Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ronald J. Feenstra

Second Advisor

Robert Masson

Third Advisor

Michael K. Duffy

Fourth Advisor

Philip Rossi


John B. Cobb, Jr. constructs his unique Whiteheadian Christology in response to the contemporary context of religious pluralism and believes that it will further dialogue and mutual transformation among diverse religions. Cobb develops his understanding of Christ as the image of creative transformation out of Whitehead's concept of the primordial nature of God as the principle of limitation and order. Cobb conceptualizes Christ as the incarnate Logos, the offer of relevant possibility to every actual occasion. Christ names the universal process that brings about creative advance in religions and everywhere in the world. Jesus is understood as a distinctive structure of human existence in which Christ, the initial aim, co-constitutes Jesus' selfhood. Jesus identifies with the offered perfect possibility; he fully embodies Christ. Cobb's understanding of Jesus implies a very positive attitude toward religious pluralism for although Jesus is fully Christ, he is not the totality of Christ. It is possible that there have been or will be other persons who perfectly actualize Christ in a different cultural, historical context. Cobb's Christology is not without its problems. First, Cobb's dual understanding of incarnation is confusing. On the one hand, incarnation refers to the offer of relevant possibility in Christ, and on the other hand, to the actualization of possibility in Jesus. The offer of possibility is not incarnation at all. Second, Christ and Jesus cannot adequately be understood in a Whiteheadian perspective if attention is limited to God's primordial nature. Cobb's understanding of Christ fails to recognize the necessary interweaving of the primordial and consequent natures of God in the initial aim. Only in relation of the consequent nature of God can the kenotic aspect of Jesus Christ be conceptualized in Whiteheadian categories. Third, if Christ is understood as creative transformation and Christianity as faithfulness to Christ, it is imperative that explicit criteria for discerning creative change be developed. Fourth, Cobb's Christology is an inadequate response to the contemporary context of religious pluralism.



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