Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Is Theology a Science?

The following is the final paper for my theological prolegomena (Greek word meaning "things spoken before" or "preliminary matters") class, and the reason my blog has been so quiet lately. I was supposed to take it in late Spring but finished it recently because I was in Europe during the time it was originally offered.

A frequent topic of discussion among Christians is the relationship between science and theology. Usually by this people mean the question of how (if at all) the teachings of theology are to be brought into conversation with the findings of science, and whether they are ultimately in conflict or harmony. But they are also conversant on a deeper, methodological level. In this case the question to be asked is, is theology a science? If so, in what sense or to what degree? More generally, how are "objective" and "subjective" factors related in theological method?

Obviously, thinking about theology as a science has important ramifications for theological method and thus for the resulting conclusions reached, as can be readily seen by contrasting the methods of Hodge (who considered theology a science[1]) and Schleiermacher (who centered theology around religious experience and the feeling of absolute dependence on God rather than reason[2]). More personally, my experience with theology is often, frustratingly, one of beginning with theory and attempting to advance to practice. I suspect that this challenge is not unique to me, and I wonder if it arises from an improper understanding of the methodological connection between science and theology. As well, the challenges to "objective" theology posed by pluralism and postmodernism make wise answers to these questions important for the church, to avoid either uncritically embracing subjectivity or overreacting against it.

As previously mentioned, Charles Hodge considered theology a science, drawing numerous methodological parallels between the fields. Just as nature provides raw data that science systematizes into knowledge, so Scripture contains "isolated facts" to be systematized into theological knowledge: "The Bible is to the theologian what nature is to the man of science. It is his store-house of facts; and his method of ascertaining what the Bible teaches, is the same as that which the natural philosopher adopts to ascertain what nature teaches."[3] He considered this "inductive" method, proceeding from the facts in Scripture, to be a middle ground between strictly rational "speculative" theology and purely subjective "mystical" theology.[4] Millard Erickson also considers theology a science, though in a somewhat more balanced and qualified fashion than Hodge, since it seeks to gain objective, coherent knowledge about its subject (God's revelation of himself) using a definite, verifiable methodology that has some common ground with that of other sciences, with which it also shares certain subject matter. Theology differs from science, he says, in that it has unique data (divinely revealed Scripture), deals with unique subjects, and deals with shared subjects like humanity in a unique way or in a unique frame of reference, in their relation to God.[5] Wolfhart Pannenberg also considered theology a science, drawing several parallels in their respective methodologies.[6] David Clark sees theology as sapientia (wisdom) as well as scientia (knowledge)[7] and believes theology should move toward a sort of "chastened objectivity" that acknowledges the potential for bias but affirms that theological realities outside ourselves are knowable.[8]

Other modern theologians would probably not consider theology a science. As mentioned, Friedrich Schleiermacher, a European contemporary of Hodge, viewed theology in more subjective terms, focusing on Christian experience and the "religious affections".[9] Concerned that conventional, dogmatic Christianity was withering in the face of modern skepticism, Schleiermacher sought to recenter authentic Christian religion in the heart rather than written revelation.[10] Scheiermacher instead believed that gefühl, a deep inner awareness of one's own smallness and absolute dependence on God, was basic to human nature and the true basis of religion. He was willing to waive "all claims to anything belonging to the two domains of science and morality" in order to free Christianity from the advances of science and philosophical ethics.[11] Somewhat similarly, those in the post-evangelical emerging church movement seek to move Christianity from reading Scripture in order to build systems of propositional theology (Hodge's method) to reading it more as an open-ended conversation with an eye for Christlike living rather than doctrinal precision. Brian McLaren, the closest thing to a leader the movement has, discourages reading the Bible as a constitution and instead suggests treating it as "portable library of an ongoing conversation about and with the living God."[12]

It is my belief that simply answering these pressing questions of method is not enough. The real challenge is to get over the need to ask them. This is because they reflect four shifts in thinking away from that of the early church: first, a perceived dichotomy between "objectivity" and "subjectivity"; second, a similar dichotomy between faith and reason; third, a focus on the pursuit of knowledge (however that knowledge is understood) in theology; and fourth, a tendency to consider propositions to be the primary (or only) bearers of theological truth.

