World Without End: Christian Eschatology from a Process Perspective is a collection of essays by nine of the twentieth century’s most notable theologians. The book is a Festschrift for Marjorie Suchocki on her retirement from the Claremont School of Theology. Her 1988 book, The End of Evil: Process Eschatology in Historical Context, serves as the springboard for discussion of eschatology in general and the usefulness of Process thought in particular for making sense of Christian “End Times” claims. The critiques assess how successful her revision of Whitehead to make room for subjective immortality is and how ‘true’ the outcome is to the central claims of Christian theology.
The organizational structure of the book is quite good. It begins with two ‘stage-setting’ essays and ends with a response by Suchocki. Joseph Bracken provides a concise summary of The End of Evil and Jürgen Moltmann, an overview of the problem of evil generally. In her “Afterwords,” Suchocki provides a helpful schema for grouping the remaining chapters: Group I (essays by Robert Neville and Catherine Keller) addresses the challenge of eschatology for Christianity. Group II (Joseph Bracken, Roland Faber, Lewis Ford, and Phillip Clayton) explores Whiteheadian metaphysics, and Group III (John Haught and Anna Case-Winters) addresses eschatological hope. Taken together, the essays assess the viability of adapting Christian doctrines to Process thought (and vice versa). Briefly, the essays are as follows:
Group I: Neville asks which Christian symbols ought to be revised. Although one may disagree with his claim that Jesus’ eschatological teachings did not include justice (p. 35), the questions he raises about how metaphysical models ought to function are crucial. Keller’s essay is a rhetorical argument in favor of the traditional theodicy of redemptive suffering, wherein evil is mitigated, not terminated.
Group II: Bracken argues that although her work makes inroads into the problematic lack of subjective immortality in Process metaphysics, Suchocki’s thought doesn’t solve the problem of loss of identity for created subjectivities when taken up into God. As a solution, he offers ‘fields of activity’ rather than ‘atoms’ of experience. Faber’s essay is quite difficult reading—the least ‘reader friendly’ in the book. He asks whether we would have a ‘world’ if it were deprived of evil conditions, and argues that the Eschaton is the origin rather than end of all things. Ford’s essay focuses on points of conflict between Suchocki’s claims and Whitehead’s essential points about subjectivity. Clayton’s essay offers a refreshing reminder that it may well not be possible to do “constructive metaphysics under the guise of hope” at all. Process metaphysics seduces us into thinking we can make statements of fact about that which can only ever be statements of hope: “one begins to worry that metaphysical speculation about eschatological matters is like tennis without a net: any series of shots turns out to be adequate—one just has to make a large enough number of them (147)”.
The closing essays in Group III very neatly ‘follow-on’ Clayton’s cautionary thesis and adopt a more humble stance. Haught and Case-Winters move away from the intense metaphysical speculation of earlier chapters to advocate for eschatological theories consonant with current scientific understandings that, while attentive to the hope for subjective immortality, are mindful of the cosmos as a whole.
Theologians from all walks of Christianity—including Evangelical Protestant “Open Theists” and Roman Catholic Process sympathizers like John Haught—have come to see the value of at least some elements of Process thought for Christian reflection in this science-oriented postmodern age. This is therefore an important book. It brings together some of the best of theological minds to struggle with the strengths and weaknesses of an enormously influential mode of thought. Graduate students, theologians, and scientists interested in Christian theology will find the book quite beneficial.