Free Process Defense

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Free Process Defense

Process theology's solution to the problem of evil derives from its conception of divine power. God cannot be held culpable for failing to prevent the occurrence of genuine evil because God cannot override, veto, or withdraw the freedom that creatures possess when committing evil. God's power entails the persuasion, never coercion, of free creatures. Conceiving of divine power in this way allows process theists to affirm divine love unequivocally. It also allows them to acknowledge the commonsense notion that some events occur that make the world a worse place than it might have been.

The free process defense originates from the philosophies of Alfred North Whitehead (18611947) and Charles Hartshorne (18972000). David Ray Griffin (1939) has further developed and explained this defense. Scientist-theologians such as John Polkinghorne (1930) and Arthur Peacocke (1924) have been attracted to the process answer to the problem of evil, and each uses variations of it in his own work. In their view, God has chosen to let the world develop itself in a continual interplay with chance and the necessities embodied in the divinely installed laws of nature, in order for nature to explore its own potentialities. Thus understood, the free process defense is an extension of the free will defense.

See also Evil and Suffering; Freedom; Free Will Defense; Process Thought; Theodicy; Whitehead, Alfred North


griffin, david ray. god, power, and evil: a process theodicy. philadelphia: westminster, 1976.

griffin, david ray. evil revisited: responses and reconsiderations. albany: state university of new york press, 1991.

inbody, tyron l. the transforming god: an interpretation of suffering and evil. louisville, ky.: westminster john knox, 1997.

thomas jay oord