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THE POWER OF RELIGIOUS NATURALISM IN KARL PETERS'S DANCING WITH THE SACRED

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Abstract:

Abstract.

This essay is an appreciative engagement with Karl Peters's Dancing with the Sacred (2002). Peters achieves a naturalistic theology of great power. Two themes are covered here. The first is how Peters gives ontological footing for a naturalistic conception of God conceived as the process of creativity in nature. Peters achieves this by conceiving creativity in terms of Darwinian random variation and natural selection combined with the notion of nonequilibrium thermodynamics. He gives ontological reference for a conception of God similar to Henry Nelson Wieman's idea of creative transformation. The second theme is how Peters succeeds in translating this nonpersonal conception of God into a powerful view of naturalistic religion that can shape a religious form of life. The key is that Peters's God can be understood as present in experience. Peters provides naturalistic interpretations of grace and the cruciform structure of creativity; the latter addresses the problem of evil in a nuanced fashion. I conclude with three critical comments about Peters's environmental ethics, his use of the notion of mystery, and his failure to have a robust conception of human fault or sin.

Keywords: Darwinian structure; God; Gordon Kaufman; Henry Nelson Wieman; creative transformation; creativity; cruciform structure; evolutionary theory; existentialist interpretation; experience; grace; humanism; materialism; mystery; naturalism; naturalistic theology; nonequilibrium thermodynamics; ontology; personal God; physicalism; pragmatism; purpose; random variation; serendipitous creativity; sin; valuational theism; “God”

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2005.00694.x

Affiliations: Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Department of Philosophy and Religion, American University, Washington, D.C. 20016;, Email: chardwi@attglobal.net.

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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