The contrast in these four areas between early and modern Christianity can be seen by examining the methodologies of early Christian theologians. For ancient Christian interpreters, the goal of biblical interpretation was far more than discerning the facts of Scripture and systematizing them into doctrine, as Hodge sought to do. This was in large part because they did not view the literal (intended by the author) sense of Scripture as its only meaning, or even the most important.[13] Because the Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit, it was thought, they had a higher, "spiritual" meaning, which was not found by following correct hermeneutical methodology but by receiving divine illumination by the Spirit.[14] The literal sense of Scripture is available through sound exegesis with the proper tools and training, but the literal sense alone was not enough. "In the experience of the Church Fathers, God reveals himself most fully, not through rational analysis of the scriptural texts, but through prayer that occurs in the depths of the heart."[15] They relied on the Spirit to bring the Word of God (identified with the Son of God, not just the written Scripture) to life in the contemporary Church, to give them the love for the truth that is just as necessary for sound interpretation as correct exegesis. John Breck summarizes this approach: "The only way we can 'know the Truth' is to seek it, to love it, and to live as thoroughly and faithfully as we can in conformity to it."[16] It is very hard to categorize such an approach to Scripture and theology as either "objective" (much less "scientific") or "subjective".

The early church also saw no disjunction between reason and faith as modern people are apt to do. The ancient Christian view of the human constitution was centered around the heart, "the root of the 'active' faculties, of the intellect and of the will, and the point from which the whole of the spiritual life proceeds and upon which it converges."[17] Truth, then, was something humans interacted with holistically; it was practiced as much as it was believed.[18] The fourth-century bishop and renowned preacher John Chrysostom said that "Virtue is really true, vice is falsehood."[19] Scripture as the word of God was inextricably associated with the person of Christ, the Word of God (Jhn 1:1): "To the Church Fathers ... 'the Word of God' refers in the first place to the eternal Logos, the God-Man who became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth."[20] Truth was fundamentally personal as well as propositional. (Though this led to none of the relativism that we usually expect to follow this kind of rhetoric today)

One other component of early Christian theology that is largely forgotten in western Christianity is apophatic (or negative) theology. Apophatic theology (as opposed to cataphatic or positive theology) affirmed God's total transcendence of created being by acknowledging that though we can gain positive knowledge about God through his self-revelation, all positive statements and knowledge fall short of describing God as he truly is; the truest words about God must be statements of what he is not. For Basil the Great, this applied to God's works as well as God himself: "There will always remain an 'irrational residue' which escapes analysis and which cannot be expressed in concepts; it is the unknowable depth of things which constitutes their true, indefinable essence."[21] His brother Gregory of Nyssa said, "It is difficult to conceive God, but to define Him in words is impossible."[22] The apophatic approach can't constitute the whole of Christian theology, for this would amount to a denial of God's revelation and an embrace of pious ignorance, but it is a valuable corrective to a concept of theology as strictly "knowledge".

These few data points from the theological assumptions of the early Church demonstrate some clear contrasts with Hodge and Erickson, and with Schleiermacher and MacLaren. Unlike the theology-as-science view, interpreting Scripture was not simply a matter of determining the single, "objectively true" meaning; Scripture had great depth that could only be explored by a holistic pursuit of the truth, which was ultimately personal that then just doctrinal. There is little in the way of an analog for apophatic theology in "scientific" approaches, besides an affirmation and explanation of God's transcendence; it is difficult to see how this transcendence informs the modern conservative theological method. At the same time, unlike liberal theology, early Christian theology was definitely not human-centered (though the authentic truth experience of the human believer was also essential). God was believed to knowably exist outside of human religious affections, and teaching about him that was true in something like the modern "objective" sense was essential. Central dogmas like the incarnation, the Trinity, and the resurrection were certainly considered to be true independently of whoever believed them. By and large, liberal theology is not known for deeply investigating the transcendence of God either.

