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In Face of Mystery: A Constructive Theology

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674445765
ISBN-10: 0674445767
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Editorial Reviews


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 Times Literary Supplement)

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. (Pro Ecclesia)

A truly systematic liberal theology...It is a grand book. (Robert Cummings Neville Theological Studies)

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 Christian Century)

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 Religious Studies Review)

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 Religion and Theology)

About the Author

Gordon D. Kaufman was Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr., Professor of Divinity at Harvard University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (March 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674445767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674445765
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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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.
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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.
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