“If someone were to ask,‘Where is God?’ how would you respond?”
Joseph A. Bracken, SJ, uses this question as a springboard to introduce the process-relational metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead and other process theologians as he tries to reconcile the sometimes-conflicting views of traditional Christian doctrines and the modern scientific world. To present this material in an accessible manner to a wider audience, Bracken reworks Whitehead’s “model” of the God-world relationship, showing that God is involved in an ongoing, ever-changing relationship with all creatures. He also discusses the work of other contemporary theologians to help Christians come to terms with their role in our multi-dimensional pluralistic society.
Bracken examines divine and human creativity, the collective power of good and evil, divine providence and human freedom, prayer, altruism, and the basic question, “What is truth?” He shows how Whitehead’s process thought approach to these issues can in fact “harmonize” traditional Christian beliefs and contemporary culture, benefiting both faith and reason.
Understanding the God-world relationship subtly influences our attitude toward ourselves, toward other human beings, and indeed toward all of God’s creatures, says Bracken. His revision of Whitehead’s metaphysical vision in terms of a cosmic community shows how modern views of the world and God can be accepted and kept in balance with the traditional biblical views found in the Christian faith and how this balance can help Christians make better choices in a world shaped both by contemporary natural science and by traditional Christian spirituality.
“If we truly believe that in God we live and move and have our being and that as a result we share with the divine persons in a deeply communitarian way of life together with all of God’s creatures, we may be more readily inclined to make the periodic sacrifice of personal self-interest so as to pursue the higher good of sustained life in community. In the end, it is simply a matter of seeing the ‘bigger picture,’ realizing what life is ultimately all about.”
Table of Contents
Foreword by John F. Haught / ix
Acknowledgments / xiii
Introduction / xv
Chapter 1: “In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being” (Acts 17:28) / 3
Chapter 2: Divine and Human Creativity / 14
Chapter 3: The Shape of Things to Come / 28
Chapter 4: The Collective Power of Good and Evil / 41
Chapter 5: The Church and the Kingdom of God / 53
Chapter 6: “What is Truth?” (John 18:38) / 65
Chapter 7: Divine Providence and Human Freedom / 77
Chapter 8: Prayer and the Collective Power of Good / 89
Chapter 9: Alpha and Omega: The Beginning and the End / 103
Chapter 10: Science, Faith, and Altruism / 116
Chapter 11: Learning to Trust / 127
Notes / 141
Index / 151
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith—Ipswich, MA—Vol. 58, No. 3
One would expect that the theological work of a Jesuit, apart from its philosophical trappings, would be strictly orthodox in its development and presentation. However, my immediate experience of the book was not one of the logical structure or the interesting ideas, but of the continuous dilution of essential Christian truth.
Bracken ends with two stimulating chapters on the need of altruism, a metaphysical necessity in his treatment of Whitehead’s philosophy, while incorporating a fresh perspective on biologists Dawkins and Wilson. In closing, Bracken echoes Solomon in saying that ultimately the only way is to trust God.
Process theology is interesting, but it usually seems to create a mere shadow of our faith. It is good to see Christians engaged in serious philosophical questions and Bracken has a good treatment.
With Christianity and Process Thought, Joe Bracken offers a process theology that is both critically engaging and in no need of a glossary. Though I disagree with some of his conclusions, I do endorse the way in which he brings some of the best insights of process to bear on theological loci. Those looking for a way to introduce process theology to undergraduates and seminarians will find this book very useful. Readers of Theology and Science will be most interested in his chapters on the God-world relationship (chapters 1 and 5), on epistemology (chapter 6), and on "science and religion" issues (chapters 9 and 10).
This is a book for which I have been waiting for some fifty years.
Bracken provides a splendid synthesis between Christianity and Whitehead. Actually, Whitehead’s basic thinking is very favourable to Christianity. It seems he it is much easier to use for religious purposes than Aristotle, and St. Thomas Aquinas had to do a tremendous job "christianizing" Aristotle. Now, Bracken did a similar job for Whitehead, which is easier though by no means trivial.
Summarizing I would like to say that Bracken’ book for me was an eye-opener. It reads extremely well, avoiding or mitigating the notoriously difficult Whiteheadian terminology as much as possible, and it is a spiritual book rather than a philosophic treatise.
The book keeps increasing in depth, wisdom and intensity from the beginning to the end, like a symphony of Bruckner.
It appeals to both the interested layman and the specialist. For the priest or minister it can be a great source of topics for sermons. I highly recommend it. —Helmut Moritz, Graz (Austria), March 2007
[E]xplores the depths of Christian experience in the light of modern cosmology, now in the form of a Neo-Whiteheadian perspective.
Bracken’s text represents one of the clearest and most comprehensive presentations of how Whitehead’s more philosophical categories can be transposed on behalf of an enlarged and enriched cosmological vision of Christian faith and life.
If someone were to ask, “Where is God?” how would you respond? Joseph A. Bracken, S.J., uses this question as a springboard to introduce the process-relational metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead and process theologians as Bracken reconciles the sometimes-conflicting views of traditional Christian doctrines and the modern scientific world. To present this material in an accessible manner to a wider audience, Bracken discusses Whitehead’s model of the God-world relationship, showing that God is involved in an ongoing, ever-changing relationship with humans and other creatures. Bracken also discusses the work of other contemporary theologians to help Christians come to terms with their role in our multi-dimensional pluralistic society. Bracken also examines divine and human creativity, the collective power of good and evil, divine providence and human freedom, prayer, and altruism, and he addresses the question, “What is truth?”—Elizabeth Gibson