Adventures in the Spirit -- A Collective Review

ADVENTURES IN THE SPIRIT: God, World, Divine Action. By Philip Clayton, Edited by Zachary Simpson. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008. ix + 310 pages.

Book reviewed as part of the Transforming Theology Project.

It is clear that religion and spirituality continue to play a major role in global culture and society. There are regions, especially Europe, where institutional religion is on the wane, but elsewhere religion seems to be holding its own. But, that doesn't meant there are no challenges. Indeed, the challenges of today are complex and often lead to retrenchment on the part of the religious communities -- for they fear the demise of their worldviews and their communities.

Philip Clayton takes on one particular challenge -- the challenge of modern science and philosophy to the traditional religious perspectives, the Christian ones in particular. In Adventures in the Spirit, Clayton find resources for a vital Christian perspective in recent scientific studies, especially in what he calls emergence in biological theory. In responding to the challenges of science, Clayton turns to panentheism as a way of reconciling divine action with modern science, a science that precludes an interventionist God from reaching from outside the system to affect what is going on within the system.

What Clayton wants to do is find an "integrative Christianity," one that draws upon classical liberal texts along with more modern reflections. The goal is finding a way to integrate theology and science in a way that respects the integrity of both. He posits a theology that doesn't fear falsification on the part of science. He writes:

A new breed of liberal theologians, I suggest, is in an ideal position to integrate science and religion in this fashion. Because the drive toward integration is essential to our faith, because our faith is not only a given but also a quest, we do not need to build walls -- indeed, we may not build walls -- to immunize our beliefs from possible falsification. Such liberal thinkers vehemently reject a pseudo-science that is custom designed to support supernaturalism, just as we resist a religion that is stripped of all its convictions and reduced to its purely naturalistic functions. Our quest is for nothing less than the full integration of science and religion, the full harmony between the two without the reduction of the one to the other. (p. 262).

Such a task will be difficult to fulfill, in part because players on both sides of the divide seem unwilling to accord the other a place at the table. But, Clayton remains undaunted in his quest for a new integrative and incarnational theology.

I invite the reader to explore my series of commentaries on this most interesting and challenging of books.

Transforming Theology -- Adventures in the Spirit: Introductory Thoughts

Part One: The Methods of Philosophy and Theology

Chapter 1. Critical Faith: Theology in the Midst of the Sciences

Chapter 2 Religious Truth and Scientific Truth -- An Exploration

Chapter 3 Contemporary Science and Religion Discussion

Part Two: Emergence:

The Science of Emergence -- Transforming Theology Project

Chapter 4 Why Emergence Matters

Chapters 5 & 6 Emergence and the Spirit -- Transforming Theology

chapter 7 Theological Reflections on Emergence

Part Three: Panentheism

Chapter 8 An Introduction to Panentheism

Chapter 9 From Substance to Subject

Chapter 10
“The Becoming of the One Who Always Was: Toward a Trinity in Process” (Part 1)

“The Becoming of the One Who Always Was: Toward a Trinity in Process” (Part 2)

Worshiping the Responsive God

Chapter 11: “Open Panentheism” and Creation as Kenosis

Part Four Divine Action

Chapter 12 Natural Law and the Problem of Divine Action

Chapter 13 Actions Human and Divine

Chapter 14: Can Contemporary Theologians Still Affirm that God (Literally) Does Anything?

Part Five: The Theological Adventure Applied

Chapter 15 Reflections on the Human Quest for Meaning

Chapter 16 Spirituality as Spirit and Spirituality toward Spirit

Chapter 17 The Many Faces of Integration


Anonymous said…
I think we're over blowing the divide. A scientist has to act like an atheist or agnostic in his profession, that's true. Most scientists are spiritual on a personal level. Their perspective(s) is valued. If you suspect a big miracle, should you run to the preacher or scientist for conformation? Who is best to answer? Doesn’t it give you peace to know a method exist to prove something is not “right” and a new theory is needed? David Mc
Anonymous said…
oops. conformation = confirmation.

Of course you would run to a chemist for conformation questions.
Anonymous said…
I did a little reseach. This site might be a little biased, but the value for chemist made me smile..

Disbelief in God by Academics Discipline %
Physics 40.8
Chemistry 26.6
Biology 41.0
Overall 37.6
Sociology 34.0
Economics 31.7
Political Science 27.0
Psychology 33.0
Overall 31.2

David Mc
wow Gold said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Philip said…
Dear Bob,

It has been fun to listen in as you have blogged your way through *Adventures in the Spirit*. I've enjoyed your willingness to probe deeply into the science and its implications for Christians today.

Above all else -- and perhaps not surprisingly -- I've enjoyed the spirit of adventure with which you've approached the various new ideas in science, philosophy, and theology. I do find it a continual adventure to try to understand this complex contemporary world from the standpoint of God's revelation in and through Jesus. I wish more Christians would bring your positive, exploratory spirit to the big questions of our day.

In fact, the experience of reading and responding to your various blogs affected me strongly enough that I wrote it into the opening of the new book that Fortress is about to publish, *Transforming Christian Theology* -- a much easier book to read, by the way. (I trust you won't mind being mentioned by name.) These interactions do seem to me to offer a new and attractive model of public interaction, using technologies that are only just becoming available.

I wish you the best in your ministry and look forward to the next time that our pursuits will bring us back into public dialogue.

-- Philip Clayton

I've been honored to have you share in the dialog on this space. I'm even more honored that you would include my name in the upcoming book -- which I look forward to reading and engaging with!

Blessings on your continued ministry.

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