Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

December 2017 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 52, no. 4 (December 2017).]
© 2017 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/zygo.12376

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Preparing for an Editorial Transition

by Willem B. Drees

In 2008, the Joint Publication Board of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science appointed me as the new editor (or even “editor-in-chief”) of the journal, following in the steps of Ralph Burhoe, Karl Peters, and Philip Hefner; the last one had served in this capacity for twenty years. After a mere ten years, I intend to step down. I have asked the Joint Publication Board to start the search for a new editor. I will still take responsibility for most of the issues in 2018. Change is good for the journal, as a new editor may bring in new authors and reviewers, have an eye for other developments and topics, and even judge certain submissions differently. It is also good for me, as I hope to get to some projects that had to wait because of the work as editor.

I have enjoyed being an editor. Seeing the topics people are working on—even though we have turned down more than half of the submissions—inviting good reviewers and thereby helping some to develop into stronger papers, putting together an issue, discussing plans for thematic sections and book symposia, and so on. It has also been an interesting time to manage the journal from a distance (Netherlands-Chicago), which is easily possible thanks to modern technology, to work with Deb Van Der Molen and David Glover, our staff in Chicago, and with the leadership of LSTC, the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, which graciously provides us hospitality. Speaking with others such as Eric Piper and Julia Bond from Wiley on developments in academic publishing—the rise of open access, the transition toward print and online, and perhaps in the future even toward only online. And, by sustaining and developing a scholarly journal of international reputation, I hope that we are strengthening the quality and reputation of the field. I have brought in more authors from areas that were (and still are) underrepresented, and added colleagues with other backgrounds to the Editorial Advisory Board.

The search for a new editor will be under way when this issue appears online and in print, but not yet closed. You are most welcome to suggest candidates to the Joint Publication Board or to present yourself. Information on the journal and the responsibilities will be available via our own website http://www.zygonjournal.org, Wiley Online Library, and https://zygoneditorsearch.com/

Where Are We?

Where are we? This is a practical question when one seeks to relate oneself to a particular map. It can be a historical question when we reflect upon societal developments: What is behind us? What will the future bring? Where are we now? And it is also a question in philosophy, say in metaphysics and philosophy of religion: Where are we, in the grand scheme of things and events? The question is not just where we are. It is also the question: Who are we? How might we understand ourselves?

The question assumes a larger context, in which we have a place. We are on Earth, in the Universe. Where is the Universe? Does the Universe have a particular place, a particular location within a larger setting? Or should we rather approach the question conceptually: we are humans, but what kind of beings are we in the larger whole—somewhere between animals and angels? How might we think of the larger whole, in whom we live, move, and have our being? This phrase, inspired by a passage in the Acts of the Apostles (17: 28), served as the title of a significant book with Panentheistic Reflections on God’s Presence in a Scientific World (Clayton and Peacocke 2004). It is a recurrent theme in philosophy of religion, in various forms. In the March Zygon of this year, Mladen Turk (2017) reviewed another volume, Alternative Concepts of God: Essays on the Metaphysics of the Divine (Buckareff and Nagasawa 2016).

In this issue of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, we have a new round of reflections on panentheism. Harald Atmanspacher and Hartmut von Sass from the Collegium Helveticum convened a meeting titled “The Many Faces of Panentheism: Reinforcing the Dialogue between Science and Religion”, held in Zürich on June 3-4, 2016. Their contribution introduces the topic and offers their perspective. Philip Clayton considers conservative and radical variants of panentheism in relation to theology - when is God still God? In my contribution included here, I consider whether panentheism does have an advantage over other positions, such as a more austere theism or a more radical pantheism, when it comes to the relationship of religion with the natural sciences. Jan-Olav Henriksen argues that a Christian has reasons for considering panentheism a viable framework within which one might articulate Christian theology, as panentheism aligns well with basic human experiences with God and the world, experiences with “power” and with “love.” Roderick Main places the conversation in the context of the history of ideas, as an alternative for the disenchantment that was the consequence of new forms of rationality. Thus, he turns to Carl Gustav Jung rather than to the sociologist Max Weber who spoke of Entzauberung, disenchantment. Michael Silberstein opens his contribution with the generation problem (how does mind arise from matter?), and possible responses such as strong emergence and panpsychism. He finds those unsatisfactory. He argues for a deflationary resolution, neutral monism, and finds in Advaita Vedanta resonances with his view. This thematic section offers a variety of voices in an ongoing conversation on panentheism and other ways of conceiving “where we are.”

An article by Walter J. Schultz and Lisanne D’Andrea-Winslow, on the nature of causation, raises similar metaphysical questions. Is there continuity in our world, as the next state of affairs arises out of the present? Is causation an inner-worldly process? Or is reality every moment created new, or at least, is causation a divine prerogative, as conferring existence, as occasionalists might have it? Though this may seem odd, Schultz and D’Andrea-Winslow offer a careful analysis of such a perspective. Jordan Wessling and Joshua Rasmussen’s reflections on randomness relate to this as well, especially as they draw on randomness in order to articulate a theodicy for “evolutionary evils”—a “randomness” that might not be available to the occasionalist, it seems to me. The question as to what our place is as humans could also be considered the topic of the contribution on humans naming the other animals, a reflection on the Biblical narratives in the early chapters of Genesis, offered by Arthur Walker-Jones. As he argues, understanding animals as “family” and relating to animals as an important human trait does fit a theological understanding of human becoming.

Where are we? This is not only a topic for philosophical and theological discourse, but also one about our position in society. This issue opens with a contribution by Matthew Kaufman on an American philosopher, Horace M. Kallen (1882-1974), who in his essay “Democracy versus the Melting-Pot” (1915) used evolutionary theory to articulate “cultural pluralism,” and within that context his view of American Judaism and democracy. A team of colleagues with Heslley Silva as first author consider a different context: education in three countries in Latin America. How do biology teachers think of the origins of life, and what does that imply in the educational context of Latin America? Ideas about “who we are” and “where we are” do have consequences in the real world. And for those eager to read more, see our book reviews—there is always more to explore.

Willem B. Drees


Buckareff, Andrei A., and Yujin Nagasawa, eds. 2016. Alternative Concepts of God: Essays on the Metaphysics of the Divine. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Clayton, Philip, and Arthur Peacocke, eds. 2004. In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections in a Scientific World. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.

Turk, Mladen. 2017. “Review of Alternative Concepts of God: Essays on the Metaphysics of the Divine.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 52:279-81.

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