Marc A. PUGLIESE and Gloria L. SCHAAB, eds. Seeking Common Ground: Evaluation and Critique of Joseph Bracken’s Comprehensive Worldview. Marquette Studies in Theology 79 (Andrew Tallon, series ed.). Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2012. pp. 288. $27.00 hb. ISBN 978-0-87462-799-2. Reviewed by Calvin MERCER, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858
The work of Joseph A. Bracken, SJ, one of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians in North America over the past four decades, is appreciated, critiqued, and advanced in this Festschrift. He has written 12 monographs and over 150 articles and edited or co-edited two volumes.
The contributions are organized in three sections. Part one is entitled “Whiteheadian Process Thought and Classical Theism: Retrieval and Revision.” Bracken’s chief revision of Whitehead is that Whitehead’s notion of the actual entity as the basic structure of reality is not sufficient in light of the new physics and evolutionary biology. Societies are as basic as actual entities, and Bracken’s theological illustration of this is the trinity.
John Cobb leads off this first section with an appreciation and discussion of how Bracken helped him realize that he went too far in his Whiteheadian-influenced atomism. While influenced by Bracken, Cobb does not go as far as Bracken, and Cobb attributes their remaining differences, in part, to their respective Protestant and Catholic contexts. Other articles in this first section are by Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, Robert Cummings Neville, Philip Clayton, Elaine Padilla, and Marc A. Pugliese.
The second section of articles is entitled “Trinitarian Panentheism: Dialogue and Development” and examines this idea from Bracken’s work. Denis Edwards does a good job contrasting the contemporary milieu with the Hellenistic world from which Trinitarianism emerged. He interprets Bracken as showing how the classical tradition can be developed in the areas of evolutionary emergence, divine power, and divine suffering. Contributors to this section also include Anna Case-Winters, Brandon Gallaher, and Gloria L. Schaab.
The third section, entitled “Creative Union: Divine Action and Human Response,” contributes to the science and religion dialogue. For example, Ilia Delio argues that moving from the medieval to the modern mindset disrupted the harmony between theos, cosmos, and anthropos. She uses Bracken, among others, to show how a new understanding of the relationship between God and creation can restore the harmony, the connectedness. This third section also includes articles by Kathleen Duffy, Roland Faber, and Leo D. Lefebure.
Catherine Keller provides an “Afterword” and correctly characterizes the discussion in this volume as displaying “vigor and intensity.” Bracken completes the book with thoughtful responses to the various contributions.