NATURE, HISTORY, AND GOD: TOWARD AN INTEGRATED CONCEPTUALIZATION

Authors

  • Gordon D. Kaufman

    1. Gordon D. Kaufman is Mallinckrodt Professor of Divinity, Harvard University Divinity School, 45 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138.
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  • This article is a revised version of a presentation made at the annual conference of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, “The God Question in an Age of Science,” 28 July 1991, on Star Island, New Hampshire. The proposals of this article are worked out in greater detail in the author's forthcoming book, In Face of Mystery: A Constructive Theology, to be published in 1993 by Harvard University Press; much of the material for this article has been drawn from that book with permission of Harvard University Press. Copyright 0 1992, the author.

Abstract

Abstract. In this paper I attempt to bring the ancient symbol God into a meaningful and illuminating conceptual relationship with modern understandings of the development of the cosmos, the evolution of life, and the movements of human history. The term “God” is taken to designate that reality (whatever it may be) which grounds and undergirds all that exists, including us humans; that reality which provides us humans with such fulfillment or salvation as we may find; that reality toward which we must turn, therefore, if we would flourish. I suggest that the cosmos can quite properly be interpreted today in terms of two fundamental ideas: (1) a notion of “cosmic serendipitous creativity,” (2) the expression of which is through “directional movements” or “trajectories” of various sorts that work themselves out in longer and shorter stretches of time. In a universe understood in these terms, the symbol “God” may be taken to designate the underlying creativity working in and through all things, and in particular working in and through the evolutionary-historical trajectory on which human existence has appeared and by which it is sustained. The symbol “God” can thus perform once again its important function of helping to focus human consciousness, devotion, and work in a way appropriate to the actual world and the enormous problems with which men and women today must come to terms; but the ancient dualistic pattern of religious piety and thinking in which God is regarded as a supernatural Creator and governor of the world—so hard to integrate with modern conceptions of nature and history—is thoroughly overcome.

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