The Future of God

Samantha Trenoweth, Millennium Books, $29.95

Reviewed by Lloyd Geering, SOF NZ Newsletter #15, March 1996 (A review prepared for The Evening Post).

This is not a theological book in any traditional sense, but a very interesting and well written account of the "personal spiritual adventures" of thirteen quite diverse persons. The sub-title description of them as "eminent thinkers" could well be questioned, though some certainly warrant that title. But they all show a creative and pioneering spirit.

The author has personally interviewed them all, often more than once, and, in using much verbatim material to unfold their stories, she has shown considerable skill in weaving their comments together into a unified and very readable format.

The very diversity of her subjects would lead one to expect that they have little in common, for only a few are internationally well-known. They include the Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, a Jewish rabbi, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, ex-Dominican priest Matthew Fox, an agnostic physicist, a midwife, a physician, an Australian aboriginal poet and a North American Indian, now an actor and song-writer.

So why did the author choose them? She is a journalist, reared on the "borderline between agnosticism and Protestantism". For some years she has been making her own spiritual pilgrimage and these are the people from whom she has learned most. She fully acknowledges that her book is a very personal exploration and that each person she describes "represents a stopover en route" to her own spiritual goals.

At the same time she believes these people illustrate how mainstream religious thought will be shaped in the years to come. The spirituality of the future will, paradoxically, display both diversity and unity. For, in spite of the variety of cultural background and professional interests, there are some common human interests and spiritual values shared by these people.

In these post-Christian times following the "death of God" (as traditionally conceived), the word "God" continues to be (as it already was in the past) a symbol of personal spirituality.

The values which motivate a person to pursue a particular destiny are that person's god (to borrow words from Martin Luther). This is reflected in the somewhat provocative title. In the stories of these people we are presented with a microcosm of the God the future.