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An anthropologist studies evangelicals

God and the World

Tomorrow I'm preaching on the ending of the Book of Job.  Also in my thoughts are Reformation Sunday and the 1700th anniversary of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.  As I was researching, I encountered a great Alfred North Whitehead quote which sent me back to Process and Reality.

The quote is "The Church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar."  This comes in the closing chapter of the great work, a chapter entitled "God and World."

Whitehead argues against the traditional images of God's power -- as imperial ruler, as personification of moral energy, as the ultimate philosophical principle.  Instead, he advocates the view revealed in Jesus.  This view "dwells upon the tender elements in the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love; and it finds purpose in the present immediacy of a kingdom not of this world.  Love neither rules, nor is it unmoved; also it is a little oblivious as to morals."

Whitehead rejects the notion of God using coercive power and, instead, advocates that God uses persuasive power.  God, then, is "the lure for feeling, the eternal urge of desire."  God and the World remain in relationship, affecting one another, advancing novelty for each other.

As a freshman I found Whitehead's view of God to be wonderful and have continued to delight in it.  It was beautiful to return to this chapter this week.

The closing sentences of the book are tantalizing, in that I never fully grasp them, but enjoy the beautiful intuitions they are attempting to express:

Throughout the perishing occasions in the life of each temporal Creature, the inward source of distaste or of refreshment, the judge arising out of the very nature of things, redeemer or goddess of mischief, is the transformation of Itself, everlasting in the Being of God.  In this way, the insistent craving is justified--the insistent craving that zest for existence be refreshed by the ever-present, unfading importance of our immediate actions, which perish and yet live for evermore.

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