Joseph A. BRACKEN, S.J., Christianity and Process Thought: Spirituality for a Changing World. Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2006. pp. 150, with index. $19.95, soft. ISBN 13:978-1-92031-98-0.
Reviewed by Nathan KOLLAR, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY 14618

If you have not heard of Process Theology this book will give you a hint as to what it is; if you know what it is, this book provides you with an example of how it may be used in Roman Catholic systematic or philosophical theology.

Fr. Bracken brings together his experience as a priest giving retreats and homilies, his intimate knowledge of Whitehead’s stimulating writings on Process thought, and his long years of experience in talking and thinking about Process Theology, to provide the reader with an easy to read introduction to Process theology. This is a thoughtful book. It requires the reader to pay attention to what the author is saying as well as to the reader’s past knowledge and experience of Catholicism. It touches on all the major divisions of systematic theology: God, Trinity, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Church, Grace, Truth, Providence, Freedom, Good and Evil, Sacraments, Last Things. He adds a few 20th and 21st century issues surrounding science.

The key is a different vision of God than what we are socialized into envisioning. Just as our “normal” vision of the sun is that it rises in the east and sets in the west, yet we know different as the consequence of experiment and rational thought, so our “normal” vision of God is challenged by science and rational thought. Our “normal” view of God as perfect, changeless, creator, and, let’s admit it, “one” and male, is the basis of the majority of people’s picture of God. The bible’s references to God as “she” and at times changing, for example, are seen in the light of who God “really” is. The trinity of persons, many times referred to as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit/Ghost, is normally not well attended to. Process thought, as translated by Bracken, will read the scriptures and tradition using another pair of glasses than the “normal” pair. This vision is one of God as changing, deeply interconnected with all of creation, and as a community of persons with whose life we are intimately connected.

The challenge of translation that Bracken faces is formidable. In my reading of his text, he leaves the reader with too much of the traditional view and not enough of the Process Thought view. As I closed the book I still felt he had God outside the process, creation controlled by God, and evil still beyond God’s responsibility. This may be from reading other Christian purveyors of Process Theology who saw much more process in Process theology than Bracken. Nevertheless, the Templeton Foundation has provided us with a valuable demonstration of Roman Catholicism’s openness to new ways of seeing the universe.

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