Fifteen years ago I had the privilege of serving for a month as a visiting professor at the Institute for Religion and Human Development, located at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas, in the United States. While there I was asked to deliver a series of public lectures, intended for educated lay people and also doctors, nurses, and staff connected with the center. The topic that I was asked to take as my overall subject was “What it means to be a human person.” The lectures were delivered (in March 1974) and were received very kindly by the quite large audiences that came to the center each week to listen to me.
I had no intention of publishing the lectures, but I retained my notes, for what they were worth, with the thought that some of the material might be used on another occasion. As a matter of fact, not one but two occasions arose, within the last two years, when I was able to develop those notes into lectures that (in a slightly altered form) constitute the present small book. The first of the occasions was in 1987, when I was invited by the Reverend Arthur F. McNulty, Jr., rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to speak daily for a week at that church. The subject of those talks was the meaning of human existence, in its various relationships, as understood in that sort of theological inquiry with which for many years I have been associated — namely, Process Theology.
The second of these occasions was in June 1988. I was invited by the Reverend James W. Evans and his wife, Margaret Evans, to be the speaker at one of a series of summer meetings they arrange in Wisconsin, where they have been living since retiring from work in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. These summer sessions, each lasting a week, include music and art, with lectures on some appropriate religious subject. Once again, the topic for my share in the June 1988 session was the meaning of human existence — and again, from the perspective of Process Theology.
Thus, what is here presented is the set of lectures given in Pittsburgh and in Wisconsin. with two chapters added at the beginning. One chapter is an introduction to Christian faith as this is seen by Process Christian thinkers. The other added chapter has to do with the question of evil, in its various forms. The fact of evil in the world and in human experience raises serious questions for any Christian discussion, as much about human existence as about the reality and activity of God who in Christian faith is affirmed to be nothing other than “pure unbounded love.”
The title given this book, Becoming and Belonging, indicates the general approach that I have taken: to exist as human is to exist as an instance of “becoming” or developing (for better or worse) and is also to belong with others of our kind in a great enterprise in which each one of us belongs and to which each one of us makes her or his contribution, for good or for ill.
I am grateful to the two places that invited me to give these lectures; I am grateful to the audiences in both places, who listened in a kindly and interested fashion to what I had to say; and above all I am grateful to the McNultys and the Evanses for their hospitality and for their warm friendship, lasting over many years
University of Cambridge