होम Dialog H. Paul Santmire. Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014. 272...

H. Paul Santmire. Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014. 272 pages.

यह पुस्तक आपको कितनी अच्छी लगी?
फ़ाइल की गुणवत्ता क्या है?
पुस्तक की गुणवत्ता का मूल्यांकन करने के लिए यह पुस्तक डाउनलोड करें
डाउनलोड की गई फ़ाइलों की गुणवत्ता क्या है?
December, 2017
PDF, 68 KB
Conversion to is in progress
Conversion to is failed

अपनी समीक्षा पोस्ट करने के लिए साइन इन करें या साइन अप करें
आप पुस्तक समीक्षा लिख सकते हैं और अपना अनुभव साझा कर सकते हैं. पढ़ूी हुई पुस्तकों के बारे में आपकी राय जानने में अन्य पाठकों को दिलचस्पी होगी. भले ही आपको किताब पसंद हो या न हो, अगर आप इसके बारे में ईमानदारी से और विस्तार से बताएँगे, तो लोग अपने लिए नई रुचिकर पुस्तकें खोज पाएँगे.

Embodying Confident Agency: Luther's “Three Estates” as a Resource for Virtue Theory

PDF, 127 KB
Book Reviews


Book Reviews

Kenda Creasy Dean and Christy
Lang Hearlson. How Youth Ministry Can Change Theological
Education—If We Let It. Grand
Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2016.
309 pages.
Into a sea of anxiety about
transitions in theological education in North America comes
Kenda Creasy Dean and Christy
Lang Hearlson’s How Youth
Ministry Can Change Theological
Education—If We Let It. The
book is equal parts report and
manifesto. Born from the invitation of the Lilly Endowment
to research and assess their High
School Theological Programs
(HSTP), Dean and Hearlson
do the impossible, making a
multi-authored report engaging
and deeply insightful.
HSTPs were programs that
were housed at seminaries like
Candler and Duke divinity
schools (to name just two),
in which high school students
came for a few weeks of indepth and immersive theological education. The programs
were the brain-child of Craig
Dykstra, with the hope that
they not only would impact the


2017 Wiley Periodicals and Dialog, Inc.

faith-formation of young people, but help them discern a
calling into ministry. The Lilly
Endowment has since decided to
pivot and, using the ground broken by these programs, moved
them from seminaries to college/university campuses. This
makes it an ideal time to assess the impact of the original
Since these programs were
Dykstra’s idea, it is only right
for him to have the first word,
offering a nice foreword that
explains the inspiration of the
programs and even provides the
reader with the first talk given to
high school students at the first
night of an HSTP. Dykstra calls
what will come after his foreword the story of a gift. It is the
story of a gift of theological education to high school students,
the story of a financial gift to
the seminaries that received the
grants, and the story of a gift to
the church of future pastors and
There is no better person at
telling a story than Kenda Creasy
Dean, and introducing newcomer Christy Lang Hearlson,
the story unfolds with deep
insights and nu; merous payoffs for the reader. It then

goes without saying that the
most engaging (and important)
chapters of the book are those
authored by Dean and Hearlson.
The two chapters of part 1
focus on vocational discernment as a practice of Christian
community; both of these chapters are authored by Dean and
Hearlson. The first gives the
reader a deeper understanding
of these programs, showing their
impact and reach. The authors
use two metaphors to explain
the mission of the HSTPs: theological education without frame,
and a feast. These programs
sought to do theological education free from the historical
and institutional frames that
often bound pedagogies and
theological thinking. And to
young people themselves, these
programs were a feast of ideas,
experiences, and learning that
could be found nowhere else.
For readers uninterested in
these programs, chapter 1 offers some deep claims that will
be worth pondering. Dean and
Hearlson assert that young people desiring to go deep in
their Christian faith will be confronted with two issues: one,
most young people are uninterested in religious or spiritual


