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Introduction to Systematic Theology

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Theological movement that arose in the 1970s and has gained wide acceptance ... so that religious experience' is conceptually derivative, if not vacuous. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Introduction to Systematic Theology


1
Introduction to Systematic Theology
2
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Theological movement that arose in the 1970s and
    has gained wide acceptance
  • Sometimes called the Yale School
  • It arose in the context of Yale Divinity School
  • Key names include Hans Frei, George Lindbeck,
    Stanley Hauerwas
  • Key texts associated with this movement
  • Hans Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative
    (1974)
  • George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine (1984)
  • Narrative theology is based on the observation
    that the Bible tells stories about God. McGrath,
    Christian Theology, 200

3
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Narrative theology arose within circles that
    became critical of liberal Christianity
  • Post liberalism is critical of liberal
    Christianitys efforts to determine a common or
    universal human experience of religion
  • For liberal Christianity, the impulse, which is
    fundamentally apologetic in intent, is to find a
    common base for Christian theology and public
    discourse by a prior analysis of human knowledge,
    culture or experience. McGrath, An Evangelical
    Evaluation of Post liberalism in The Nature of
    Confession, 25

4
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Post liberalism is critical of the rationalist
    structure (an Enlightenment legacy) that
    underlies liberal Christianity
  • This is often referred to as Foundationalism- the
    idea that it is possible to base knowledge on
    some sort of absolute first principles.
    Erickson, PTF, 17.
  • The Cognitivist approach has been out of fashion,
    at least since Kant, For he helped clear the
    ground for its emergence (Experiential-Expressive
    approach) by demolishing the metaphysical and
    epistemological foundations of the earlier
    regnant cognitive-propositional views. . . .

5
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • That ground-clearing was later completed for most
    educated people by scientific development that
    increased the difficulties of accepting
    literalistic propositional interpretations of
    such biblical doctrines as creation, and by
    historical studies that implied the
    time-conditioned relativity of all doctrines.
    Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine, 20-21.
  • Postliberalism is critical of the notion that an
    individuals experience may be placed above or
    before the communal religion. That is, it is in
    the community of faith that religious experience
    is shaped. McGrath, Evaluation, 27.

6
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Narrative Theology offers telling criticisms of
    the Experiential-Expressive approach.
  • The notion of common human experience is now
    viewed as little more than an experiential
    fiction, in much the same way that universal
    rationality is now seen as little more than the
    idle daydream of reason. McGrath, Evaluation,
    24.
  • The principal objection to this theory is its
    obvious gross inaccuracy. As Lindbeck points out,
    the possibility of religious experience is shaped
    by religious expectation, so that religious
    experience is conceptually derivative, if not
    vacuous. McGrath, Evaluation, 26

7
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Postliberalism is critical of liberal
    Christianitys evacuation of the particularity of
    Christianity, considering non-particular versions
    of Christianity to be unwarranted constructs
  • Ideas such as religion and culture, which an
    earlier generation of liberal writers happily
    appealed to as constituting universal foundations
    of nonparticularist forms of Christianity, are
    now seen to be fictitious constructs, generally
    reflecting a specifically Westerns set of
    presuppositions. McGrath, Evaluation, 24

8
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • William Placher identifies three factors that
    contributed to the rise of Narrative Theology at
    Yale. Post liberal Theology in David Ford, ed.,
    The Modern Theologians, 2d ed., 344.
  • There was an atmosphere conducive to thinking
    about the particularities of individual religious
    traditions
  • There was a focus on the biblical texts as we
    have them (think of Brevard Childs and his
    canonical approach to Scripture
  • There was interest in the relations of biblical
    texts to the communities that read them.

9
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • According to William Plachers summary, Narrative
    Theology has three major characteristics. (As
    quoted by McGrath, Evaluation, 23-4).
  • The primacy of narrative as an interpretative
    category for the Bible
  • The hermeneutical primacy of the world created by
    the biblical narratives over the world of human
    experience
  • The primacy of language over experience

10
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Lindbecks Typology seeks to divide theological
    theories of religion and doctrine . . . into
    three types. The Nature of Doctrine, 16.
  • Cognitive/Propositionalist, or the Traditional
    Way, which emphasizes cognitive aspects, truth as
    captured in propositions
  • Experiential/Expressive, or Expressively
    Symbolic, which focuses on feelings, attitudes,
    experience- not propositions
  • Hybrid, combines above two methods listed above
    replaced by the
  • Cultural Linguistic or Regulative approach which
    emphasizes the role of the community in the
    formation of rules and church doctrine

11
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • The Cognitive-Propositionalist This type
    emphasizes the cognitive aspects of religion and
    stresses the ways in which church doctrines
    function as informative propositions or truth
    claims about objective realities. NOD, 16.
  • Treats religion as similar to philosophy
  • The approach of traditional orthodoxies
  • If a doctrine is once true, it is always true
  • Representative theologians Charles Hodge, Wayne
    Grudem