Given these contrasts, the natural question is how theological method has shifted through the history of the church. I will focus on the changes that occurred during three main periods of transition: medieval theology, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment.

The eleventh through thirteenth centuries were a time of great intellectual development in the Catholic church. One of the main initiators of this period of change was the bishop, monk, and theologian Anselm of Canterbury. He was the forefather of the movement known as Scholasticism in his desire to apply reason to matters of faith.[23] Anselm was heavily indebted to Augustine in his theology,[24] and famously alluded to a quote from his tractate on the Trinity when he said, "I believe in order to understand."[25] He believed that reason could and should complement and strengthen faith, going so far as to say that "men do not 'believe' in God; they know that He exists."[26] In this he represents a break with the earlier tradition of apophatic theology, instead seeking to use reason to illuminate the mysteries of the Christian faith,[27] which he acknowledged rationally but had trouble internalizing.[28] So he sought to explain, from reason alone, the mystery of the Incarnation (in his work Cur Deus Homo?, literally "Why God Human?") as well as to prove the existence of God by developing his ontological argument.

Another precondition of Scholasticism was the growth of universities, institutions where knowledge would be discovered rather than simply imparted.[29] Earlier in the medieval period, monasteries were centers of intellectual life and human knowledge was considered thoroughly teleological, pursued in light of the Christian tradition.[30] But in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries European intellectual life shifted to the university, which was much more specialized and intellectually rigorous.[31] By this transition, "theology" began to be viewed as a distinct discipline,[32] and "theologian" as a scholarly profession separate from the clergy.[33]

These both illustrate the late medieval trend of the growth of "reason" as a faculty independent from faith, which was also reinforced by the philosophy of the newly-rediscovered Aristotle.[34] The increasing intellectual sophistication of medieval theology and its dependence on reason were also driven by the need to refute heretics[35] and thought to be based on the image of God in man. This image was associated closely with reasoning capacity,[36] which was thought to be integral to human nature and intact even after the fall, unlike the moral likeness.[37] Extending Anselm's project of combining faith and reason, later theologians also tried to prove God's existence by reason[38] as well as other Christian dogmas,[39] up to and including the mystery of the Trinity.[40] By the thirteenth century, the patristic tradition of the ancient church had largely been replaced in the Catholic church's intellectual life by Scholasticism.[41]

The method of the Scholastics sought to clarify and strengthen traditional doctrines by defining them more precisely and rationally, like Anselm.[42] The intricacy of the theological matters being investigated demanded a higher degree of intellectual rigor than in patristic theology, which was sought through logical arguments and proofs as well as "disputations" (debates in which participants evaluated the positions of authorities in rationally formulating their own).[43] Through this method, the discipline of "natural theology" (theology constructed from evidence in nature using reason, such as Anselm's ontological argument) advanced by leaps and bounds. Since it was believed that all truth was one, no knowledge, whether from philosophy, nature, or reason, could contradict Christian truth, so Scholastics set out to investigate and confirm the truths of faith by reason.[44] This was thought to fulfill the biblical truth that God could be known through nature, so that men are without excuse. (Rom 1:20)

Thomas Aquinas, the foremost of the Scholastics and an intellectual pillar of Catholic tradition, departed from Augustinian theology by holding that the will naturally desires what is good because good is that which accords with the divine order of creation, that evil is more an error in understanding than a perversion of the will, and that moral and (natural) theological truths could be known by natural reason.[45] He placed such confidence in natural reason on the basis that God wants all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4); human nature was darkened (1 Cor 13:12), but still illuminated by reason.[46] He believed that "that which is natural is not abolished as a result of sin"[47] and that "grace does not abolish nature, but completes it";[48] so he set out to demarcate the scope of each. (This was also the basis of his quest to adapt the philosoper Aristotle, representing the knowledge from nature and reason, to the Christian faith) Because of the significant interplay Aquinas saw between science and philosophy, he was able to consider theology the "queen of the sciences".[49] ("Science" still simply meaning "ordered knowledge")