Dialog: A Journal of Theology • Volume 56, Number 4 • Winter 2017 • December

concerns; and two, congregational youth ministries are not
designed for those interested in
going deep; rather they seek to
“cast a wide net” (8). The focus
on fellowship models of youth
ministry keeps the spiritually interested young people on the surface. I personally am not sure I
completely agree with this claim,
but it is interesting to consider.
A critique of both the HSTP,
and the take of the authors, is
that it is too narrowly focused
on mainline churches. It is true
that evangelical youth ministries
are even more concerned with
wide nets and fellowship, and
this, in turn, has been copied by
mainline youth ministries. But
these evangelical youth ministries
do this not as a way of watering things down, but because of
a deep theological commitment
to evangelism. The young people who move into leadership are
called to enter these fellowship
models for the sake of converting
their friends. There is a depth
of commitment that the authors
seem to overlook—and a nuance
between mainline and evangelical youth ministries may have
helped the locating of the whole
Chapter 2 moves deeper
into vocational discernment and
“the wicked problems” facing
theological education. In many
ways this chapter alone is worth
the price of the book. Here the
authors bravely face the loss of
leadership in the church, reframing and nuancing the issue.
They give us unique insights
into how culture plays into the
content of vocation, taking

Buechner’s beautiful but individualistic concept of vocation.
The authors place front and
center the wicked problem that
theological education is preparing people for a future church
we cannot see. But the lesson
of HSTP might indeed be good
fodder for imagining a future,
or at least living in this time of
Parts 2, 3, and 4 also have
their treasures. But these chapters
become more directly focused
on particular HSTP programs,
as authors other than Dean and
Hearlson make their appearance (though Hearlson comes
back on stage in chapter 6,
offering a wonderful chapter
on “taking” youth ministry trip
experiences home—every youth
pastor should read it!). Some of
the highlights of these chapters
are Anne Streaty Wimberly’s
discussion of mentoring and her
HSTP Youth Builders Academy,
Katherine Douglass’s connection of naming in theological
education, Jeffery Kaster’s discussion of the place of tradition
and reflection in theological
education with youth, and
Fred Edie’s beautiful interdisciplinary chapter on neuroscience,
theology through the Duke
Depending on the reader,
these chapters will have different
takeaways. If you are a theological educator, then the chapters
in parts 2, 3, and 4 will be valuable, providing idea after idea
to reimagine theological education. If you are a youth ministry

academic, then these chapters
too will be of interest, offering an important tour into how
these programs have set the intellectual ground for much of the
mainline youth ministry conversation. If you are a youth pastor
you may find the first two, and
the final, chapters most engaging. It is here particularly that
Dean and Hearlson offer their
take on the shortcomings and
possibilities of youth ministry.
And this is nowhere more apparent than in the final chapter.
Dean is the sole author of this
concluding chapter, and it is a
masterpiece. In the first half she
takes apart youth ministry, using
the analogy of a baseball farm
system. She explains that youth
ministry always was meant to be
about creating a space for young
people to begin practicing leadership within the church. Providing a cultural analysis, Dean
makes the point that as congregations felt credibility eroding, they used youth ministry to
keep the church afloat, turning
the focus from the leadership of
the young person to the professionalization of the youth pastor.
Dean raises a major issue with
which we must come to grips—
is youth ministry, and the youth
pastor more generally, for saving the church, or for something
more theological? These questions boomerang to our institutions of theological education. As
we enter the sea of anxiety about
change, will our focus be on survival and our eroding credibility? Or will we peer into the
horizon of new possibilities and
attend to the leaders necessary

Book Reviews

for the church not here yet? We
can only do this if we are willing to make our church youth
ministries and seminary classroom places of leadership and
innovation—which is how Dean
concludes. If the reader is ready
to sink or swim in reaching for
the horizon of something new,
they will find How Youth Ministry
Can Change Theological Education
indeed a gift.
Andrew Root
Luther Seminary

