Thomas E. HOSINSKI, The Image of the Unseen God: Catholicity, Science, and Our Evolving Understanding of God, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2017.pp. 206.  $27.00 pb. ISBN: 9781626982598. Reviewed by Walter N. SISTO, D’Youville College, Buffalo, NY 14201.


Rev. Thomas Hosinski’s text provides a fascinating dialogue with modern scientific discovery as well as a revision of Whitehead’s theology that is palpable to Christians committed to the Catholic tradition. The result is a challenging and at times controversial engagement between the Catholic tradition and Whitehead.

Hosinski begins his text with an analysis of the main sources of Catholic theology: the Bible and the tradition. With an emphasis on how God works in the world in a hidden manner, God is not coercive and God is omnipresent; Hosinski offers a succinct summa on the nature of God. Modern scientific discovery is to Hosinski what Aristotle was the Aquinas. To this end, the first three chapters serve as a basis for his next chapters (e.g., chapters four to six) on what theology can learn from science. The remaining four chapters proffer a revised version of Whitehead’s theology that integrates scientific discovery with the Catholic tradition. The result is a dynamic view of God that is not only convincing but able to speak to the objections and challenges of contemporary scientific discovery.  Thus, Hosinski is careful not to offer an apologetic against new atheists or a theology of science, but rather demonstrates how scientific discovery is not only amenable to Catholic theology, but provides a better understanding of who God is that is more in line with the Scriptural presentation of God. Hosinski throughout the text is critical of traditional metaphysics and the divine attributes that are unable to speak to the loving and dynamic God of the bible and the Christian experience.

A notable example of Hosinski’s theological genius is his thought on energy in chapters four and six. In chapter four, after a succinct and accessible overview of current scientific discovery related to cosmology and quantum theory that is sensitive to non-specialists, Hosinski argues that the existence is “immersed in a sea of energy.” (74) Energy is a fundamental concept in physics. Yet, that energy exists is simply assumed, and none “of the current cosmological theories can explain the energy that is our universe.” (74) The existence of energy makes everything else intelligible, but explaining in a comprehensive manner what it is or how it came into existence is beyond the scope of scientific investigation. How energy functions in science is analogous to how God functions in theology. We cannot speak meaningfully about theology unless we grant that God exists. The classic teleological and cosmological arguments do not strictly prove that God exists but rather that the world in which we exist is only intelligible when we grant that God exists.  This reveals two very important points. First, physics and theology are related and both of which must assume when it encounters the limit of human intellect. Second, energy and God are interrelated. Energy that permeates all things, which makes all things intelligible but is itself not intelligible, in Hosinski estimation, is the infinite being of God in which all finite beings participate. This energy constitutes the universe and allows for the intelligibility of creation is God. Hosiniski argues for a form of panentheism whereby God endows the creation with God’s life or nature (i.e., what physics observe as energy), yet God transcends God’s creation.

In Chapter six, Hosinski, relying upon the theological genius of Whitehead, works out the implications of correlating energy and divine life. Related to God’s relationship to the world, Hosinski follows many contemporary theologians who interpret creation ex nihilo as “creation from nothing other than God’s own life.” (121) God not only enables us to share in God’s own life but also enables a creature to act as God does: to select from among a group of relevant possibilities based on how that agent valuates those possibilities. By selecting one possibility that agent has also established conditions for the future world. (122) In this sense, human beings are co-creators with God; human creativity in a limited manner emulate God’s creativity. This is in part what it means to be made in the image of God.

Hosinski is a consistent thinker who unabashedly challenges the “half-truths” of traditional Catholic theology such as the belief that creation had a temporal beginning (108) and that “the classical understanding of the divine attributes of omniscience must be regarded as an error.” (161) Nevertheless, Hosinski is not an innovator. He does not seek to change the Catholic tradition on these ideas but rather place them in dialogue with contemporary scientific investigation.

Hosinski addresses in a systematic manner a multitude of topics in his 197-page treatise.  The scope of the text is so large that there are points in the text that need further explanation. In fairness, Hosinski is admits that that this text is not an exhaustive theological treatise, and frequently admits that he cannot address a topic in more detail in this text. However, there are points in the text that could use elaboration. For instance, Hosinski argues for universal salvation; however, he ignores the argument from human freedom, namely that the gift of freedom means to have the ability to reject God. How can Holinski’s doctrine of God that stresses freedom as a key category of existence not allow the ability of a created agent to say “no” to God eternally? The answer to this question is not clear.

Overall, Holinski text is a succinct and persuasive engagement between the Catholic theological tradition and modern science. This text should be required reading for anyone venturing into the relationship between Catholic theology and modern physics and biology.  Moreover, I highly recommended this book for anyone interested in Whitehead, as Hosinski provides an accessible albeit revised theology of Whitehead.