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What Makes Life Meaningful?

John Cobb's Theological Reminiscences

Click here to order the book

"In these remarkably intimate and forthcoming “reminiscences,” theologian and philosopher John B. Cobb, Jr., reflects on major theological developments of the last sixty years, from the Latin American, feminist, and black liberation theologies, to Vatican II, the “death of God,” and the shift from existentialist to process philosophies. A major conviction of Cobb’s work—amply displayed in these reflections—is that theology must engage contemporary issues. To that end, he followed a transdisciplinary approach throughout his career, integrating insights from many different areas of study and bringing different specialized disciplines into fruitful communication. As a result, Cobb has been influential in a wide range of disciplines, including theology, ecology, economics, biology and social ethics. His descriptions of these encounters are rich in personal detail and refreshingly honest."

-- from the Cover
One More Thing Before I Go
by John B. Cobb, Jr.

I have two of the most beautiful, intelligent, and lovable great-grandchildren in the world. At 89 years of age, I know I won’t have the chance to see them much longer.

What saddens me is that I’m not leaving them a world nearly as hospitable as the one I was born into, or with such promising prospects.

So I’ve decided there’s one thing I want to do before I go: help lay the foundations, not just for an environmentally sustainable fix here or there, but for an ecological civilization.

Toward this end, I’m organizing with others the largest transdisciplinary conference ever held on behalf of the planet. We’re bringing together more than 700 presenters to discuss some 80 different topics, all focused on the foundations needed for a civilization radically different than what we’re living in – an ecological one....more

-- Pando Populus

About the book

It’s a page-turner.  You don’t want to put it down because every page invokes matters of the heart and mind, justice and love.   We walk with John Cobb as he grows through, and beyond, a narrow understanding of Christian theology into a wider concern for life on earth on a small but fragile planet.   We see how the very idea of life and its flourishing came to take center-stage and how he devotes his intellectual energies in service to life’s well-being, without ever leaving people behind.  We see that, for him, local community life is at the heart of healthy living.   We are awed by the range of his thinking: physics and metaphysics, race and class,  poverty and injustice, peace and poverty, politics and imperialism, China and the world.  We come to understand what Whitehead means to him and, even more deeply, what God and Jesus mean to him.   We see that he is, and thinks of himself, as a biblical theist.  Perish the thought, if you ever had it, that process theology and biblical theism are at odds.  They come together in his thinking.  

But the reminiscences are not all about ideas.  We learn of his disappointments and his failures, his hopes and dreams.   We meet his family and get to know the local community where he spends his days: Pilgrim Place.   We come to know him as a person, a human being, who felt called and still feels called to be a Christian theologian.   We come to think that there might be hope even for Christianity, as it breaks free from the shackles of internal idolatries and takes its place in the larger family of life.   As for us, we may be Christian ourselves, or we may not.  It’s really not an issue.   As we share in the memories we discover oceans of possibility.  Yes, it’s a page-turner, good for the classroom, the church, the seminary, and the book circle.  If I were to introduce the work of John Cobb to others, I’d say: start here.

-- Jay McDaniel

What makes life meaningful?
A Reflection by John Cobb

Response to a question in Process and Faith
Publication Month: October 3014

Question: Can life be meaningful without contributing to something eternal, i.e., without either subject or objective immortality? 

Response from John Cobb:

About the Speaker

Lecture Title:
“A Whiteheadian Response to the Global Crisis”

John B. Cobb, Jr. is an American philosopher, theologian, and environmentalist and is often cited as one of the most important North American theologians of the twentieth century. He is the preeminent scholar in the school of thought associated with the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. The author of more than fifty books, Cobb is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences — one of the nation’s highest honors.

A unifying theme of Cobb’s work is his emphasis on ecological interdependence—the idea that every part of the ecosystem is reliant on all the other parts. Cobb has argued that humanity’s most urgent task is to preserve the world on which it lives and depends, an idea which his primary influence Alfred North Whitehead describes as “”world-loyalty.”

Cobb is well known for his transdisciplinary approach to knowledge, integrating insights from many different areas of study and bringing different specialized disciplines into fruitful communication. As a result, Cobb has been influential in a wide range of disciplines, including theology, ecology, economics, biology and social ethics.

In 1971, he wrote the first single-author book in environmental ethics, Is It Too Late? A Theology of Ecology, which argued for the relevance of religious thought in approaching the ecological crisis. In 1989, he co-authored with Herman Daly the book, For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, Environment, and a Sustainable Future, which critiqued current global economic practice and advocated for a sustainable, ecology-based economics. He has written extensively on religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue, particularly between Buddhism and Christianity, as well as the need to reconcile religion and science.

Cobb has co-founded numerous initiatives over his long career, including the Center for Process Studies, the Institute for the Postmodern Development of China, Progressive Christians Uniting, and Pando Populus.

Center for Process Studies
Process and Faith
Post Modern China
Progressive Christians Uniting
Pando Populus


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