H. Paul Santmire. Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014.
272 pages.
Well-known ecological theologian Paul Santmire has contributed another worthy volume
to the conversation on the intersection of Christian theology and
concern about the environment.
Unlike his other treatments of
the subject matter that are more
systematic in approach, Before
Nature takes on a more meditative tone, inviting the reader into
a practice-based engagement with
the subject, suggesting a christocentric and trinitarian prayer life
that not only begins but supports
the spiritual journey.
The task he lays out in the
prologue is to connect with
the “Nones and the NonesSympathizers as spiritual seekers”
(xiii), which also encompasses
believers and their pastors. He
sees in a nature-based spirituality
a way to establish a “common

ground” (xiv), one that brings
together both the seekers and
theologians/pastors; he calls this
approach “bifocal” (xv). Santmire
turns to Saint Francis as a model
of this approach, especially in
Bellini’s painting that appears on
the cover of the book—it shows
Francis standing with the Bible
behind him and creation in front
of him, such that the place
where Francis stands is where the
two foci meet “in a Christian
spirituality of nature” (xvi).
The book is divided into
ten chapters with some concluding appendices. Two overarching
themes appear in each chapter:
one that is explicitly personalreflective-spiritual, and the other
that is concretely theological.
Santmire’s style of writing weaves these two themes together.
Santmire argues for a theological approach to the topic in the
prologue: “If I were not so explicitly theological, I would not
be addressing one of the major
purposes of this book: to show
that a bifocal Christian spirituality is possible, one that arises
from a single place but with
dual foci, the cathedral of the
great outdoors encompassing the
cathedral of historic Christianity”
In the first chapter Santmire
puts forward an approach to
knowing, one that invites the
reader to a place where s/he can
know and experience God “in,
with, and under every furrow
of the soil and every glorious
green shoot, both the seedlings
and the weeds” (7). This sacramental language is not accidental, since Santmire grounds his


knowing in his baptismal identity, articulated through Luther’s
theology of baptism and understanding of creation. He defines
“all things visible” as stated in
the Nicene Creed, as “everything
material and living that God
wondrously creates (sometimes
working through human intelligence and human-made machines and human hands)” (1617); and spirituality as “religious
experience that is intense and
transforming” (17).
The second chapter introduces the reader to the practice of prayer, specifically the
“Trinity Prayer” that Santmire
puts forward as his suggestion
for bringing together these foci.
The prayer is just three lines: the
first is christological, the second
is trinitarian, and the third is
pneumatological. Santmire notes
(and I believe this is correct) that
the form of the prayer is new,
even though the three lines come
from ancient prayer tradition.
To enact this spiritual practice,
Santmire encourages the reader
to just do it: “practice can make
possible” (24).
Throughout the rest of the
book, Santmire provides personal and theological commentary on the three sections of
the Trinity Prayer. Drawing on
both his former teacher Gordon
Kaufman and his own experience, Santmire states that he is
“driven by a theology of faith
as well as informed by a theology of facts” (46), such that the
wholly other God reveals Godself
through the light of the world.
Santmire’s “Lutheranness” shines
through in interpreting John’s


Dialog: A Journal of Theology • Volume 56, Number 4 • Winter 2017 • December

gospel with Luther as “being
given ‘for us’ (pro nobis),” such
that Mary Magdalene’s story becomes our story, and Christ is
revealed to us just as Christ was
revealed to her (59). With this
Johannine approach, Santmire
cautions the reader against falling
into the theodicy trap to justify
evil; rather, he recommends that
the reader confront “existential
trauma of this problem and then,
in due course, hold firmly to the
revelation of the ineffable God
in Jesus Christ—that God is indeed love,” another sentiment he
draws directly from Luther (63).
Santmire uses the traditional
masculine language for the
Trinity, noting that all analogies
are imperfect but some intentionality goes into that concrete
language. These “rough-hewn”
analogies, from personal/familial
language, provide the reader
the precedent for thinking with
other analogies, including those
drawn from nature. Through
describing his personal engagement with nature, Santmire puts
forward a nature-based analogy
for the triune God, while not
negating the traditional language.
Yet, Santmire invites the reader
to go beyond the anthropocentric/transcendent dichotomy of
understanding the triune God
and instead broaden the vision so that it “comprehends all
things created by God, not just
God in Godself ” (130). Drawing
upon Luther’s concept of paradox, Santmire affirms “that God
is the Beyond but not the Above,
and that God is the Beyond who
is at once the Immediate” (136).
Santmire also sees the interrela-

