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Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers--From Plato to the Present Hardcover – November 1, 2006


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The God of classical theism is often referred to as "the God of the philosophers." Today, however, the contemporary theological landscape has shifted in the direction of "the other god of the philosophers": panentheism. This intricate and complex worldview literally means that "all is in God."

While panentheism is not a new theological system, it has experienced a renaissance, especially among thinkers who study the intersection of science and religion. Philosopher and theologian John Cooper's Panentheism--The Other God of the Philosophers is the first text of its kind written in English. The author traces the development and proliferation of panentheism from Plato to Alfred North Whitehead and beyond. Along the way, Cooper examines the panentheism of several contemporary thinkers such as Jürgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Philip Clayton, and John Polkinghorne. Furthermore, he discusses how panentheism has influenced liberation, feminist, and ecological theologies. The discussion also examines the so-called open view of God to consider whether this view is panentheistic.

The concluding chapter offers a judicious analysis of panentheism, as Cooper explains his commitment to a modified classical theism over panentheism. He believes that classical theism is more adequate than panentheism for "providing a biblically faithful, philosophically sound articulation of Christian theology, salvation history, and the Christian worldview." While he ultimately sides with classical theism, Cooper's aim throughout is to provide a fair, "accurate, and empathetic overview of panentheism that is helpful for all readers, including panentheists."

From the Back Cover

An Indispensable Resource for Christian Intellectuals Today

"Here, finally, is a major evangelical response to panentheism, perhaps the most significant movement in twentieth-century theology. John Cooper brings impressive scholarship, masterful summaries, and measured judgments to his topic. One need not agree with his overall evaluation to find this volume an indispensable resource for Christian intellectuals today."--Philip Clayton, Ingraham Professor of Theology, Claremont School of Theology

"This is a groundbreaking attempt to demonstrate the philosophical background of much modern Christian theology, to identify its 'natural religion.' Written with the utmost clarity and with quiet passion, it greatly helps to sharpen the differences between classical Christian theism and other views. Though dissenting from panentheism and from the theologies it fosters, John Cooper nevertheless writes with courtesy and good sense, letting the record speak for itself. The book is a model of lucidity and fairmindedness."--Paul Helm, Regent College

"Panentheism is a major movement in theology today. Students, pastors, and teachers will find this book by John Cooper to be a fine historical overview of panentheism. While no one will assent to all of its interpretations, the overall work is both broad and illuminating. The author includes theologians and philosophers who are influenced by panentheism and/or develop some of its themes. The critical chapter at the end of the book should not be overlooked."--Alan G. Padgett, professor of systematic theology, Luther Seminary, and coauthor of Christianity and Western Thought

"An increasing number of Christian philosophers and theologians are expressing a renewed interest in panentheism, and Cooper's book provides an accessible overview of several key historical developments in this 'other' philosophical approach to the God-world relation. Even those who disagree with Cooper's interpretation of particular figures, or with his generally negative assessment of panentheism, will surely appreciate the humility and civility with which he approaches a conversation that is too often characterized by harsh rhetoric rather than careful attention to the nuances of various positions."--LeRon Shults, professor of theology, Agder University, Norway

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801027241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801027246
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Gannon Murphy on January 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is easily the finest work to-date concerning panentheism, its philosophical roots (and amazing pedigree, though often missed), and its appropriation into numerous Christian theologies over the past hundred years. I have no doubt that Cooper's work will become a staple volume on the bookshelves of specialists in Theology Proper and that his efforts will be drawn upon for years to come. This is the best addition to my own theological library in a long time. Though Cooper is a theological classicalist (and Reformed), he is entirely fair and thorough with the many works and ideas of the panentheists. Panentheists themselves will find the notable architects and differing versions of the view fairly and thoroughly presented. Toward the end, Cooper offers some concluding, though relatively brief, thoughts concerning why he rejects the panentheistic construct. His diligent work and perspicacious style are to be highly commended. My only regret is that the work was not released while I was engaged in doctoral work concerning 'open theism' and its quasi panentheistic substrata!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gregory J. Casteel on August 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have long considered myself a panentheist, though I don't personally subscribe to any particular "school" of panentheistic thought (such as Neoplatonism or process theology). In my view, panentheism provides the only conception of God that actually makes sense in light of what modern science tells us about the nature of the cosmos, and what rational reflection tells us about the essential qualities that a "God" would have to possess in order to merit the title (or at least the capitalization). All other conceptions of God ring hollow to me for reasons that are far too complex to go into here. Although I am certainly open minded enough entertain other viewpoints, and am always willing to revise my beliefs in light of new evidence, my panentheistic conception of God is the end result of decades of serious reflection on the "God question" -- in which I've carefully weighed the merits of everything from traditional theism to Deism to atheism, and everything in between -- so it would take quite a lot to persuade me to abandon panentheism for some other theological position. I'm more than happy to listen to anyone who is able to present a well-reasoned, respectful argument on the subject; but I don't want to waste my time listening to the sort of simpleminded "Bible thumping" that I've come to expect from evangelical Christians, or the equally simpleminded "Bible bashing" that I've come to expect from atheists. So I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant to read a book about the history of panentheistic thought written by a Calvinist theologian who openly rejects panentheism in favor of a traditional view of the nature of God, based on a literal reading of Scripture and the work of early Christian theologians.Read more ›
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Sabian on May 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Critique rating: 5 stars ***

This book provides a comprehensive, historical survey of panentheism ("all-in-God-ism"). Panentheism is compared with pantheism. In addition, emanationism, dialectical theology, process theology, dipolar theism and trinitarianism are covered. Special attention is given to Teilhard DeChardin's Christocentric panentheism, Tillich's existentialist panentheism, Moltmann's perichoretic panentheism and Pannenberg's panentheistic force field theology. In the final chapter, Cooper explains why he believes classical theism is superior to panentheism.

I recommend this book to anyone who is wishing to gain an introduction to panentheism and how it actually differs from classical theism. I would definitely choose this one over Charles Hartshorne's "Philosophers Speak of God."
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on June 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
John W. Cooper's "Panentheism" is intended as a textbook for theology students. The general reader would be put to sleep by it! Personally, I found it quite interesting. But then, I've been a student of comparative religion.

Panentheism is the idea that the world is, in some sense, part of God. In contrast to pantheism, which sees God and the world as virtually identical, panentheism claims that God is nevertheless greater than the world. Theologically, panentheism could therefore be seen as middle position between pantheism and traditional theism. This is most obvious in the versions of panentheism which looks upon God as personal. Such theologians might claim that panentheism is the most reasonable explanation for the vexing idea that God is both transcendent (above the world) and ever present within the world, without ever becoming identical with it. Traditional theists, too, affirm this but the notion is difficult to conceptualize philosophically unless panentheism is postulated.

Or so panentheists would say. Cooper, a traditional theist Calvinist, begs to differ. However, most of his book isn't a polemic against panentheism, but rather a description of various panentheists throughout history, from Plato to Pannenberg. The author makes a distinction between personal and impersonal panentheism, which makes it possible for him to classify Plotinus, Hegel and Bergson as panentheists. Others might perhaps want to classify them as pantheists, since they lacked a personal conception of God. Another important distinction is between panentheists with a basically "static" conception of the divine, and those with a more "evolutionary" conception. Hegel, Schelling, Whitehead and the process theologians clearly belong to the latter category.
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