on December 25, 2007
Originally published in 1993, The Face of Mystery remains an exemplary work of constructive theology, in the liberal tradition. Christian liberalism attempts to establish a link between our common, secular understanding of humankind and the world with the central symbols of Christianity in a way that reveals their continuing power to orientate and motivate our lives. This is no easy task because modernity rejects the supernatural, otherworldly, and special forms of revelation (including a literalistic understanding of the Bible) in which traditional Christianity is articulated.
God, in Kaufman's comprehensive construction, is understood to be not a divine Being but the symbol of a unidirectional trajectory of emergence and evolution towards greater self-consciousness, intentionality, and responsibility. This trajectory is revealed retrospectively in human history. The symbol "God" is preferable to similar notions, such as "progress," because it adds metaphysical force to this trajectory (the movement is not arbitrary or reversible but part of the nature of the cosmos) and because the symbol reminds us that our knowledge is always limited and fallible. Belief in God means belief in this human directionality; we find meaning and purpose in life to the extent that we align our actions with this trajectory toward increasing humanization.
In addition to the central symbol of God, Kaufman also reinterprets the meaning of Christ and the Trinity in a way that maintains continuity between the Christian tradition and contemporary presuppositions about the nature of humankind and the cosmos. The richness, subtlety and systematic nature of this work belie a brief summation. Simply put, buy this book if you want to read a masterful, academic attempt to understand and reinterpret Christianity from a modern perspective. You may not always agree with Kaufman's arguments but you will always learn from the types of questions he asks. I give the book 4 rather than 5 stars because it could have been shortened considerably with careful editing.
on March 8, 2007
Gordon Kaufman is a systematic theologian. This should be fair warning for the lay reader. The goal of this book is to lay out in a systematic fashion the theology of Christianity for the new age. The entire first 2/3 of the book is laying the ground work for his proposal for a new model for God and for an understanding of Jesus. Kaufman often seems circuitous in his writing, yet his elegant style dazzles and leaves one yearning to reread many of the paragraphs in his book that contains those wonderful nuggest that resonate with a modern day Christian seeker of new ideas and new vistas of Christian theology. If you don't want to join Kaufman in some heavy duty grappling with theological ideas, don't waste you time on this book. If you have a serious interest in this subject, this is an outstanding writing of our time that will challenge the layman or the clergy in rethinking Christian theology.
on April 8, 2015
Interesting and thought- provoking book for anybody who wants to know how our perception of God and Christian theology, both reconstructed, can fit in our modern world with all our new scientific knowledge. However, I find the author does not address much the mystery of Redemption (Atonement) which, in my opinion, is basic to the Christian Faith and makes it unique among all the religions of the world, whether Eastern (polytheistic) or Western (monotheistic). Not an easy book to read but worth it for a reader with an open mind.