tionship of the members of the
Trinity (the perichoretic interpenetration) as modeled in the
relationship humans have with
nature—one of “ecological interdependence” (145).
At the end of the book, Santmire invites the reader to engage in the spiritual practice of
the Trinity Prayer upon which
Santmire has commented in the
preceding chapters. He provides
resources and examples for embodying, singing, and “sauntering” to guide one’s Christian
spirituality of nature.
Throughout my review, I have
described Santmire’s approach as
inviting, and I think that is
one of the main strengths of
the book. As I read the text,
I felt drawn into the narrative
that Santmire was putting forward, based on his own experiences. In this way, I agree with
his assertion that the book is
a “confessional expression of a
particular constellation of experiences. It is not a scholarly study
of spirituality” (xxiii). Santmire
avoids two potential pitfalls that
I could see in engaging this
topic. First, he does not “universalize” his own experience by
arguing what people should do;
rather, in a memoir-like narrative, he describes his Christian
spirituality of nature centered on
his use of the Trinity Prayer,
and then describes how that relates to his theology of nature.
Second, his tone throughout the
book is non-judgmental and yet
realistic; he writes of the “travail” of nature without putting
forward condemnations. As he
notes about one-third of the way

into the text, this whole book is
about his prayer life (79).
I do have a few concerns
about the text. Santmire, along
with others who have written
on the subject, cites Luther’s
Sintflutgebet (“Flood Prayer”) to
demonstrate how Luther lifts
up creation in the baptismal
rite, especially the imagery from
Genesis at the beginning of the
prayer. Unfortunately, the version of the Flood Prayer cited is
the Inter-Lutheran Commission
on Worship’s adaptation of the
prayer for Lutheran Book of Worship. Luther’s text (Luther’s Works
53:97) does not contain that imagery at the beginning, although
Luther follows the traditions of
the early church by interpreting
Christ’s own baptism as setting
apart all the waters of creation
as baptismal water. Interestingly
enough, this latter text is missing from the prayer in Lutheran
Book of Worship.
A much larger concern for
me is too quickly connecting Luther’s concern about the
creatureliness of the sacraments
with nature in general. Santmire
references Russell Kleckley’s dissertation at Munich in stating
that “Luther could say that all
creatures are sacraments” (141).
Santmire also brings in Luther’s
use of the “in, with, and under”
prepositions to parallel Christ’s
presence as the sacrament with
God’s presence in the world. Although I agree with such sentiment, I worry that it can reduce
the sacraments to being primarily about presence rather than
promise. It may be that nature
has sacramental characteristics,

Book Reviews

but the sacraments, at least in
Luther’s thinking, are also about
the forgiveness of sins, life, and
salvation, being efficacious because of the sacramental union. I
would have appreciated more in
the endnote about how Kleckley
arrived at his conclusion.
At the outset of the book, I
appreciate how Santmire lifts up
the divine initiative in spiritual
practices; it is not that we can
call God to us but rather “the
Holy Spirit works to channel
the self-disclosure of God to us
through our practices” (23). I also
appreciate the liturgical emphasis
in Santmire’s suggested spiritual
practice, grounded in the traditions of the church and based on
his own liturgical formation. In
the end, I believe Santmire accomplishes what he sets out to
do in the book by weaving together theology and practice in a
way to which seekers at all levels (“nones” to seminary professors) can relate. For the more advanced seeker, Santmire provides
useful and critical endnotes for
each chapter. Even though my
piety is not one that engages in
such overt spirituality, I found
myself drawn into the practice
Santmire suggests; thus, I recommend this book to all.
Kyle K. Schiefelbein-Guerrero
Pacific Lutheran Theological

Jonas Jonson. Nathan Söderblom:
Called to Serve, trans. Norman A.
Hjelm. Grand Rapids, Mich.:
Eerdmans, 2016. 461 pages.

