I sometimes feel like a broken record when I complain about authors on religious topics who ignore process theology, but it after reading Robert Wright's column in today's New York Times about how to reconcile faith in God with evolution, I once again found myself thinking, "That's great, but what about process theology?" One of the reasons I find process theology intriguing is that it addresses two theological questions that I think have to be resolved if belief in God is to be tenable: how to reconcile science and religion, and how to reconcile the existence of God with the problem of evil. Thus whenever an author gives an ostensibly comprehensive analysis on either of those two subjects for public consumption, and yet in so doing ignores process theology altogether, then I find myself objecting that the treatment of the subject matter is really incomplete.
Wright argues in his column that the only way for believers in God to also believe in evolution is to subscribe to a kind of deistic biology, in which God created the mechanism of natural selection and then subsequently just sat back and watched:
The first step toward this more modern theology is for them to bite the bullet and accept that God did his work remotely — that his role in the creative process ended when he unleashed the algorithm of natural selection (whether by dropping it into the primordial ooze or writing its eventual emergence into the initial conditions of the universe or whatever).This isn't much different from other kinds of deism, and while it is true that this would indeed be one solution to the problem, another possible solution he doesn't mention and yet which is offered by process theology, suggests that God is actively involved in all the processes of the world (including biological evolution), but not in a coercive fashion but rather as One who offers creative possibilities at each moment. God under this model is then a non-omnipotent co-creator with creation itself. Thus, unlike the deistic evolution that Wright proposes, process theology sees God as remaining active--but not in an omnipotent sense.
I am certainly not saying that anyone, including Robert Wright, has to accept process theology. I do think it is frustrating, though, when process theology gets short shrift in an area of theology that it is specifically suited to address, and thus a treatment of a subject like this is not as comprehensive as it sets out to be.
It is also notable in this case that Wright goes on to say in his column that "organisms must come from a different creative process than rocks" and that " this creative process imparts a purpose (however mundane) to organisms." The idea that there are two different creative processes at work in the universe involves a kind of dualism that some might find a bit unsatisfying at some level, and he takes this dualism for granted when in fact it is not philosophically necessary. Indeed, this kind of dualism in the creative processes is something that process theology also rejects, seeing ultimately the same Divine creativity at work throughout all the processes of the universe.