Volume 47, Issue 1/2, Spring/Summer-Fall/Winter 2018
Palmyre M. F. Oomen
God’s Power and Almightiness in Whitehead’s Thought
Whitehead’s position regarding God’s power is rather unique in the philosophical and theological landscape. Whitehead rejects divine omnipotence (unlike Aquinas), yet he claims (unlike Hans Jonas) that God’s persuasive power is required for everything to exist and occur. This intriguing position is the subject of this article. The article starts with an exploration of Aquinas’s reasoning toward God’s omnipotence. This will be followed by a close examination of Whitehead’s own position, starting with an introduction to his philosophy of organism and its two-sided concept of God. Thereupon, an analysis of Whitehead’s idiosyncratic view on God’s agency will show that, according to this conception, God and the world depend upon each other, and that God’s agency is a noncoercive but persuasive power. The difference between coercion and persuasion will be explained as well as the reason why God, according to Whitehead’s conception, cannot possibly coerce. Finally, a discussion of the issue of divine almightiness will allow for a reinterpretation of divine almightiness from a Whiteheadian perspective, which will show how, despite Whitehead’s rejection of God’s omnipotence, his concept retains essential elements of God as pantokrator (and thus markedly differs from Hans Jonas’s concept).