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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

In The Beginning...Creativity

In The Beginning...Creativity - Gordon D. Kaufman The goal of this book is to provide an understanding of the meaning of the word "God" in such a way that is consistent with our current scientific understanding of modern astrophysics, cosmology, biology, and evolutionary theory. This requires getting rid of all traces of anthropomorphic concepts of God. This author is suggesting that God be conceived of as serendipitous creativity (not to be confused with the concept of creator). This leads to a God concept that pays attention to the significance of the material and natural environment for the human situation.

Many people assume they understand the meaning of the word "god", and that any other human should have the same understanding. It turns out to not be so simple. The Prologue of this book traces the history of the human understanding of the term "god" which has had a long and varied history. In laying out this history the Prologue shows that extending this trajectory of understandings of the term "god" into our present world environment is a reasonable step to take. The following three chapters of the book do just that.

Chapter 1 sketches a significant dissonance between traditional Christian understanding of humanity in the world under God and today's evolutionary/ecological thinking. It moves then into a presentation of three terms that the author found useful in theological constructions of this book: (1) Humans as biohistorical beings, (2) Widespread serendipitous creativity manifest in the cosmos as conceived today, and (3) The notion of cosmic, evolutionary, and historical trajectories that have emerged spontaneously in the universe at large and on planet Earth in particular. Some time is also spent in this chapter on the partial responsibility of Christian thinking, attitudes, and practices for the current ecological crisis. It follows that a changed concept of God would lead to increased acceptance of responsibility of taking care our our earth's environment.

Chapter 2 elaborates on the author's proposal that we think of God as the serendipitous creativity manifest throughout the cosmos. It responds to some of the questions that may arise, especially for readers encountering this proposal for the first time. In this way it introduces some of the central issues that this book is intended to address, thus putting the reader in a position to move on to Chapter 3, where an enlarged discussion of what it means to think of god as creativity is presented.

Chapter 3 divides the term creativity into three modalities: (1) Creativity-1 is the initial coming into being of the universe often described as the Big Bang, (2) Creativity-2 is creativity manifest in evolutionary processes and the ongoing coming into being of trajectories of increasingly complex novel realities, and (3) Creativity-3 is human creativity seen in the development of language, writing, cultural developments, and knowledge of the physical world. It follows that God (creativity) is always and everywhere active in some degree and some respect. Although God is not regarded here as a person and we are in no position to say what God is, God is clearly to be thought of as the ultimate source and ground of all our human realities, values, and meanings. Thus, we can say something about how we are related to God, though what God (creativity) is remains a mystery.

The book concludes with an Epilogue that provides an intellectual autobiography of the author which portrays the development of his thought as driven simultaneously by two overriding concerns: public morality and the concepts of God. I suggest readers of the this book read the Epilogue first to understand where the author is coming from. It helps in understanding the rest of the book.

After this book was published, Gordon D. Kaufman wrote another book, Jesus and Creativity that addresses how Jesus fits with this image of God as serendipitous creativity. My review of Jesus and Creativity is at THIS LINK.