"I’ve been asked by Jason Hills to comment on the discussion of process thought, God, and causality. As a mainline pastor and former colleague of Hills at SIUC, I’ve been influenced by process and classical American pragmatism but I’ve been far enough from the field of philosophy that I apologize if my treatment of some issues is thin.
I’m sympathetic to Whitehead’s cosmology but I don’t believe that one must adopt any particular cosmology in terms of identifying with religious faith and theism in particular. In that I agree with Rudolph Bultmann that religious faith need not tie its fortunes to one system such that one could be a Whiteheadian, a Columbian Naturalist, a Platonist, etc and still identify with and work out of, in my case, the Christian tradition.
I myself am sympathetic to a form of naturalism that would identify God with particular features, events as found in the natural world. In particular, those events, features, etc that works in ways to relativize and humanize our existence to use Gordon Kaufman’s language or works to judge and redeem our existence in Reinhold Niebuhr’s language.
The model that I find most helpful would be Whitehead’s idea of intensity, the greatest amount of diversity/contrasts held together. If one imagined communities which held to such a goal, one can see how difference held in community can critique our norms and sense of things while expanding those communities in transforming ways. In that I can see a model for various communities, including religious ones.
The question of causality could be this; does God cause such vivifying contrasts? Is God an explanation behind such a thing? I’d argue not. Instead of saying that God is behind and causing events, I would say that God is to be identified with such events. That is, when we see transformation towards the better, we’ve experienced God. Not something God did but something of who God is.
God in this case is a term we use when we encounter such events. God is not an explanation. I would presume that we would want to use all sorts of descriptive accounts, from the natural and social sciences, etc. One could go to a number of disciplines to describe what happens when life is critiqued and transformed. None need invalidate each other. They would be various descriptive routes to the same event.
God would be an evaluative description, one which describes the quality of such events, and calls for a particular response. Such responses could be that of loyalty, ultimacy, reverence, devotion, and so forth. In any case, a commitment to what makes life move towards the better. In the west, given the history of the word, God would seem most appropriate given the nature of specific communities, including my own.
In that I can see atheist interlocutors not describing a world with one less object, but rather prone to use different evaluative words (and given the way certain words have been tied to a certain set of actions done by religious communities and presented in ways which fly against what we know of the world, one can see the plausibility of using different words.)
But for those of us who, given the history and meaning of God, in our communities, the word best fits when we encounter salvific events, as a response. The point is to transform our language so that it can be in conversation with, not be used over and against other descriptions what less other communities."