Swedish church leader Nathan
Söderblom (1866-1931) was an
important figure in world Christianity during the first three
decades of the twentieth century as an ecumenical leader and
churchman (as they would have
put it then). From his position
first as professor at the University
of Uppsala, and then as archbishop and leader of the Church
of Sweden, he worked tirelessly
to promote peace and Christian
unity among Protestants, Roman
Catholics, and Orthodox Christians. The culminating point of
his efforts was the 1925 Conference on Life and Work, held
in Stockholm, and regarded as
one of the most important ecumenical gatherings of the interwar years. He was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize in 1930 for
his efforts in healing the divisions in Europe after World War
I. This is a comprehensive biography of Söderblom, written
by retired Swedish bishop Jonas
The boundless range of
Söderblom’s interests, and the
sheer energy with which he pursued them, are truly remarkable,
and certainly make it difficult
for any biography to capture.
The reader of this biography will
no doubt marvel, too, at everything Söderblom did in his
65 years. First as a pastor in
France and Sweden, then as a
professor of the history of religions at Uppsala, and finally
as archbishop, he constantly was
in contact with church leaders
in Europe and North America,
working for the common good
of all. His multitude of efforts


and activities did not, however,
mean that he neglected his duties
toward the Church of Sweden.
During his tenure as archbishop,
he made important contributions
to the reform of this church at
a time when political secularism
sought to dislodge its place in
the Swedish kingdom.
Interestingly, Söderblom seems
quite a bit similar to many of
his contemporaries, the other
leaders of liberal Protestantism
in the early twentieth century.
Raised in a strict and pietistic
household by his father, a priest
in the Church of Sweden, he
maintained a strong personal
piety that never seemed to fade,
even though his own journey of
faith took him quite a distance
from his initial upbringing. His
embrace of European liberal
Protestantism was genuine, it
seems, but he continued to
infuse it with the warm piety
of his beginnings in Swedish
pietism, and seemed to think
that this was possible for everyone. But Söderblom did
not specialize in the study and
writing of Christian theology
(his dissertation was on preIslamic Persian religion), and his
writings, though interesting and
voluminous, do not indicate that
he was wrestling with the fundamental, existential questions
raised by World War I, at least
to the extent of Barth and the
other Neo-Orthodox theologians
of his day. Söderblom embraced
a form of universalism even as
in his own piety he was deeply
Christian, and he worked strenuously for that church. At times,
the reader is more than slightly


Dialog: A Journal of Theology • Volume 56, Number 4 • Winter 2017 • December

confused as to the essential core
of the theology that he held,
beyond his own, very evident,
ecumenical commitments.
This is a person, however,
about whom one easily can
be impressed, especially by his
vision, relentless energy, and
practical skills as a church
leader and church politician
(in the very best sense of this
term). He was working at a
very difficult time, during and
after World War I, and still
managed to get many of the
European Christian churches to
work together, even though the
wounds of that terrible war were
still fresh in the minds of many.
His triumph, the successful
Conference on Life and Work at
Stockholm in 1925, was a major
international event, and helped
prepare the way for the eventual
formation of the World Council
of Churches in 1948, something
he would have been pleased to
have seen. But for all his vision,
he seemed to continue to assume
the continuation of the form
of state church Christendom
of previous centuries, with its
close cooperation of church and
state. However, this form was
destroyed in many places by
the war, and where it was not
destroyed, it was under intense
attack by secularism, such as in
Sweden. This tide of secularism
would, by the end of the twentieth century, eviscerate European
Christianity and dethrone it as
the arbiter of civilization on that
continent. One gets the sense
that Söderblom simply did not
see the extent of this challenge,
or fully prepare the church for

