Process theologian John Cobb’s reflections on the earthquake in Japan make for an interesting contrast with John Piper’s recent statements. From the perspective of process thought, not only human choices, but even inanimate nature enjoys a certain autonomy:
For process thought, however, the contrast of human events and natural ones is not quite this sharp. Indeed, we think that God has even less of a causal role in earthquakes than in dropping atomic bombs. That is because God’s role in the world is persuasion, and divine persuasion plays a much smaller role in inanimate objects than in human experiences. One can imagine that, against all odds, the American president might have decided not to permit the use of nuclear weapons against Japan. That could be a response to divine persuasion. One cannot, at least I cannot, imagine that the continental plates that occasionally slip in relation to one another could be persuaded not to do so. Events that involve only inorganic entities, and those in unimaginable numbers, are the least affected by God’s role in the world.
I do not say that they are unaffected. With respect to the real individual events, the momentary bursts of energy that constitute quantum events, we believe that God plays a persuasive role. It may seem trivial, but over the eons, we believe that out of very elementary events God called into being more complex ones. However trivial the effects of God’s persuasion in individual natural events, over billions of years, God’s work in these individual events has brought into being a very varied and rich nature, including the human species. We are right to thank God for God’s achievements. We owe everything to them. The power that worked persuasively through billions of years and accomplished so much is not a trivial power! But it does not prevent volcanic eruptions on massive earthquakes. They bear witness to the many other powers that are at work in determining what happens in the world.
Read the rest here. As I’ve said before, I don’t agree with the entire process metaphysics, but it’s good to know there are alternative Christian views out there.