Math in Process: Critiquing the Process (Person and Work of Christ)

Disclaimer: the author of this post does not in any way support the views of process theology or believe that its views can legitimately be considered thinking Christianly. The purpose of this post is to summarize these views in order to critique them.

Previous entries in this series:

Math in Process

Math in Process: An Introduction

Math in Process: Process Theology 101

Math in Process: The Influence of Mathematics on Process Theology

Math in Process: Critiquing the Process (Revelation and the Trinity)

UPDATE: My paper, “Integrating Faith and Mathematics: What we can learn from Process Theology,” has just been accepted for the ACMS conference this June. Any comments on this series of blog posts would be greatly appreciated as I work to refine my thoughts on this subject. Thank you.

The Person and Work of Christ

It follows from the process misunderstanding of the Trinity, that we find a misguided approach to understanding the pre-existence of the second person of the Trinity: God the Son, Jesus Christ.

In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God. He was in the beginning with God….And the Word(Logos) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

– John 1:1-2, 14

Pre-existence: Process theology regards the Logos as an impersonal principle. It is what gives the appearance of stability in a world that remains in constant state of flux, or constant state of becoming. Logos is defined as the totality of the divine aims. Since this Whiteheadian Logos is not a discrete person within the Godhead, it hardly can be reconciled with the historic Christian explication of the eternal pre-existence of the second person of the Trinity (Isa 9:6; John 1:1-2; Rev 21:6).[1]

Incarnation: The process understanding of the incarnation is also unacceptable. Process theology views the Logos being immanent as the Christ in the whole of creation. The incarnation connotes that the impersonal Logos (also defined as the power for creative transformation – what that means exactly I am not entirely sure) was simply maximally immanent (not uniquely immanent) and operative in the man Jesus of Nazareth. This denies that the incarnation involves the eternal second person of the Godhead entering space and time and becoming man for us and for our salvation (John 1:1, 14; 2 Cor 8:9; Phil 2:6-8; 1 Tim 3:16).

The process model compromises the decisiveness and singularity of the incarnation by affirming that the Logos is immanent in all entities.[2] John makes the results of this view clear when he states:

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not confess Jesus as Christ coming in the flesh. This person is the deceiver and the antichrist!”

– 2 John 7

Two Natures: The process claim that two natures cannot relate except by displacement prompts Whiteheadians to insist that the orthodox belief in Jesus’ deity necessarily vitiates his authentic humanity.[3] Orthodox Christians cannot accept such a heretical, docetic Christology (that is the belief that Jesus only appeared to be human). The full humanity of Christ must be maintained (Matt 13:55; John 1:14, 19:5; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 2:14).

The process belief that Jesus was simply the supreme example of responding to God’s calling moves in the other direction and seems to deny his complete deity. At best the process view can be considered on par with the heresies of Adoptionism (the spirit or christ comes upon the human Jesus and adopts him as a carrier vessel) and Arianism (Jesus the Son was the first thing created).

Jesus is both fully man and fully God (John 1:1, 18; 10:30-33; 20:28; Rom 1:3-4; 9:5; 1 Cor 15:45-49; Phil 2:6-8; Titus 2:13; Peter 1:1). Scripture accords Jesus the same attributes as deity. Jesus is omnipotent (Isa 9:6; Matt 28:18; John 10:18), omnipresent (Matt 18:20; Eph 1:23), omniscient (Matt 9:4; John 4:16-19; 16:30; 21:17), and eternal (Isa 9:6; John 1:1; 8:58; Col 1:17; Heb 1:10-12; Rev 1:8). Belief in the divinity of Christ is a prerequisite of salvation (Rom 10:9; 2 Peter 1:3).

If Jesus is not God, then he does not have the power to fully reveal the Father, and he does not have the power to save sinners. Soteriology demands that he be both true god and true man in order to redeem (1 Tim 2:5). He must be man to represent us (Heb 4:15) and he must be God to save us (Heb 7:24-25).

Ultimately, we as Christians must confess the mystery of the hypostatic union (1 Tim 3:16). We as Christians are also called to do one thing that process theology does not allow for, and that is the worship of Jesus Christ (Matt 2:2, 11; 14:33; Phil 2:10-11; Heb 1:6). Whiteheadians commonly depreciate the unique character of Jesus’ person and accomplishments by upholding a form of degree Christology: Jesus was a special man who may well be surpassed by another religious figure in the evolutionary future.[4] However, the Bible makes it clear that Christ is the consummation of all previous revelations in history (Heb 1:1-2) and is the final and unique agent of salvation (1 Cor 3:11; John 14:6).

Sin and the Cross: As discussed previously, Process theology has what we can label as a Pelagian rejection of human sinfulness and rebellion (in other words a denial of original sin). Process theology therefore sees the cross as the ultimate negative moment. This diverges from the Biblical claim that in the cross there is victory (Col 2:14-15). Contrary to the self-salvation of process theology in which a person responds to the loving lures of God, Scripture shows that it is God’s provision that saves. On the cross in Christ, God bore the just penalty for the world’s sin, satisfied His justice, and thus made a way for reconciliation (Isa 53:4-12; John 3:15-17; Rom 3:21-26; 5:6-11; Heb 2:14-17).

Resurrection: The process view does not adequately asses the profound depths of human perversity and therefore it follows that the full meaning of the cross and resurrection as events which deal with sin and death is not grasped.[5] Process theology summarily rejects the personal and bodily resurrection of Jesus and believes in favor of the thesis that resurrection connotes God taking up into his own memory the experiences of our Lord and his followers.[6] Again,as with many process viewpoints, I am not entirely certain what this means. I can once again direct you to the Center for Process Studies if you would like to do some research of your own. In any case, however you interpret this process doctrine of resurrection, it radically departs from the biblical description of this event.

The Biblical account clearly ties the Christian faith to the hope of the resurrection (Job 19:25; Isa 25:8; Matt 16:21; 20:19; 26:32; John 2:19; 11:25). Resurrection was the focus of the church’s missionary preaching, teaching, and worship (Acts 2:24, 31-32; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30-32; Rom 1:4; 6:4; 8:34; 1 Cor 15:4, 20).[7] Denying the resurrection leads to denying the remission of sins (1 Cor 15:17), the possibility of attaining salvation (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 15:19), and ending all hope (1 Cor 15:32).

Summary: Process theology thus denies, as biblically and historically understood, Christ’s eternal pre-existence, incarnation, virgin birth, sinlessness, deity, atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming, as well as the Trinity of God. Process theology then does simply fall into a certain heretical category in its doctrine of Scripture, God, or Christ, rather it samples from many heretical beliefs.

The claims of process theology cannot be entertained by the faithful Christian community. The philosophical assumption of process thinking is that reason working on the data of lived experience is judged competent to lead the mind into all truth. This by definition is the very root of sin (Gen 3:6; Rom 1:18-32) and Christians cannot proceed with this underlying presupposition. Rather, we are called to submit to the authority of God and his revelation.

It is because of this that I have attempted to give the preceding analysis with an emphasis on the voice of the Scriptures, even though process theologians might not accept biblical authority. The purpose here is not to argue process thinkers out of their position, but rather to demonstrate the approach we must take in analyzing any subject (even mathematics) if our presuppositions are to be labeled as “Christian.”

Next Up:

Developing a Distinctly Christian Perspective of Mathematics: What We Learn from the Mistakes of Process Theology

[1] Bruce Demarest, “The Process Reduction of Jesus and the Trinity,” In Process Theology, ed. Ronald H. Nash (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), 78.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 79.

[4] Ibid., 80.

[5] Ibid., 81.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.


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