it. To what end, therefore, the
ecumenical project for which he
worked with such energy?
The writing of a good biography is a difficult thing,
and especially with a person as
complex as Söderblom. This is
a good biography, and it helps
that the biographer and his
subject were both bishops in
the Church of Sweden, although
separated by time. In organization the book has thematic
chapters arranged in rough
chronological order, which seems
to work fairly well, except that
it is difficult to see, at times, the
totality of things Söderblom was
working on at any given time.
But this comment does not detract from the biography at all,
and we are indebted to Bishop
Jonson, and translator Norman
Hjelm, for making this work a
Mark Granquist
Luther Seminary

Jarvis Streeter. God and the History
of the Universe, ed. David J. Lull.
Eugene, Ore: Pickwick, 2016.
500 pages.
While science is providing a
clearer understanding of the astounding nature and evolution
of the universe, the functional
theology for many Christians remains unaware or even increasingly dismissive of these insights.
Jarvis Streeter, longtime professor
of religion at California Lutheran
University, found this situation
unacceptable. This book is his

attempt to integrate a comprehensive scientific understanding of the world’s origin and
development with a thoughtful
Christian expression of God’s relationship to the universe as a
whole, because “failure to tie
Christian theology to the world
of our lived experience makes
Christianity appear irrelevant to
people who are not themselves
Christian, and less relevant than
it might be to some who
are” (xx).
The first three chapters explore how science and theology each claim to “know”
things. Streeter demonstrates that
science and theology actually
share much in their processes, assumptions, and goals. The conversation between the two should
not be the common compartmentalization in which science is
concerned only with “what” and
religion is concerned only with
“why.” That is too superficial.
What is needed is bringing the
two together into an integrated
The procedure Streeter adopts
is unusual. Rather than producing chapters that include a
superficial look at some bit of
the universe’s story as a platform
(or a pretext) for theological
reflection, or structuring the
conversation topically (both of
which are common approaches
among books addressing science
and theology), the author writes
twelve detailed chapters about
the evolving universe in chronological order, stretching from the
Big Bang through the story of
stellar nucleosynthesis, galactic
formation, and the evolution

Book Reviews

of life on Earth. Rather than
including illustrations, pages
include QR codes which, when
scanned by an app on a smartphone, will bring the reader to
various online images and charts.
This seems like an effective solution for not being able to get
copyright permission or to accommodate the cost of printing
this rich set of resources within
the book. Given the nature of
the Internet, however, one must
wonder how long many of these
links will function.
Streeter aims for a worldview
that takes science seriously
enough to know what science
actually says about the cosmos.
For this, at times Streeter provides a brilliant narrative. The
crucial story of the first few
seconds is clear and detailed.
At other times, the discussion
becomes bogged down, as with
his description of the Standard
Model of subatomic particles (of
course, this assessment may arise
purely from the inclinations of
the present reviewer). The descriptions of stellar and galactic
formation and of the evolution
of myriad life forms in each
epoch of earth’s history construct
a fascinating story, and Streeter
displays a remarkable grasp of
the state of science in a number
of fields. Still, with such detailed
descriptions, some readers will
get fatigued and wonder “where
is the theological payoff?” This is
a risk that comes with Streeter’s
insistence that science’s account
of “the history of the universe”
is important for its own sake,
and should stand alone in such

