Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Some (sort of anonymous) thoughts on theology

The following list of various approaches to, and understandings of, theology includes some that I've been canvassing with my students in my introductory unit, Faith, Theology and Doctrines. I've added some others as well. The authors are unidentified for now. Some of the approaches are dead give-aways, and in this age of all-powerful search engines, the sources of most of these quotes could be tracked down pretty easily. But for those who would like to think about who might be the authors, I'll wait a few days before adding their names. Inclusion in this list does not necessarily constitute endorsement on my part!

At the request of one of my readers here's a list (in alphabetical order) of the authors of the following quotes. I'll link the authors to the actual quotes in a day or so.
Karl Barth - Sarah Coakley- Gustavo Gutiérrez - Robert Jenson - Elizabeth Johnson - James McClendon - Wolfhart Pannenberg - Dorothee Sölle - C.S. Song -
Medi-Ann Volpe



So, all is now revealed.


Sarah Coakley
If necessary...one must start from a new perspective if this is the best way to recapture the contemporary imagination for Christ, or to reinvite reflection on the perennial mysteries of the gospel. Such is the inspiration of the notion of systematics that informs this work. Systematics, in other words, does not convey the hubristic ideas of a totalizing discourse that excludes debate, opposition, or riposte; but on the other hand, it does not falter at the necessary challenge of representing the gospel afresh in all its ramifications - systematically unfolding the connections of the parts of the vision that is set before us.

James McClendon

Theology means struggle.

Karl Barth
Thus the real results of dogmatics, even though they have the form of the most positive statements, can themselves only be new questions, questions to and fro between what the Church seems to proclaim and the Bible seems to want proclaimed, questions which can be put only with the greatest modesty and a sense of supreme vulnerability if they are perhaps serious and significant questions.

Gustavo Gutiérrez
The function of theology as critical reflection on praxis has gradually become more clearly defined in recent years, but it has its roots in the first centuries of the Church's life. The Augustinian theology of history which we find in The City of God, for example, is based on a true analysis of the signs of the times and the demands with which they challenge the Christian community.

Dorothee Soelle

But can there be any Logos, any systematic and rational clarification, of God? If theology were simply a 'theory about God', analogous to ossology (the theory of bones), then it would be an insult to God, blasphemy. The object of theology can only be the relationship between God and human beings: in other words, reflection on the experiences that have compelled human beings to talk about something like 'God'.

Robert Jenson
[T]heology is actual as a continuing consultation. Theology is not the adding of proposition to proposition in the steady construction of a planned structure of knowledge. It is a discussion and debate that as it continues regularly confronts new questions, and from which participants drop out and into which new participants enter.... It is the fate of every theological system to be dismembered and have its fragments bandied about in an ongoing debate.

Elizabeth Johnson

Rooted in the Christian tradition and equipped with scholarly tools, those of us in the theological guild think about the meaning of faith and the way it is practiced. The purpose is to shed more light on the gospel, so it can be lived out with deeper understanding and vibrant love of God and neighbour.

Medi Ann Volpe

The riches of the imagination can aid the task of discipleship, but in order to do so, the imagination itself must be trained by doctrine to nourish hope, encourage perseverance in faith and demonstrate the love in which Christians participate as members of Christ. Doctrine is a gift of the rationally capacious to structure our imaginations according to Christian hope.

For most Christian faith traditions and schools of Christian theology, the question of God is the beginning point. And yet, when we think of the whole more deeply, we may realize that this time-honoured way of doing theology parts company with the methods of science and technology. Science seeks to discover what is presently unknown by the study of what is known. God is a great unknown. To begin with God, therefore, is to attempt to explain what is known by what is not known, quite the opposite of how science proceeds. Rather we should begin where we are with what can be known through our experience in the world and see where it take us.

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Dogmatics as systematic theology proceeds by way of both assertion and hypothesis as it offers a model of the world, humanity, and history as they are grounded in God, a model which, if it is tenable, will 'prove' the reality of God and the truth of Christian doctrine, showing them to be consistently conceivable and also confirming them, by the form of presentation. In this way dogmatics expounds the truth claim of Christian teaching. it shows how this teaching must be understood in context if it is to be accepted as truth.


Alistair said...

Thanks Geoff! Before giving us the 'answers' to who penned those perspectives could you consider giving us the list of sources so that we can try to match author and quote? Al.

Geoff Thompson said...

OK. But I'll wait 24 hours before I list the authors! I'll let the possibilities ferment a bit longer:)