(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The Source of Human Good is one of Henry Nelson Wieman’s most important works, in which he offers a conception of God as creative value within the context of human interactions and purposeful living. In developing his argument, Wieman introduces a key phrase, “the creative event,” which connotes creativity as operating in human life and giving it qualitative meaning. For Wieman, creativity is not merely identified with the common usages often associated with it, such as solely innovative behavior on the part of individuals or achievements produced by artistic persons (although these would be included as instances of it). Rather, God is creativity, in the sense that God is the character, structure, or form that enables the events of human life to be creative. “The creative event” is a complex term describing a process of how the many discordant parts of our lives are reorganized into a more inclusive whole.

Wieman explains that the creative event, which results in creative good, is a concrete reality embracing four unified but distinct subevents. Briefly stated, they are(1) the emerging awareness of qualitative meaning through communication (2) the integration of these new meanings with those previously acquired (3) the expanding of quality in the appreciable world and (4) the widening and deepening of community.

The first event is the primary context from which the other three emerge. For Wieman, a stream of...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Bretall, Robert W., ed. The Empirical Theology of Henry Nelson Wieman. New York: Macmillan, 1963. This collection of essays clarifies some of the basic themes in Wieman’s unique process theology. Most of the contributors assess whether or not Wieman’s empirical framework can provide an adequate conceptual base for explicating the understanding of existence implicit in Christian faith. Included is an autobiographical essay by Wieman, outlining the single problem on which his intellectual life was focused and describing significant influences that shaped his thought.

Shaw, Marvin C. Nature’s Grace: Essays on H. N. Wieman’s Finite Theism. New York: P. Lang, 1995. These essays considers Wieman as the leading member of the group of religious naturalists associated with the University of Chicago who founded the school of “naturalistic theism,” the idea that the divine is an immanent and finite creativity at work in an evoloving universe.

Southworth, Bruce. At Home in Creativity: The Naturalistic Theology of Henry Nelson Wieman. Boston: Skinner House, 1995. An introduction to Wieman for a new generation, covering Wieman’s philosophical and theological ideas and placing them in the context of feminist and liberation theologies. Bibliography, index.

Wieman, Henry Nelson. The Intellectual Foundations of Faith. New York: Philosophical Library, 1961. Wieman reasserts his argument for a rational foundation of faith based on an empirical view of the nature of God, which alone can guide humans toward purposeful, fulfilling living. He provides a critique of various contemporary answers to the question, What can save humanity from its self-destructive propensities?

Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958. Believing that individuals can be transformed into great good or great evil, Wieman emphasizes that there must be something that underlies such transformation, requiring human cooperation.