“The God of “coercive agency” is anthropomorphic and is considerably easier to believe in for the masses because there is little room for ambiguity: God is king (perhaps angry, perhaps strong-willed); human beings are His weak and pitiful subjects; this God is to be obeyed, feared; this God is somehow the “answer” to (surely not the source of) the problems that unfold in society and history.

“Persuasive agency” is a far more alluring notion. Metaphors for rule (“king,” “lord”) and for space (“above,” “beyond”) can be easily jettisoned. “Persuasive agency” might mean little more than an ideal, or a collective conscience, or intimations of the eternal in nature, or an awareness of one’s finitude and the gumption to consider whether there is any continuity of consciousness with the demise of the body. “Persuasive agency” wouldn’t be a father figure animated to fit the needs of someone who craves, in adulthood, a loving father; it wouldn’t be the ground of all hardened and absolute judgments against experience and against other people; it couldn’t be neatly invoked to justify earthly aspirations or the dominion of oneself and one’s group over another.

“Persuasive agency” might only mean a Platonic Form, say of Goodness or Truth, which is illuminated and revealed by works of charity, acts of love, moments of keen contemplation. Or maybe the notion is alive, as Whitehead says, in the simple and meager life of a self-abnegating man — a man in whom the ultimate paradox of “defeat become victory” was manifested.”

A great passage above from Tim Ruggiero on Whitehead and process theology.

Painting by: Sally Trace

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