August 23rd, 2012
Theologian: Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930)
More about his theology: Harnack was a German Lutheran theologian. In 1900 he published a series of lectures into a book titled Das Wesen des Christentums (What is Christianity). This was a very important book at the time and still is for contemporary theological studies. In it he reduced Christianity to:
- God is Father caring for his children whereby things will go well and all are provided for.
- The idea of providence, there is a rule governing history whereby things will always work out for the good.
- The human is race is God’s children in relation to God the Father who takes care of them.
- The universality of these three truths as all of us bear the face of the human family God thus sets forth what we need because we are in the face of our foolishness in order that we would be free.
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July 5th, 2012
Theologian: Rudolf Otto (1869 – 1937)
More on his theology: Otto was a leading theologian of religious expression–a revival of Kierkegaard. In 1917 Otto published his keynote work, Das Holige (The Idea of the Holy). The outcome of the book was a sociological study of human religion and marked the distinction between ethics and religion. The two cannot be equated. Theological liberals maintained the idea that we should do what we know we should do. The moral good may not be religious and the religious may not be the moral, which disagreed with the theological liberals). Religion, to Otto, has to do with the numinous, that is, the realm beyond the human, which both attracts us and terrifies us. This is what he called the mysterium tremendum. This is an unapproachable fear towards God. C.S. Lewis illustrates this fear in The Problem of Pain.
Suppose you were told that there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told “There is a ghost in the next room,” and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind.
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June 7th, 2012
Theologian: Thomas F. Torrance (1913 – 2007) – the development of scientific theology
More about his theology: Thomas Torrance was a professor of Christian Dogmatics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He was heavily influenced by Karl Barth and contemporary science. He translated Barth’s Dogmatics from German to English. (Which is quite voluminous–thirteen volumes, six million words). He was also a recipient of the Templeton Prize for the advancement of religion.
Torrance was the primary contributor to the development of scientific theology. He argued that the universe of space and time is the means by which God has revealed himself to man, as it comes to view under human inquiry to develop and formulate knowledge of God. This was the development of an exegesis of nature.
Lorenzo Valla (1406-1457) developed the interrogative (interrogatio) rather than the problematic (quaestio) form of inquiry. Valla’s mode of inquiry was one in which questions yield results that are entirely new, giving rise to knowledge that cannot be derived by an inferential process from what was already known. This method was similar to the works of Stoic lawyers and educators like Cicero and Quintilian; that is, questioning witnesses, investigating documents and states of affairs without any prior conception of what the truth might be. Valla transitioned from not only using this method for historical knowledge but also applied it as “logic for scientific discovery.” Valla’s logic for scientific discovery was the art of finding out things rather than merely the art of drawing distinctions and connecting them together. He called for an active inquiry (activa inquisitio). John Calvin (1509-1564) applied this method to the interpretation of Scripture and thus became the father of modern biblical exegesis and interpretation. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) applied it to the interpretation of the books of nature, as well as to the books of God, and became the father of modern empirical science.
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May 24th, 2012
Theologian: Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) on Noumenal Knowledge
More about his theology: Kant is known more for his philosophy but has greatly influenced 19th and 20th century theology. He is known as the watershed of 20th century theology. You may not realize it but that vast majority of our epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and theology have been influenced by Kant. This Theology Thursday will focus on Kant’s noumenal knowledge.
Immanuel Kant proposed the practical or moral realm of life as the proper sphere of religion. Kant sought to establish religion as the devotion to a transcendent Lawgiver whose will ought to be the goal of humankind. The theology produced by Kant remained anthropocentric (centered on man) and it leads to an inescapable emphasis on divine immanence even though Kant himself rejected it.