The legacy of Scholasticism is significant for our present study. Thanks to Anselm and those following him, apophatic theology had largely lost its place in the Catholic church. After Aquinas, theology was openly thought of as a science, though that word still had not acquired its present connotations. Fides and ratio, faith and reason, had been sharply distinguished from each other and conjoined in a union based more on Anselm's personal piety than on any rational basis in a way that would not last.[50] The concept of a theological system had been born: "Scholasticism, a comprehensive system that sought to understand every aspect of reality in relation to the whole, expressed the idea of Christendom itself, the organization of the entire universe according to an overriding spiritual principle."[51]

Only a selective telling of the Reformation is possible in this work. While acknowledging the important theological and ecclesiological breakthroughs made by the reformers, I will be focusing more the frequent theological controversies in which they found themselves, and their unintended effects on theological method. Luther's "evangelical" movement began splintering shortly after its inception,[52] but the first major division was between him and the other major early reformer, Ulrich Zwingli. Zwingli repeatedly clashed with Luther about what takes place during the Eucharist, a disagreement which arose from two different paradigms for rejecting Roman Catholic theology: Luther fixated on the raw law-vs.-grace paradox of the gospel, while Zwingli saw the gospel as freeing human society to follow the law as God originally intended.[53] Underlying this was Zwingli's higher estimation of the capabilities of human reason, in which Luther put no confidence.[54] Despite an attempt to seek unity at the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, the two men ultimately parted ways over their differences regarding the Eucharist.[55]

From Luther and Zwingli came the Lutheran and Reformed traditions of Protestantism, with their own visions of the Christian tradition over against each others' as well as that of the Catholic Church. "The universal tradition of orthodoxy was increasingly being filtered through, and identified with, the particular traditions represented by the doctrinal formularies that had come out of Reformation controversies."[56] On the Lutheran end, much of this drive for systematization came from Luther's collaborator and friend Philipp Melanchthon, who wrote Loci theologici, the first Lutheran systematic theology.[57] The Lutheran-Reformed conversation on the Eucharist in particular led both Protestant confessions to pursue tactics reminiscent of the Scholastics, opening their own universities and turning to the study of metaphysics to make the fine distinctions necessary for their arguments.[58] On the Reformed side, John Calvin led the effort to precisely define the boundaries of his tradition especially in response to Lutheran claims,[59] using the model of "distinction, but not separation" between "reality" and "sign" to arrive at a balanced theology.[60] As both sides gained increasingly extreme wings, the division established at Marburg deepened.[61]

Both confessions also had to deal with controversy within their own ranks. After Luther's death, there arose a debate between followers of Melanchthon and those who claimed to more truly carry on Luther's legacy.[62] They clashed over their estimations of free will[63] as well as whether some elements of the faith could be considered adiaphora, or peripheral and not worth dividing over.[64] The Lutheran theologian Georg Calixtus would extend this idea of essential and secondary beliefs by seeking an essential "consensus of the first five centuries" around which Catholics, Lutherans, and Reformed Christians could unite, but he was rejected and denounced by theologians who believed that everything God had said in Scripture (as they understood it) must be believed.[65] On the Reformed side, the Arminian controversy opened up a debate on the nature of God's sovereignty and the role played by free will in his providence. The increasing variety in Reformed theology was marked by the proliferation of confessions and creeds during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, notably the Westminster Confession.[66]

The results of these theological controversies among Protestants (to say nothing of those between Protestants and Catholics) were several. Confessional boundaries became increasingly rigid and dogmatic: the alternative to conformity with your confession was punishment as a heretic.[67] Right belief of all God had said to his people (again, as interpreted through each confession) was thought to be important to properly serve him.[68] To a large degree, doctrines were shaped by controversy and the need to exclude the false teachings of other confessions;[69] the lines remained even after the battles were over.[70] Doctrines were increasingly thought of in propositional terms, since this was the form in which they were debated and defended.

