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Reviewed by:
  • The Becoming of God: Process Theology, Philosophy, and Multireligious Engagement by Roland Faber
  • Wm. Andrew Schwartz
The Becoming of God: Process Theology, Philosophy, and Multireligious Engagement. Roland Faber. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017. 239 pp. $31 paper.

Writing an accessible introduction to process theology is no easy task. As Roland Faber notes, “Process theology is a quite complex phenomenon” (vii). Yet this is the task he sets out for himself in The Becoming of God: Process Theology, Philosophy, and Multireligious Engagement. While Faber describes his book as an introduction to process theology, it would perhaps be better described as an introduction to the thought of Alfred North Whitehead and its theological implications.

In typical Faber fashion, this poetic introduction to Whitehead is thorough, complex, and insightful. Ranging across issues of science, religious studies, theology, and philosophy, Faber tackles some of the most complicated thought problems in history. He elucidates Whitehead’s worldview (an explanation for the inner workings of reality and that explanation’s implications for notions of God), contrasting it with other major voices from Plato and Aristotle, to Einstein and Newton, to Derrida, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hegel, Badaui, and more.

Faber begins by laying out three contours for situating process theology in our contemporary postcolonial and postmodern context: (1) philosophy and mysticism, (2) mathematics traversing logic and aesthetics, and (3) the relationships between philosophical cosmology and religion in an evolutionary and multireligious context (xixv). Within these three contours, Faber then goes on to present Whitehead’s thought by way of five unique (yet overlapping) spheres: (1) community of becoming, (2) science, philosophy, and religion, (3) God and the cosmos in creative mutuality, (4) unity in diversity, and (5) theopoetics.

It is in this context that Faber illuminates Whitehead’s thought specifically (and process theology generally) as standing between metaphysics and phenomenology, continental and analytic philosophy, pragmatism and idealism, Western and Eastern wisdom, and science and religion, with a degree of transreligious particularity that synthesizes the ultimate nature of things through moments of metaphysical universality. Put another way, Faber describes White-head’s thought as a “non-reductionist, non-dualist, and non-substantialist approach, articulating a new metaphysical configuration of the processional and relational world” (63). [End Page 117]

In doing so, Faber contrasts Whitehead’s philosophy/theology with that of Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz, Nietzsche, Feuerbach, and Marx. In a matter just a few sentences Faber explains the uniqueness of Whitehead’s perspective in the history of modern philosophy, theology, and science. He writes:

Descartes tried to hold these now-divorced spheres of mind and matter together, only to contribute to the dismissal of the mental side, as it was becoming reconstructed as illusion of movements of mere matter. Spinoza and Leibniz tried to circumvent this dualism with their respective monism of divine substance, being identical with the world, and pluralism of monads in the monad of God. But God had died with Nietzsche, Feuerbach, and Marx, and matter reigned in all quarters over and against mind, spirit, consciousness, values, God, and religion. . . .Whitehead saw the fatal flaw become obvious in the inconsistences of the ideology of division behind the scientific method, the philosophical antagonisms of empiricism and rationalism that underpinned it, and in their limitation vis-à-vis the new scientific insights and the shock coming with relativity theory and quantum physics. He captured this flaw with the term ‘bifurcation of nature.’

(69)

However, little more is said about these figures here, so if you aren’t familiar with monads or the difference between empiricism and rationalism, or know very little about the history of early modern and nineteenth-century philosophy, some additional background reading might help illuminate passages like the above, which are representative of the general style of this book.

Among the more constructive pieces of Faber’s exposition on Whitehead is his critique of the typical portrayal of process theology as panentheism. Historically, à la Charles Hartshorne and the majority of process theists, Whitehead’s theology has been described in terms of panentheism by which God is described as being immanent in the world, but not reduced to the world. However, Faber criticizes this view as failing to capture Whitehead’s God...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2156-4795
Print ISSN
0194-3448
Pages
pp. 117-120
Launched on MUSE
2019-11-25
Open Access
No
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