CLASSIC BOSTON PERSONALISM

Harold Oliver

Harold Oliver

Harold H. Oliver (1930-), Professor of Philosophical Theology at Boston University (1965-1996). He was born on October 9, 1930 in Mobile, AL. A graduate of Samford University (B.A., 1952), Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (B.D., 1954), Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.M. 1955) and Emory University (Ph.D., 1961). Dr. Oliver studied theology under Fritz Buri, Barth and Ott. From 1973 to 1974 Oliver was a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University, Institute of Theoretical Astronomy. While at BU, Prof. Oliver developed relational metaphysics and Relational Personalism.

Prof. Harold and his wife Martha visited Poland for the International Conference on Persons, August 9-12, 2005, Warsaw.

His works: A Relational Metaphysic (The Hague, 1981); Relatedness: Essays in Metaphysics and Theology (Macon, GA, 1984); and Personalism Revisited: Its Proponents and Critics (Coeditor with T. Buford, Amsterdam – New York, NY, 2002).

President Lech Wałęsa’s presence at the International Conference on Persons was the apex of my public, professional life.

After teaching philosophy at Boston University for thirty years, Borden Parker Bowne declared in 1905 that he was a personalist, thus defining the philosophical and theological environment of that institution for many years to come. Ninety-nine years later, the deaths of Walter Muelder and John Lavely in 2004 brought to a virtual end what many Boston University personalists regarded as “The Century of Bowne’s Theism.” My tenure at Boston University – as faculty member and as emeritus – spanned 39 of those years. When I joined the faculty I knew first hand only Brightman’s A Philosophy of Religion, in which he presented and defended his notion of the finite God, and Harold de Wolf’s The Case for Theology in Liberal Perspective (1959). Unlike Erazim Kohak, who reported that when he became a member of the Philosophy Department he “fought personalism tooth and nail, with argument and sarcasm,” I virtually ignored it, regarding it as “a Methodist philosophy” (Lavely once wrote that it was common for many unsympathetic with the movement to speak of it in these words).

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