The need to define confessional boundaries led to increasing systematization and attention to theological detail.[71] Despite their objections to Aquinas' assumptions about nature and grace, Protestant theologians found themselves returning to a kind of Scholasticism that increasingly resembled his work,[72] establishing Protestant confessional universities and even turning back to the philosophy of Aristotle to formulate arguments on the nature of the Eucharist. Calvin's disciple Theodore Beza saw the danger of escalating systematization in the Reformed tradition: dogmatism, the need to spell out answers to every theological question, and the potential to be transformed in response to new circumstances or internal tensions.[73]

Theologians of all confessions sought the objective "truth" of the Christian faith which seemed hidden behind the debates. They realized the difference between one's apprehension of truth and the reality, between the words of Scripture and the ways that they were employed in confessional positions.[74] In a Lutheran-Catholic colloquy at Regensburg in 1541, the Lutheran Martin Bucer expressed his hope that "With God's will we shall ultimately find the truth."[75]

Others tried to resolve the controversies in ways other than traditional (dogmatic) theology. Spiritualists like Jakob Boehme and George Fox (founder of the Quakers) sought inner illumination by the Spirit in order to know the truth. Pietists like Philip Jacokb Spener and Nikolaus Zinzendorf prioritized personal, authentic faith and biblical Christian living over doctrinal correctness; they believed that theology should be more for the edification of Christian hearers than for confessional polemics. Still other thinkers placed more emphasis on reason as an "objective" arbiter than dogmatics of theological truth.[76]

As Christian confessionalists seemed to be increasingly deadlocked on matters of faith, increasing numbers of thinkers decided to follow reason instead (which had been confirmed as a separate source of knowledge by Scholastics both Thomist and Protestant), joining what about become known as the Enlightenment. In relation to Christian theology, it represented "the revolution of man's autonomous potentialities over against the heteronomous powers which were no longer convincing."[77] The narrative Enlightenment philosophers would tell was one of the triumph of sober, objective reason over against the arbitrary, superstitious, divisive truth claims of faith. "Sola ratio could achieve what sola scriptura manifestly could not."[78] Sadly, many of their critiques of established religion on the grounds of confessional coercion, oppression, and violence were not unfounded.[79] In contrast, reason would bring freedom from these things and from the ignorant truth claims of faith on which they were based.

Enlightenment rationalism was based on Scholasticism in many ways: it extended its turn to study nature and confidence in the powers of reason.[80] One of its first major exponents was René Descartes, who had experienced firsthand the horrors religion was capable of as a French soldier in the Thirty Years' War.[81] His response was to look beneath the certainties of religious authorities and doubt everything that could be doubted until he arrived at an indisputable certainty: his own existence as a thinking being.[82] He then set out to construct more certainties, such as the existence of God, on the "objective" basis of pure reason. Later thinkers like John Locke also sought to include empirical sense experience as another foundation of knowledge.[83]

The thinkers of the Enlightenment were not categorically opposed to religion, at least at the start. Rather, they sought to save it from fanatical superstition and dogmatic controversy through the application of reason to find the truth. Because all truth was thought to come from God (just as with the Scholastics), it was believed that reason would bring about "an ever more voluntary and purified worship of God."[84] The results of this application of reason were not quite as expected. Rational thinkers could not help but translate their growing knowledge of the "common order of nature" into a categorical skepticism of miracles which purported to violate it.[85] Anselm's difficulty with mysteries of faith was advanced as "mystery" came to be equated in the rational mind with "ignorance", sometimes for the sake of attacking Catholic "superstition."[86]

