In Face Of Mystery / Edition 1

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Overview

In the symbolic world of Christianity, which millions have inhabited for centuries, is there room for modern and postmodern life--for today's real world of cultural relativism and religious pluralism, of scientific knowledge and historical understanding? In Face of Mystery draws these two worlds together in a full-scale reconception of Christian theology.

Theology, Gordon Kaufman suggests, is an imaginative construction, the creation of a symbolic world for ordering life. As it has been constructed, so it can be reconstructed, and Kaufman does so in a way that clarifies both the historic roots and the present-day applications of Christian symbolism. He works with a "biohistorical" interpretation of human life, one that portrays humanity as a product of biological evolution and historical development. While taking account of cultural and religious pluralism, and while providing criteria for making comparative assessments and judgements, this interpretation of human historical exitence also situates human begins--with their capacities for freedom and creativity--within the ecological wed that sustains all life. Human beings, Kaufman argues, have created religious symbolism as a necessary part of their attempt to orient themselves in the world. He shows how Christianity, as a system of symbols, has figured in this effort, and he carefully examines the separate elements of the Christian perspective-- foremost among them, God. How does the concept of God, as an ultimate point of reference, enhance our understanding of today's world; and how does the symbol "Christ" qualify this concept? The answer Kaufman proposes clarify the changing relevance of the symbolic world of Christianity.

Firmly embeddd in physical and social science and in the tradition of American pragmatism, this thorough reconception of a Christian worldview offers insight into the most basic questions confronting humanity today--questions of value, meaning, and self-identity.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement

In Face of Mystery confronts the impact of the loss of durability in traditional systematic thinking with refreshing candor...The invitation to view theology as a constructive conversation-maker between many voices and perspectives creates a flexibility which rescues the theological task from the defensive postures it has adopted ever since the rise of the critical method.
— Alan Race

Pro Ecclesia
Kaufman draws together a lifetime of theological writing and thinking, developing and in places changing his earlier thought into a comprehensive unified exploration of his project of "theological construction." Hence it is his most mature statement of methodology and theological vision.
Theological Studies

A truly systematic liberal theology...It is a grand book.
— Robert Cummings Neville

Christian Century

Kaufman has written his best book, tying together a lifetime of theological reflection...An admirable model of how to be a theologian.
— William C. Placher

Religious Studies Review

With the publication of In Face of Mystery, Gordon Kaufman has set forth the culminating work of his career and has moved theology once more in the direction of substantive proposals and bold visions. Both for his own vision and the impetus it will give to other such efforts, we should all be grateful.
— Sheila Greeve Davaney

Religion and Theology

This book is testament to everything Kaufman has learned and taught about the business of doing theology in the modern world...He writes attractively and with great integrity, and he will carry many readers along with him by dint of his sheer verve and enthusiasm.
— Gareth Jones

Times Literary Supplement - Alan Race
In Face of Mystery confronts the impact of the loss of durability in traditional systematic thinking with refreshing candor...The invitation to view theology as a constructive conversation-maker between many voices and perspectives creates a flexibility which rescues the theological task from the defensive postures it has adopted ever since the rise of the critical method.
Theological Studies - Robert Cummings Neville
A truly systematic liberal theology...It is a grand book.
Christian Century - William C. Placher
Kaufman has written his best book, tying together a lifetime of theological reflection...An admirable model of how to be a theologian.
Religious Studies Review - Sheila Greeve Davaney
With the publication of In Face of Mystery, Gordon Kaufman has set forth the culminating work of his career and has moved theology once more in the direction of substantive proposals and bold visions. Both for his own vision and the impetus it will give to other such efforts, we should all be grateful.
Religion and Theology - Gareth Jones
This book is testament to everything Kaufman has learned and taught about the business of doing theology in the modern world...He writes attractively and with great integrity, and he will carry many readers along with him by dint of his sheer verve and enthusiasm.
Theological Studies
A truly systematic liberal theology...It is a grand book.
— Robert Cummings Neville
Christian Century
Kaufman has written his best book, tying together a lifetime of theological reflection...An admirable model of how to be a theologian.
— William C. Placher
Times Literary Supplement
In Face of Mystery confronts the impact of the loss of durability in traditional systematic thinking with refreshing candor...The invitation to view theology as a constructive conversation-maker between many voices and perspectives creates a flexibility which rescues the theological task from the defensive postures it has adopted ever since the rise of the critical method.
— Alan Race
Religious Studies Review
With the publication of In Face of Mystery, Gordon Kaufman has set forth the culminating work of his career and has moved theology once more in the direction of substantive proposals and bold visions. Both for his own vision and the impetus it will give to other such efforts, we should all be grateful.
— Sheila Greeve Davaney
Religion and Theology
This book is testament to everything Kaufman has learned and taught about the business of doing theology in the modern world...He writes attractively and with great integrity, and he will carry many readers along with him by dint of his sheer verve and enthusiasm.
— Gareth Jones
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674445765
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/7/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 532
  • Product dimensions: 1.07 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 9.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Gordon D. Kaufman was the Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr., Professor of Divinity, Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

Preface

Part I: Introduction: Theology as Construction

1. The Question of God

2. Theology: One-Dimensional, Two-Dimensional, or Holistic?

3. Theology as a Human Imaginative Task

4. Theological Construction and Faith

5. Mystery, Theology, and Conversation

6. The Christian World-Picture (I): The Monotheistic Categorial Scheme

7. The Christian World-Picture (II): The Category of Christ

Part II: Constructing a Concept of the Human

8. Historicity and Biology

9. Humanity in the World

10. Toward a Normative Concept of the Human

11. Agency and Self-Reflexiveness as Sociohistorically Constituted

12. Subjectivity, Experience, and Freedom

13. The Interpenetration of Action with Reflection

14. An Ecological Ethic

15. The Corruption of Historicity: Freedom and Evil

16. Historicity and Religion

Part III: Constructing a Concept of the Context of Human Existence: The World

17. Small Steps of Faith

18. Cosmic Visions and Human Meaning

19. Serendipitous Creativity

20. Directional Movements in a Serendipitous Universe

Part IV: Constructing a Concept of an Ultimate Point of Reference: God

21. Functions of the Symbol "God"

22. Reconstructing the Concept of God

23. Faith in God (I)

24. Sin and Evil

25. A Wider Christology

26. Christ as Paradigm for God and for Humanity

27. A Trinitarian God

Part V: Faith and Life in Today's World

28. Theocentric Faith and the Churches

29. Faith in God (II): Christian Theocentrism

Notes

Name Index

Subject Index

Index of Scriptural References

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3 Interrelation of action and reflection

Figure 4 Christian theological construction: "small steps" of faith leading to a modern understanding of God

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