Becoming

Perhaps only a philosopher would muse over becoming as a noun. Everyone uses it as a verb: I am becoming old. I am becoming angry. I am becoming a philosopher. Yes, but what is becoming itself?

Becoming is contrasted with and conjoined to being (see earlier entry). If some being, say a cup, is unstained at time A and stained at time B, then it has become something different. Change happens to objects and events. The concept of becoming requires time, since time is the medium for change. If time were frozen, then nothing could be anything different than what it was (given the law of identity: A=A). Therefore, becoming requires both being and time.

Heraclitus and Alfred North Whitehead (taking his lead from Hegel) argued that becoming or process is ontologically deeper than being. All is Flux, cried Heraclitus. Becoming defines most everything, cried Whitehead. But there is no becoming without beings which are changed. For example, I remain a stable identity even as my qualities change: I gain weight, lose hair, and cut my fingernails. Heraclitus hinted at something beyond change, which he called The Logos. While Whitehead believed that God changes as he evolves with the cosmos, his primordial nature did not change.

As a Christian, I am justified through the finished work of Christ. That status before God will not become anything else. Sanctification, on the other hand is a process of becoming in which I become more like Jesus Christ by knowing and believing the Bible, by partaking of the institutions of the church, and by being filled the Holy Spirit.

God does not and cannot change in his essential being.

I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed (Malachi 3:6).

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
   They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
    and they will be discarded.
   But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end (Psalm 102:25-27).

Since God is self-existent, nothing can threaten his ontological integrity and fullness (Acts 17:15). God’s character remained the same through a process, however. In the Incarnation, the Second Person of the Trinity took on a human nature. Before this, God, the Son, had not done so. Thus, God became the God-man. This was no mixing of deity and humanity, but a union of the two. Christ is one person with two natures: divine and human (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:6-11). Further, Christ did not shed his humanity after his ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9). What he became—the God-man—so will he ever be. Because of who Christ was, is, and ever will be (Hebrews 13:8), we may become something far greater than we now are.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).

DG CONTRIBUTOR PROFILE

Author: Douglas Groothuis

Author of Christian Apologetics, Truth Decay, On Jesus, On Pascal, and others. Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary since 1993. Head of The Apologetics and Ethics Masters Degree Program and Co-Director of The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture. Senior Fellow for Apologetics.com.

3 thoughts

  1. Nice contrast between Whitehead-Hartshorne-Cobb Process thought and biblical theology. Nice contrast between Whitehead-Hartshorne-Cobb Process thought and biblical theology. You explained a lot in a few words. I see another book from you on this subject, working your way from the theology of God to final redemption in Christ’s reign.

    I hope I am not engaging in a hasty generalization and reductionism when I state that the undercurrent of Process thought is “constant change is here to stay” versus biblical theology’s claim is as you noted,

    “They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail” (Hebrews 1:11-12).

    Perishing and failure mark spacetime existence, but since God is not part of that spacetime, neither of these characteristics apply to Him. A borrowing from William Carlos Williams’ Red Wheelbarrow gives my rendition of the contrast:

    everything depends upon
    a steadfast God
    glazed in glory
    beside the dark universe
    spiraling to ruin.

    I don’t do Haiku.

    Floyd Talbot

  2. Great article Dr. Groothuis! Is not it interesting how Christianity often has a kind of mediating position between the extremes in philosophy? The one and the many, rationalism and romanticism, change and immutability, transcendence and immanence, human depravity and human dignity… By the way, I have your apologetics book now and am enjoying it. I have a remarkable affinity with many of your views and your approach, which given the vast number of views and approaches, seems providential to me. Pray for my wife and I that our move out there will continue to proceed, that we will sell our house, that we will locate some jobs, and that we will trust God in stepping out.

  3. Well put. Because becoming is dependent on being, I fail to see how becoming could be ontologically “deeper” than being. All may be IN flux, but flux only makes sense if persistence can be observed. Thanks for sharing!

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