More positively, rationalists sought to construct a "natural religion" on the basis of reason, thus bypassing the dogmatic controversies of Christian orthodoxy. This natural religion became known as Deism.[87] At the same time, they sought to find the "essence" of the gospel, the "spirit of true Christianity", which was expected to be coterminous with natural religion,[88] as shown by such Deistic titles as Christianity Not Mysterious, or a Treatise Showing that There is Nothing in the Gospel Contrary to Reason, nor Above It, and that No Christian Doctrine Can Be Properly Called a Mystery, or Christianity as Old as the World, or the Gospel a Republication of the Religion of Nature. Christian teaching was expected to be self-evidently "reasonable", but this goal was becoming increasingly incompatible with anything resembling traditional belief.[89]

A major outcome of the Enlightenment was that where reason had previously been thought of as distinct from, but conjoined with, faith and traditional belief, the two increasingly parted ways. Freed from the straitjacket of revelation the Scholastics placed it into, reason was thought to be able to answer all the questions of the universe that mattered; "the truths of revelation, on the other hand, diminished in importance when they questions to which they were intended to be answers lost their hold on human minds and hearts."[90] Natural theology became a suitable replacement for church theology. Makers of religious truth claims would have to make them reasonably, or else risk being seen as merely confessional controversialists. It was in this period that the word "science" shifted from simply meaning "knowledge" to meaning what had previously been called "natural philosophy".[91] Knowledge itself went from religious to secular in character.[92] And even as the pursuit of "objective" knowledge by reason was championed, the attainability of this objectivity came to be questioned by the likes of Hume and Kant.

Much of the aforementioned four departures of modern theological method from early Christian theology can be traced back to these three historical developments. From the search for theological truth by opposing Reformation dogmatists and Enlightenment-era skepticism about the reliability of reason and sense experience we have the objectivity-subjectivity dichotomy. Medieval scholars like Anselm and Aquinas established the divide between faith and reason, natural philosophers from the seventeenth century onward set about widening it. Apophatic theology and the significance it ascribed to God's transcendence and unknowability were displaced by a (qualified) consciousness of theology as scientia, knowledge, widely conversant with reason. And propositional doctrine, as the focus of dogmatic controversy, became something like the heart and soul of theological discourse. This is, I hope, a quick sketch of how we may have gotten to where we are today. How do we go back?

Recently in conservative evangelical circles there has been a promising effort to respond to these issues by reestablishing an Augustinian epistemology, referred to as "right reason". It has roots in Greco-Roman and biblical cultures as well as the early church, and is also a suitable answer for postmodernism "because it acknowledges that both objective and subjective factors are involved in the process of knowing."[93] In this, Helseth considers it to incorporate the true elements of both modernism and postmodernism. "Right reason" denotes at once "a mode of knowing, a way of doing, and a condition of being",[94] viewing truth as both intellectual and moral (somewhat like Chrysostom). Knowing truth in this way is not simply a matter of properly applying one's intellectual faculties; it depends on the kind of person the knower is.[95]

"Right reason" is based on Augustinian anthropology (from before the Scholastics revised it with their favorable assessment of natural reason). It views the human soul as a "mysterious organic unity" rather than a looser collection of faculties, which takes its cues from the disposition of the heart.[96] The heart is the "fundamental amative orientation" of the human person either towards God or towards sin and self, and the will, intellect, and emotions are all directed by this orientation. What this means is that even if it is natural, human reason is not neutral. It follows the alignment of the heart either towards or away from God. If our hearts aren't turned towards God, none of our "faculties" will work as they are supposed to. "Regenerated knowers alone know 'rightly' not only because they have an intellectual or speculative understanding of that which is true, but also because they have—as a necessary element or essential component of their understanding—a love for the truth precisely because they see it declaring the glory, the moral excellence and beauty, of the one who is the source of truth and the epistemological key to interpreting all reality correctly (cf. Colossians 2:3)."[97]

I think "right reason" does have real promise for returning to a more holistic picture of theological method. However, it also has some significant challenges to overcome. Chief among these is the challenge of internalizing a truly patristic view of things rather than simply seeking to reconcile thinks like objectivity and subjectivity, faith and reason, in their modern forms. For example, are the postulated aesthetic and moral dimensions of truth true complements to the intellectual dimension, or are they simply based on an intellectual assessment of what is beautiful or good? So far, there is little in "right reason" to remind me of apophatic theology. Augustine's well-known command to "believe that thou mayest understand"[98] implies a positive relationship between believing and knowing which leaves little room for the "divine darkness". Our ability to know is conditioned largely on moral, rather than essential grounds.

