Modern Believing

Panentheism and New Materialism

Modern Believing (2022), 63, (2), 127–133.


‘New materialism’ develops the notion that all life, not just human life, is dynamic and vital: matter is always more than itself. The implications of this are not only political and philosophical, but also theological, in terms of how God is understood. This article, drawing on the work of Catherine Keller, suggests that contemporary theology should incorporate - as panentheism does - a sense of both proximity and magnitude, the relational and the ineffable, God’s entanglement with the processes of creation and yet God’s distinction from them. It argues that new materialism, strong on the relational aspect, needs to be complemented by the emphasis on distinction which the balance of panentheism maintains.

Access Token
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Barad, Karen (2007) Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Google Scholar

Bennett, Jane (2010) Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecolog y of Things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Google Scholar

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (1971) Letters and Papers from Prison, enlarged edn, ed. Eberhard Bethge. London: SCM Press. Google Scholar

Braidotti, Rosi (2013) The Posthuman. Cambridge: Polity Press. Google Scholar

Brierley, Michael W. (2006) ‘The Potential of Panentheism for Dialogue between Science and Religion’, in Philip D. Clayton and Zachary R. Simpson, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 635-51. Google Scholar

Bryant, Levi R. (2014) Onto-Cartography: An Ontolog y of Machines and Media. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Google Scholar

Coole, Diana H. and Samantha L. Frost, eds. (2010) New Materialisms: Ontolog y, Agency, and Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Google Scholar

Crockett, Clayton S. and John Reader (2016) ‘Ecology and Social Movements: New Materialism and Relational Christian Realism’, in Rieger and Waggoner 2016: 83-103. Google Scholar

DeLanda, Manuel (2010) Deleuze: History and Science. New York: Atropos Press. Google Scholar

Deleuze, Gilles (2006) The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, tr. Tom C. Conley. London: Continuum. Google Scholar

Grosz, Elizabeth A. (2017) The Incorporeal: Ontolog y, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism. New York: Columbia University Press. Google Scholar

Keller, Catherine E. (2015) Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theolog y and Planetary Entanglement. New York: Columbia University Press. Google Scholar

Miller, Adam S. (2013) Speculative Grace: Bruno Latour and Object-Oriented Theolog y. New York: Fordham University Press. Google Scholar

Moore, Jason W. (2015) Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecolog y and the Accumulation of Capital. London: Verso. Google Scholar

Reader, John (2017) Theolog y and New Materialism: Spaces of Faithful Dissent. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. Google Scholar

Rieger, Joerg M. and Edward F. Waggoner, eds. (2016) Religious Experience and New Materialism: Movement Matters. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Author details

Reader, John