12
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • The Experiential-Expressivist Type interprets
    doctrines as noninformative and nondiscursive
    symbols of inner feelings, attitudes, or
    existential orientations. NOD, 16
  • Highlights the resemblances of religions to
    aesthetics enterprises
  • Particularly congenial to the liberal theologies
    influenced by . . . Schleiermacher
  • Insofar as doctrines function as nondiscursive
    symbols, they are polyvalent in import and
    therefore subject to changes or meaning or even
    to a total loss of meaningfulness
  • Representative Theologians F.D.W.
    Schleiermacher, Paul Tillich

13
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • The Hybrid This type makes use of both
    cognitivist and experiential-expressive
    perspectives.
  • Equipped to account more fully than can the
    first two types for both variable and invariable
    aspects of religious traditions
  • They resort to complicated intellectual
    gymnastics and to that extent are unpersuasive
  • Representative Theologians Karl Rahner, Bernard
    Lonergan

14
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • The Cultural-Linguistic or regulative
    approach
  • The function of church doctrines that becomes
    most prominent in this perspective is their use,
    not as expressive symbols or as truth claims, but
    as communally authoritative rules of discourse,
    attitude, and action. This general way of
    conceptualizing religion will be called in what
    follows a cultural -linguistic approach, and
    the implied view of church doctrine will be
    referred to as a regulative or rule theory.
    NOD, 18

15
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Rules, unlike propositions or expressive
    symbols, retain an invariant meaning under
    changing conditions of compatibility and
    conflict. For example, the rules Drive on the
    left and Drive on the right are unequivocal in
    meaning and unequivocally opposed, yet both may
    be biding one in Britain and the other in the
    United States, . . . NOD, 18

16
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • This stress on the code, rather than the (e.g.
    propositionally) encoded, enables a
    cultural-linguistic approach to accommodate the
    experiential concern for the unreflective
    dimensions of human existence far better that is
    possible in a cognitivist outlook. Religion
    cannot be pictured in the cognitivist (and
    voluntarist) manner as primarily a matter of
    deliberately choosing to believe or follow
    explicitly known propositions or directives.
    Rather, to become religious- no less than to
    become culturally or linguistically competent- is
    to interiorize a set of skills by practice and
    training. NOD, 35

17
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • In the Christian case the system is constituted,
    not in purely intellectual terms by axioms,
    definitions, and corollaries, but by a set of
    stories used in specifiable ways to interpret and
    live in the world. The mistake of a primarily
    cognitive-propositional theory of religion, from
    a cultural-linguistic perspective, is to overlook
    this difference. NOD, 64.

18
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Is there any room for propositional truth?
  • Lindbecks evaluation of the Cognitivist-Propositi
    onal approach at times sounds like a caricature
    and not an accurate representation. Concerning
    the cognitivist embracing of sets of objectively
    and immutably true propositions he says that
    perhaps only those among whom the sects chiefly
    recruit who combine unusual insecurity with
    naiveté can easily manage to do this. NOD, 21.

19
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • As McGrath puts it, to caricature Christian
    doctrine as mere wordplay or as an attempt to
    reduce the mystery of God to propositions is to
    neglect to appreciate the manner in which words
    serve us. In order for my experience to be
    communicated to another person, it demands
    statement in cognitive forms. McGrath,
    Evaluation, 32.

20
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Is anybody out there?
  • Lindbeck believes that theology is concerned
    with the articulation and exploration of the
    intrasystemic aspects of Christian faith.
    McGrath, Evaluation, 35
  • That is, for Lindbeck, the question is not
    whether there is any external referent to which
    the words point or refer. Rather, the question
    terminates upon establishing the grammatical
    construct, or the rule.

21
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • The issue is a narrow one. Rule Theory does not
    prohibit speculations on the possible
    correspondence of the Trinitarian pattern of
    Christian language to the metaphysical structure
    of the Godhead, but simply says that these are
    not doctrinally necessary and cannot be binding.
    . . . and, similarly, ontological interpretations
    of the trinity do not, nor should not, be made
    communally normative for the way Christians live
    and think. NOD, 106
  • Here he appears to embrace the postmodern denial
    of the correspondence view of reality and the
    referent theory of language

22
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Yea, hath God said?
  • Throughout his analysis, there seems to be a
    studied evasion of the central question of
    revelation- in other words, whether the Christian
    idiom, articulated in Scripture and hence in the
    Christian tradition, emerges from accumulated
    human insight or from the self-disclosure of God
    in the Christ-event. McGrath, Evaluation, 34

23
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Whom do men say that I am?
  • Who is Jesus Christ for Lindbeck? If according to
    Narrative Theology we are only interested with
    the meaning of the text, how does this enable us
    to escape a functional Christology, (e.g.,
    Ritschl) or the flatness of Bultmanns
    Christology?

24
NARRATIVE THEOLOGY
  • Positively
  • Lindbeck offers types of theology that, for the
    evangelical, should be mutually supportive and
    informative. Neither a strictly rationalist set
    of propositions, nor an ambiguous ill-defined
    experience is sufficient as a foundation for
    Christian living. Likewise, the importance of the
    faith community in forming our thinking and
    framing our language is a needed corrective to
    the independent minded late-twentieth century
    evangelical. You cannot have God for your Father
    unless you have the Church for your Mother.
    -Cyprian

25
Introduction to Systematic Theology
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