind” and along these lines, discusses the connection between forgiveness and deliverance. (194)
Resurrection as a feature of the reign of God is discussed. There are many course corrections from popular Christian (mis)understandings. Heaven is not a place outside of earth, heaven is God. “Early church theologians expressed the resurrection as a promotion into God and as a participation in God.” (203) (Really?) So this resurrection begins in this life, as all our experience is prehended by God and drawn into subjective immortality with God. Suchocki argues that this transformation in God – spiritual, not material – is consistent with I Corinthians immortal bodies, but I think she underestimates the degree to which Paul models his thinking on the post-resurrection appearances of Christ, which involved some form of embodied consciousness. Suchocki also discusses God’s ongoing judgement of humanity as God’s assessing and evaluating us as God integrates our becoming into God’s experience. Beyond this, Suchocki discusses some form of post-mortem judgement which involves radically deep self-knowledge, radical union with God while maintaining differentiation, and a profound awareness of our effects on God and all of creation. To some this process of evaluation – of participation in God’s concrescence – will feel like heaven, to others hell. And yet for all, “there is a home in God for the whole universe.” (216)
Prayer is discussed, modelled on the Lord’s prayer, as a “means whereby we open ourselves for conformity to God’s purposes”, as a “catapulting activity, pushing us to appropriate action,” and as a “unitive activity, through which our fears of fragmentation are put to flight in the deep reality of the togetherness within God’s final reign.” (224) What is not discussed is the impact of our prayers upon God.
Before a really great appendix summarizing process thought, Suchocki concludes with a chapter on the Trinity. Father, Son, Holy Spirit served as a revelation of God’s complexity amidst unity, but “the historical relativity of the words is lost to view.” (234) This formulation of Triune God now obscures as much as it illuminates. Suchocki suggests that presence, wisdom, and power is a better formulation in our context, or even the three words God for us.