Paul Tillich is a panentheist who seems to understand God (being-itself) and all others interactively: “To call God transcendent … does not mean that one must establish a ‘super world’ of divine objects. It does mean that, within itself, the finite world points beyond itself. In other words, it is self transcendent … The finitude of the finite points to the infinitude of the infinite. It goes beyond itself in order to return to itself in a new dimension”—Systematic Theology, vol. 2 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 7-8.
Process theists agree. Nevertheless, process theists generally disagree with Tillich on several points.
1) They don’t think it limits God to say that God exists. They think Tillich is using “exists” in too restricted a sense. For Tillich, “existence” is a narrower category than “being” or “reality.” But process thinkers, like most English speaking philosophers and the general public, use “existence” to cover whatever “being” or “reality” covers. They do agree with Tillich that God’s way of existing is unsurpassably unique and immeasurably different from any other way of existing. God’s way of existing is both necessary in some respects andcontingent in others, while all others’ ways of existing are simply contingent. But God’s unsurpassable way of existing is still existing.
2) They don’t think it limits God to call God a being or an individual. The all-inclusive way of newly interacting is the one and only concrete reality where individuality and universality coincide, where a difference in degree becomes a difference in kind, “the individual with strictly universal functions” (Hartshorne, p. 36). “Individuality and universality ordinarily are opposed … What Tillich overlooks, however, is that this seemingly inevitable contrast between universality and individuality is one of the very rules to which God as worshipful or unsurpassable must be an exception. [God’s] uniqueness must consist precisely in being both reality as such and an individual reality, insofar comparable to other individuals” (Hartshorne, pp. 34-35).
3) They don’t think God is the answer to the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” They find the question itself too confused to need answering. For them “nothing” is not a conceivable alternative to “something,” so there’s no “rather than” to ponder. “Nothing,” they claim, is a relative term that always presumes the existence of something else, as in “There’s nothing in the fridge” (there’s still the fridge, and there’s still plenty in the fridge—shelves, air, electro-magnetic waves, etc.—just nothing edible). In fact many process thinkers (Hartshorne, Ogden, Gamwell) insist that “Something exists” is necessarily true, making “Nothing exists” necessarily false. For them the astonishment of existence is better expressed in Blaise Pascal’s astonishment “at being here rather than there … now rather than then” (Pensees, 205).]