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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Jesus And Creativity

Jesus and Creativity - Gordon D. Kaufman This book provides a rational Christology that is entirely this-worldly, with no traces of mythology or supernaturalism. This book provides an intellectual path for those who wish to maintain their intellectual integrity and still associate with faith communities that hold to more traditional theologies. It's an understanding of Jesus and the Christian religion that is compatible with a scientific world-picture based on findings and speculations of modern astrophysics, cosmology, biology, and evolutionary theory.

I recommend THIS LINK for a good discussion of this book by Wesley J. Wildman of Boston University.

Kaufman labels the traditional understanding the Christian theology as "Jesus trajectory-1." This is the Jesus-story which presupposes an understanding of God as an anthropomorphic quasi-personal agent-creator, working (sometimes miraculously) through historical events. The word "trajectory" is fitting here as a description of the creative development over hundreds of years of concepts such as the Trinity and explanations such as the the Resurrection to explain how they understood the advent of Jesus. This "Jesus trajectory-1" was developed using words and concepts that made sense to the people in that time.

Kaufman then provides an alternative way to view Christian theology based upon what he labels "Jesus trajectory-2." Just as "Jesus trajectory-1" was developed by early Christians with words that made sense to them, Kaufman says we today need to use words that make sense in the language and knowledge of our time. Early Christians thought in terms of resurrection and deity of Jesus. In place of this, Kaufman proposes to think of God as creativity in a way that can fit within the constraints of modern historical methods. Jesus can then be accepted as presenting important standards and models still valid in today's life and activity. This would include such themes as:

"self-giving love (agape), forgiveness, nonviolence, generosity, and the like as of continuing (perhaps universal) significance. . . . The story of Jesus points us toward a trajectory emphasizing the creation and sustenance of communities of love and freedom, reconciliation and peace."

This book provides a serious interpretation of religion that's consistent with the way many educated people view their lives today. Kaufman does so without apology to supernaturalists on the premise that many people today find the supernatural view implausible. It's surprising that so few theologians have attempted to speak on behalf of such people.

Kaufman describes the trajectories of creativity that arc through the long history of the universe and also through the evolutionary history of our planet. We are dependent on the surrounding natural environment, and yet we are also capable of creatively transcending our environment through understanding and influencing it. This leads to his discussion of the need for humans to protect the world's environment.

In "Jesus trajectory-2" we learn to see Jesus as an expression of creative, natural, and very human possibilities that he both taught and enacted in his life. There is no afterlife here, but there is life abundant. There are no supernatural rescue stories but there is a relentless drive for justice that enhances health and happiness for everyone. There is no supernatural consummation of worldly history but there is a future lying open before us, and subject to our creative influence. Jesus is not the only model and norm for a lifestyle of ecological responsibility, social justice, and a better future, but his vision is one that we can choose. And that is good news indeed. (Some of this wording is borrowed from the review by Wesley J. Wildman.)

Kaufman also makes it clear that "Jesus trajectory-2" is not an exclusive view, and thus it can accept other religious traditions (or non-religious world views) as valid in their own cultural settings. But one would hope that other religions and world views can find those creative aspects within their own traditions and understandings that will encourage the creative possibilities of human endeavors.

Kaufman wrote a book titled In the beginning ... Creativity prior to writing this book. My review of In the beginning ... Creativity can be read at THIS LINK. Both books should be read to understand Kaufman's theological thinking during his final years. Gordon D. Kaufman died on July 22, 2011.