Sources And Method Of Theology Notes
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What are theology's sources and how is it 'done'? Discuss with reference to at least two theologians.
Sources: Bible, Church history, the history of religion and culture
Medium: collective Experience of the Church
Content of which is the biblical message itself, for example: • Justification through faith • New Being in Jesus as the Christ • The Protestant Principle • The criterion of the cross
Tillich distinguishes 'apologetic' theology - 'answering theology' - from kerygmatic theology, which is concerned with the maintenance of some eternal truth without consideration of 'situation': emphasises 'the unchangeable truth of the message over against the changing demands of the situation'
Situation = the scientific, artistic, economic, political and ethical forms in which social groups or individuals express their interpretation of existence and being (foundational/fundamental nature of being!)
Situation is contrasted with 'message' (kerygma). Kerygmatic theology is important to Tillich, since 'without such... reactions theology would lose itself in the relativities of the 'situation'; it would become a situation itself'. Kerygmatic theology must be combined with awareness of situation so as to neither lose the value of the eternal message nor extract oneself entirely from one's situation and circumstance. Genuine participation in all cultural forms through which man expresses his interpretation of his own existence is the only way to overcome the 'oscillation' of kerygmatic theology between combative orthodoxy and the genuine freedom of the kerygma itself.
Apologetic theology has been damaged by the attempts to espouse a 'god of the gaps' defence of Christianity in the face of scientific advance. This approach is 'undignified' and misses the point anyway.
The object of theology is what concerns us ultimately! Consequently, theology should never leave the realm of the ultimate or engage with preliminary concerns (Tillich gives the example of aesthetics or medicine). What is this ultimate concern? Our ultimate concern is that which determines our being and not-being - thus a statement is theological only if it deals with its object insofar as it is or becomes a matter of being or not-being to us.
These assertions allow us to further assert that theology and the 'special sciences' are of no concern to one another, and neither have the right nor obligation to impinge upon the other. The point of contact for science and theology lies in the philosophical element of both.
The nature of systematic theology - the theological circle
Tillich asserts there is an inherent circularity in the proper study of theology. In every 'assumedly scientific theology', and equally in any deductive approach, a point will always be reached at which individual experience, commitment and values will decide the issue. This is always more obvious to the audience than the author, since the audience bring their own different experiences and values. Whatever the attempt, an a priori assumption is made on experience and valuation.
All theologies take as a starting point the point of identity and relationship between the experiencing subject and the 'ultimate' in some form or by some name. Thus all theological concepts are inherently rooted in an awareness of some transcendent reality, and if this reality is understood or 'discovered' by the process of theology, it is only because it was always there, discoverable, from the beginning. This is the theological circle, but it is not vicious - 'every understanding of spiritual things is circular'.
Methodological consequence of the circle: no part of the theological system is a logical basis for the other parts. All facets of a theology are mutually dependent, and arrangement in any particular fashion is merely expedience.
Theology and Christianity
Theology is the 'methodical interpretation of the contents of the Christian faith', and is a function of the church - in being a theologian, one acknowledges the content of the theological circle as his ultimate concern. It is the task of apologetic Christian theology to show that the specifically Christian claim has validity and value from the point of view of one outside the theological circle, and show that claims and trends that occur in all religions are always moving and gravitating toward the Christian answer.
Theology and Philosophy
What is the relationship between theology and philosophy? Such a question presupposes a definition of philosophy, and whilst Tillich points out that every philosophy proposes a definition which agrees and coheres with its purpose and goal, he does go on to suggest a sufficiently broad definition: that cognitive approach to reality in which reality as such is the object of that approach. By 'reality as such' or 'reality as a whole' he means not the total content of reality, but the structures and relations that make reality and its constituent facets a potential object of knowledge at all, thus inquiring into that reality as such is to explore the nature of the categories and concepts that we presuppose in every encounter with the content of reality.
Attempts to avoid ontological considerations such as these are bound to fail - since knowing is an act of being, every analysis of knowing must refer to an understanding or interpretation of the nature of being. Ontology and metaphysics are not speculative fantasies intended to establish a concrete 'world beyond our world', but an analysis of those structure of being with which we interact consistently and unavoidably in our experience of reality.
Thus philosophy and theology to some extent ask the same question, ultimately: philosophy is concerned with the nature of being and not-being as a part of the nature of reality, and theology too is concerned with reality as a whole, since those things that concern us ultimately must belong to reality and to being. Those things that concern us ultimately and infinitely cannot be one particular instance of being amongst the whole of reality, it must be that which grounds or determines being and not-being. Theology, then, when dealing with questions of ultimate concern, cannot escape the question or concept of being.
Philosophy deals with the structure of being, whilst theology deals with the meaning of being for us. Thus where the philosopher is at pains to exclude the personal, the social and the historical from his understanding of reality, the theologian is not detached from his object but utterly involved in it, at a level of personal truth. Detachment would be a denial of the content of reality, to which the theologian is committed. Thus the attitude of the theologian is existential, since he is involved in his own existence and finitude, and it determined by his own faith - every theology presupposes that the theologian exists within the theological circle.
The structure of reason
Epistemology: "The knowledge of knowing." • Ontology: "The knowledge of being." • Ontological Reason: "According to the classical philosophical tradition, reason is the structure of the mind which enables the mind to grasp and to transform reality." • Technical Reason: "Reason is reduced to the capacity for 'reasoning.' Only the cognitive side [i.e., acts which deal with the discovery of means-ends relations] of the classical concept of reason
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