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May 17th, 2012
Theologian: Alister McGrath (1953 – present)
More about his theology: McGrath is considered one of the leading developers and proponents of scientific theology. There is a long tradition within Christian theology of drawing on intellectual resources outside the Christian tradition as a means of developing a theological vision. This approach is often referred to by the Latin phrase ancilla theologiae (a ‘handmaid of theology’). The evolution of thought and method from Newton to Einstein vitalized scientific theology. Scientific theology argues that the working methods and assumptions of the natural sciences represent the best—or the natural—dialogue partner for Christian theology.
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May 10th, 2012
Theologian: Friederich Schleiermacher (1768-1834)
More about his theology: Schleiermacher develops a philosophy of religion whereby theology arises from the critical analysis of human piety or religious feelings. This means that there is no received content. Theology cannot be apologetic. Schleiermacher’s methodology: Examining the feelings…
This made the nature of religion not thinking (scientific approach eliminated by Kant). Here he is attacking the historic Christian position that theology is a science. Also, the religious nature is not ethics (acting morally) either rather, it is feeling which works its way out in the absolute dependence. The absolute dependence is the a priori form of self-consciousness that then works its way out from feelings.The human being is central here, rather than God as self-revealed. There is no “Thus says the Lord.” Also, theology is simply the outworking of prior religious feelings which are then subsequently analyzed.
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May 3rd, 2012
Theologian: Gotthold Lessing (1729-1781)
General summary of his theology: Lessing rejected all external authority such as the church and Scripture as unnecessary once the human race reaches its own autonomy. Lessing therefore would not believe in any of God’s transcendence because it was not something he could see and touch, rather a greater emphasis would be placed on the impenitent qualities of God. Lessing’s view of revelation is very anthropocentric (it is all about us and all about me). It is about my autonomy as well as the autonomy of the human race as a whole. His view is a perversion of the idea of the progress of revelation.
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April 12th, 2012
Theologian: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)
General summary of his theology: For Hegel, his major emphasis was upon the dialectical process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. This process leading toward actualization of one’s spirit or geist extends down to humans but only because it first applies to God as the Absolute Idea. Within Hegel’s thought, the universe is in a constant process of development. In this process, God (thesis) interacts with nature (antithesis), which results in the synthesis of human development.
One must keep in mind the fact that God is first engaged in the process of actualization, all other actualization occurs as a result of God’s increasing toward actualization. God ultimately is that being working its way in and through the whole of history so on traces out God by tracing out history wherein God is actualizing himself dialectically. Thus, within the natural realm, humans in history too are in the process of increasing in actualization. Human actualization therefore is in a sense to be viewed “on God’s coattails,” a trinitarian process. There is also a sense in which God IS history and the process whereby history is progressing upwards dialectically is a work of the divine Spirit working toward actualization wherein God himself is working toward actualization.
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March 29th, 2012
The name “John the Golden-mouthed” was given him over a century after his death. Of the great preachers of the fourth century, which included Ambrose and Gregory Nazianzen, none was greater than John Chrysostom. Yet great as his oratorical skills were, greater still was his personal integrity and boldness in confronting the rich and powerful of his day. Chrysostom was born in Antioch. His mother, Anthusa, became a widow at age twenty when John was an infant. She refused to remarry, instead devoting herself to her son. John received training in rhetoric and was being groomed for a profession in law by the most famous orator of the day, Libanius. In fact, when asked who should succeed him, Libanius answered: “John, but the Christians have laid claim on him.” In keeping with his mother’s wish, John entered upon his catechumenate at the age of twenty, and three years later was baptized by Bishop Meletius of Antioch.
John studied theology under Diodore of Taursus, leader of the Antiochene School. Early on he felt called to the monastic life, but put off entry into a monastery so long as his mother was alive so that he could care for her. Shortly after her death in 373 he joined a monastery in the Syrian mountains, living as a hermit for two years. So great were his austerities that he did lasting damage to his health.
He was ordained deacon in 381, serving in Antioch under bishop Flavian. Flavian also ordained him presbyter in 386 and, in view of his gifts, appointed him to devote special attention to preaching. While at Antioch, John achieved fame for preaching that sought to instruct and reform those who were only nominally Christian.
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