Shuck and Jive

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Gratitude for Gordon Kaufman

I happened to be thumbing through my Christian Century magazine today and saw that Gordon Kaufman died in July at the age of 86. Dr. Kaufman was a professor of theology at Harvard Divinity School.

His theology was of the naturalistic variety. "God" for Kaufman was not a supernatural being but the mystery of creativity. This is from his obituary:

He argued for a vision of God as the "profound mystery of creativity," the "ongoing creativity in the universe." By rethinking theology in naturalistic terms, he made significant contribution to discussions of religion and science, ecological issues, and evolution. His rethinking of the meaning of Jesus for today and his reimagination of central symbols of Christian tradition were significant for his engagement with religious pluralism and promotion of interfaith understanding.

"At the core of Gordon's theological imagination of God as mystery and creativity was his deep commitment to nonviolence, justice, and human flourishing," said Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at HDS. "He was a deeply ethical, profoundly compassionate person, so that the lively intellectual conversations I and others so enjoyed with him were always grounded by his fundamental sense of joy and duty in connection to all living things. He was a great gift to his colleagues and students, and to the field of theology."
I have appreciated Kaufman's thinking and turn to two of his books frequently, In the Beginning...Creativity and Jesus and Creativity.

I commented on these books here, Via Creativa! and God and Creativity.

What does it mean to think of God not as a person, but as creativity itself? In his own words from his book
Jesus and Creativity:
Instead of continuing to imagine God as The Creator, a kind of personlike reality who has brought everything into being, I have for some years been developing and elaborating a conception of God as simply the creativity that has brought forth the world and all its contents, from the Big Bang all the way down to the present. Imagining God as creativity enables Christian thinkers to be much more attuned to what the modern sciences have been teaching us about our lives and the world in which we live. It makes it possible to bridge the divide often felt between religious faith and our scientific knowledges. (xi)
I was sad to read of his death and am eternally grateful for his theological insights that help some of us bridge that huge chasm between two worlds that we love, faith and reason.


  1. You beat me to it. I won't be able to post my remembrance til Saturday. We used Kaufman's Systematic Theology in my first year of seminary in '69. Thanks, Denny