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There are two philosophical commitments requisite to Christian belief: that God is the ultimate mystery and that God is present and active in the world and therefore accessible to creatures. Attempting to avoid the trappings of a radical distantiation on the one hand, and the immanent collapse of God and world on the other, Frank Kirkpatrick argues for an underdeveloped theory of agency and action that preserves the mystery of God while providing a philosophically robust account of discernible, personal divine action in created time and space. Drawing on the often neglected philosophical work of thinkers like John Macmurray, Raymond Tallis, and Edward Pols, Kirkpatrick proposes a way around the stalemates that have stymied the attempt to think divine agency coherently. This is then brought into conversation with systematic theology, where it is critically tested by, and critiques, accounts in Barth, Pannenberg, Torrance, Jenson, and the recent work of Kevin Hector.
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About the Author

Frank G. Kirkpatrick is the Ellsworth Morton Tracy Lecturer and Professor of Religion at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. He is author of Together Bound: God, History and the Religious Community, The Ethics of Community, and A Moral Ontology for a Theistic Ethic.

Reviews

"Frank Kirkpatrick takes on one of the most daunting and perennial theological problems - what does it mean to speak of divine agency? With his customary cogency, lucidity, and sensible judgment, Kirkpatrick argues for the primordiality of action, showing how a master teacher writes philosophical theology." Gary Dorrien Union Theological Seminary "There is perhaps no question more fundamental than the action of God. Frank Kirkpatrick in this outstanding study brings insight, originality, and clarity to this important debate. The Mystery and Agency of God is not simply a solid contribution to a continuing debate, but it is also exactly right in its conclusions. A remarkable and monumental achievement." Ian Markham Virginia Theological Seminary "The Enlightenment, modern science, and fears of being linked to creationism and intelligent design challenge traditional thinking about how God acts. In The Mystery and Agency of God, Frank C. Kirkpatrick rigorously makes sense of real divine agency and appropriate mystery held in tension rather than conflicting with each other. We don't have to be anti-science or anti-reason to speak about how God influences directly without interfering in the world. What evolves is an agent view of God as 'standing alongside,' reflected in a commonality of field shared by human agency. We are drawn into understanding how God presides over the greatest mysteries of life, encountered in divine and human love." James Kowalski Dean, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine "In this important study, Frank C.Kirkpatrick tackles the problem of divine agency with his characteristic clarity and insight. Drawing upon some neglected twentieth-centuryresources on human action, he presents an account of divine action that aims at philosophical coherence and theological adequacy. He has provided us with a measured and attractive set of proposals which will repay close scholarly attention." David Fergusson University of Edinburgh "Frank C. Kirkpatrick has written a profound, original, and scholarly work in philosophical and metaphysical theology. He convincingly argues that his twin concepts of the primordiality of action and God as personal agent can effectively resolve the perennial theistic conflict between God's transcendence and immanence." Walter G. Jeffko Fitchburg State University "Frank C. Kirkpatrick has presented us with a clear and credible interpretation and defense of the view that God is a personal agent whose agency is expressed in acts of creating, redeeming, and sanctifying the world and in general and particular acts of providence commensurate with his or her intensions. A must read!" William L. Power The University of Georgia "Frank C. Kirkpatrick takes on the vital, but often dismissed, question of God's action in the world. Is there such a thing? And if so, how can it be conceived? He sees God as a personal Agent in our history - large and small - and grounds his case in 'the primordiality of agency.' His respect for modern science and philosophy as well as for the wisdom in the mystical tradition is transparent. This book is contemporary, clear, critical and inclusive. In his dialogue with Ekhardt, Pols, Macmurray, and others, Kirkpatrick creates space for fresh conversations on how God and the world must be taken together." John E. Costello Regis College "The Mystery and Agency of God uniquely brings into conversation the thought of John Macmurray, Raymond Tallis, and Edward Pols to support Kirkpatrick's brave, new proposal that God's agency makes sense as primordial action. By methodically critiquing the usual problems that arise when speaking of God as a personal agent, Kirkpatrick carefully argues that God supervenes on rather than intervenes in the laws of nature. Through his clear yet demanding exposition, Kirkpatrick charts a course from philosophy to theology that respects reason and science, presenting a nuanced and exciting development in the field." Esther McIntosh York St. John University

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