International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God's Presence in a Scientific World

edited by Philip Clayton , Arthur R. Peacocke

Introductory Essay by Makarand Paranjape

What is panentheism? Simply speaking, panentheism, as distinguished from pantheism, is the belief that “the Being of God includes and penetrates the whole universe” (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church). What is more, not only does every part of the universe exist in Him, as the pantheists would hold, God’s being is more than this and “is not exhausted by the universe” (ibid). This collection of twenty-one essays is an enriching, fascinating, and almost always lively account of what has been termed the “panetheistic turn” in Christian theological thinking. The volume came out of a symposium held at Windsor Castle in December 2001 on God’s relationship with the created world. The intense conversations that took place were led by Philip Clayton and Arthur Peacocke, who have also edited the book.

Clayton cites Michael Brierley’s listing of eight characteristics of panentheism as found in key authors’ work: “(i) the cosmos as God’s body; (ii) language of ‘in and through’; (iii) the cosmos as sacrament; (iv) the language of inextricable intertwining; (v) God’s dependence on the cosmos; (vi) the intrinsic, positive value of the cosmos; (vii) possibility; and (viii) degree Christology” [x]. The book presents all of these positions, some more amply and persuasively than others.

Apart from two introductory essays and an Afterword, the volume has three parts. Part I considers pantheistic interpretations of the God-World relationship. The essays contained here offer both a historical review of panentheism as well as contemporary and cross-cultural perspectives, including post-modern, scientific, and Hindu.

Part II is mostly devoted to scientific views on the God-World relation. Issues in emergent complexity, space and time, neurobiology, epistemology, and so on are discussed. Of particular interest is Peacocke’s treatment of what happens to the idea of God in a world unveiled by science.

Implicit in Part III, which examines theological perspectives on panentheism, is a debate between the Western and Eastern Orthodox theologians. Such an exchange is not easy to find in one volume. Joseph A. Bracken’s analysis of panentheism based on Whitehead’s process philosophy reaffirms the “triune” as opposed to the “unipersonal” notion of God.

Clayton’s tour-de-force, Panentheism Today: A Constructive Systematic Evaluation, is saved for the last. What Clayton does with sheer brilliance and insight is both to systematize and summarize the preceding essays in this very volume. In doing so he raises the epistemological value of these diverse reflections into a school of thought that offers a coherent platform of “new constructive reflections on the nature of God’s relationship with the world” [249]. He offers distinct variations on panentheism, each labelled cleverly to distinguish it from the others and associated with a particular author or authors. In all, thirteen positions are identified: “participatory panentheism or perhaps ‘logoi panentheism’; ‘Divine energies’ panentheism; eschatological panentheism or soteriological panentheism; sapiential panentheism; emergentist panentheism; sacramental panentheism; Trinitarian panentheism; pan-sacramental naturalistic panentheism; process or dipolar panentheism; ‘body of God’ panentheism; neopanentheism; pansyntheism” [250]. With many more such “gists,” in addition to lists and inspired insights, Clayton, with outstanding acumen, brings the volume to a flourishingly productive close.