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Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers (from Plato to the present)

Author: John Cooper
Published By: Apollos (Nottingham)
Pages: 358
Price: £19.99
ISBN: 1 84474 174 8

Reviewed by Barry Goodwin.

This is by most standards an impressive book in scope and content and gave me a sense of real achievement, and desire for a celebratory drink, when I reached the final page. The subject is ‘the other god of the philosophers’, panentheism. To quote the book’s back cover, “In this intricate and complex world-view, ‘all is in God’”.

While panentheism is not a new theological concept, it has received increasing attention amongst those who work at the interface between science and religion and for those who seek to find a coherent theology for environmental concerns. The author traces the development and proliferation of panentheism from Plato to Whitehead and others, focussing particularly upon the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, Moltmann, Pannenberg, Clayton and Polkinghorne.

The book is aimed at “upper-class college and seminary students, clergy and anyone interested in theology”, but I question whether many busy parish clergy really want to tackle such an exhaustive treatment of this important subject. Even though the reader is encouraged to turn to the summary found at the end of each chapter if they find the going hard, it is the final chapter that is the most useful. There, Cooper’s overview concludes that classical theism is more adequate than panentheism for “providing a biblically faithful, philosophically sound articulation of Christian theology, salvation history, and the Christian world-view”. This is a valuable book for anyone wanting to see how panentheism has influenced contemporary theologies, but what is needed now is the Grove Booklet version, with perhaps just a little bit more about how panentheism has shaped Eastern Orthodox thinking alongside the Western church.

Barry Goodwin

Social Responsibility (Parish Development) Adviser, Diocese of Southwark

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You are reading Issue 41 of Ministry Today, published in November 2007.

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