Interspersed in this cosmic
history are six insightful chapters that pick up the theological
questions. Here, Streeter wants
to ask not simply how, but why
God creates. His fundamental
answer is this: God’s essential nature is “Perfect Agapic Love.”
This means that God always is
in relationship with all things.
Streeter finds profound congruence here with a universe that
science shows to be dynamic,
evolving, and fundamentally interrelated. Perfect Agapic Love
also always grants freedom to the
other; thus God always works by
persuasion and invitation rather
than coercion. This is reflected
well in the basic openness of
quantum probabilities and of the
whole process of biological evolution. Streeter explores what implications this fundamental freedom has for how we ought
to think about “miracles,” what
we imagine petitionary prayer is
good for, and the potential for
intelligent life (or, more importantly, loving life) elsewhere in
the universe. This divine relationship with the universe also
means that “God suffers all the
suffering of every creature just as
that creature feels it . . . That
is the magnitude of God’s love”
(159). It is that love that is the
only theologically adequate explanation for the existence of the
Because Perfect Agapic Love
grants freedom to the other,
we should not imagine God to
be controlling evolution in a
strict sense. Instead, evolution is
better pictured as “influenced by
God at the level of individual


creatures in their freedom”
(441). Streeter suggests that
God may do this by “observing”
subatomic particles (and thus
collapsing their quantum uncertainty) within brain cells in
order to influence neurons and
thus thoughts (337). This might
seem like too much “tinkering”
by a controlling God. However,
it does avoid imagining either a
God who regularly violates the
very physical laws of the universe
that God established, or a Deist
God who set up those laws
and then stepped back, forever
uninvolved. Throughout the
whole cosmic narrative, Streeter
sees God working toward the
emergence of a creature that can
reflect God’s own agapic love
and thus can help fulfill God’s
intent for all the other creatures.
This is the life that Jesus lived.
The contribution of Christology, however, is one place where
Streeter’s work may fall short
for some. Here, Jesus seems to
be someone who was unusually
able to sense God’s quantum
suggestions (i.e., revelation), and
who actually lived out God’s
love. However, there is little
reflection here on what might
be contributed to this worldview
by christological claims about
such things as the incarnation
or the cross. Streeter’s helpful reflections on God’s loving choice
to suffer with all living things
would be enriched if he brought
the cross of Jesus as the central
embodiment of this divine love
into the conversation. That
would give Streeter a way to
explore the theological significance of Jesus’ crucifixion apart


Dialog: A Journal of Theology • Volume 56, Number 4 • Winter 2017 • December

from the concept of original sin,
which he rejects as scientifically
and historically nonsensical.
Likewise, the incarnation could
have provided a place within the
theological tradition for Streeter
to ground his claims about
God’s deep commitment to the
whole evolutionary world, as the
Word became evolved flesh.
The other theological consideration that needs further development has to do with eschatology. Streeter’s story ends where
current cosmology ends: perhaps
a multiverse that propagates new
universes forever, but certainly a
cold, dark death at least for our
universe in the unimaginably
distant future. Streeter rightly
takes this scientific projection
seriously, but here theology’s

contribution to the conversation
seems too minimal. Streeter’s
mostly agnostic but hopeful
discussion of life beyond death
remains exclusively focused on
the possibility of a post-physical
individual, which is rather puzzling in a book so extensively
honoring the whole physical
universe as the object of God’s
love. Is there not something
more, something about resurrection and renewed creation, that
Christian theology must contribute to the conversation at this
point? Unfortunately, Streeter
did not explore what such
traditional claims might mean
in the context of our current
knowledge about the universe.
Without minimizing the
concerns raised in the preceding

two paragraphs, this book is
abundant and dependable in
its telling of the universe’s
history, and provocative in its
reflections on what that universe
means about the God who is its
Creator. Such informed and integrating reflection is something
the church needs. Streeter knew
he was dying of cancer as he
attempted to finish this book.
His friend and colleague, David
Lull, promised to see the book
through publication. That was
a work of love, perhaps even
agapic love, for which we can be
Brian Peterson
Lutheran Theological Southern
Lenoir-Rhyne University