The Universe as a Living Whole
Daniel Wahl, Whole Systems Theory, and Process Theology
The purpose of this page is to bring into conversation two outlooks on life that offer hope for the world: Whole Systems Thinking and Process Theology.
I take as my example of Whole Systems Thinking the work of Daniel C. Wahl; the vision of Triarchy Press, which published his book, Cultivating Regenerative Community; and the Regenerative Future Project of the Royal Society for the Arts (the RSA). Wahl was awarded 2021 RSA Bicentenary Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to regenerative design. I take as my example of Process Theology the vision of a multi-faith network Process and Faith, which is a project of the Center for Process Studies and the Cobb Institute for Process and Practice. I hope readers will turn to these organizations, Wahl's book, and Triarchy Press to learn more.
Whole Systems Theory and Process Theology have much in common. Both believe that the universe is composed of wholes that are greater than the sum of their parts; that life on earth contains an impulse toward regeneration; and that our calling today, in light of the world’s many problems, is to design regenerative communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, humane to animals, and good for the earth, with no one left behind.
As a process theologian myself, I see process theology as one form of Whole Systems Thinking, of which there are many others. What distinguishes process theology from many other forms is that it is theistic or, better, panentheistic. It sees God as the living and boundless whole of the universe, evolving along with it. A unique feature of the organization Process and Faith, however, is that it appreciates non-theistic as well as theistic ways of looking at the world. Belief in God is an option in the process theological world, but not the only option.
We process theologians speak of four values that rightly inform our actions: whole persons, whole communities, a whole planet, and holistic thinking. Whole Systems Thinking is a form of holistic thinking from which we in the process world have much to learn and for which we are immensely grateful. Let there be many forms of whole systems theory and let process theology be among them.
- Jay McDaniel, 2/10/2022