In my lack of wisdom, I can offer only some basic ideas for returning to a more biblical theolgocial method. At the center must be Christ, the Word (logos; "logic" or "reason") of God (Jhn 1:1), the Way, Truth, and Life (Jhn 14:6). Christ's unifying role as the one to whom all things are reconciled (Col 1:20) is crucial to a biblical epistemology and, I believe, the key to closing the reason/faith and objectivity/subjectivity dichotomies. It means that truth is more than facts, even facts in their proper context. The Truth is a person. We don't just know truth; we love truth, do truth, live truth. Ephesians 4:15 is normally translated as "speaking the truth in love", but Paul does not use any verb for "speak" here; he simply uses alethia, "truth", as a verb. "Paul is really talking about 'truthing' in love."[99] As Christians, our theological method, our epistemology, our lives must be based on who Christ is.

Yet because Christ is truly God, Truth itself is ultimately incomprehensible. This is not just because it is cognitively complicated or because we are not sufficiently sanctified to know it, but because God is God and we are creatures. Of course this does not exclude knowledge from revelation, whether of the creation or of God himself, but it places our knowledge in proper perspective. Apophaticism is not merely a doctrine or branch of theology; it "teaches us to see above all a negative meaning in the dogmas of the Church: it forbids us to follow natural ways of thought and to form concepts which would usurp the place of spiritual realities. For Christianity is not a philosophical school for speculating about abstract concepts, but is essentially a communion with the living God."[100] More practically, we should be wary of oversystematizing; of seeking to say, define, or know too much in our theology. And we must admit our fundamental epistemological limitations, not just as sinful humans, but as humans.

Finally, I believe that the locus of theology must be within the church, its purpose for the church. Theology is not beholden to the standards of academia for "reasonable" scholarship or for establishing Christianity to be "objectively" true. For the reasons described above, theology is not a field like others. It is not strictly a "science", even in the classical definition of the word; use of this word must be heavily qualified and in light of its definitional shift, I consider it more misleading than it is worth. No one is truly converted to Christianity by argument (though arguments have a place in removing modern obstacles to belief, their importance should not be overstated). It may just be that what the world needs is not a Christianity conversant in its language of knowledge and truth, but something refreshingly different.

  1. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology: Three Volumes in Four Parts (Harrington, DE: Delmarva Publications, 2014, Kindle edition), 1.1.
  2. Justo L. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II: The Reformation to the Present Day (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 389–390.
  3. Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1.5.
  4. Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1.2.
  5. Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), 19–21.
  6. David K. Clark, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), 213–214.
  7. Clark, To Know and Love God, 218.
  8. Clark, To Know and Love God, 215–217.
  9. Jaroslav Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (since 1700) (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), 173.
  10. Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture, 174.
  11. Roger E. Olsen, The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press Academic, 2013), 136–137.
  12. Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that are Transforming the Faith (London: Hotter & Stoughton, 2010), 124.
  13. Michael Graves, The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What the Early Church Can Teach Us (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014), 48–49.
  14. Graves, The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture, 43–44.
  15. John Breck, Scripture in Tradition: The Bible and its Interpretation in the Orthodox Church (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001), 43.
  16. Breck, Scripture in Tradition, 44.
  17. Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2002), 200–201.
  18. Peter C. Bouteneff, Sweeter than Honey: Orthodox Thinking on Dogma and Truth (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2006), 22.
  19. John Chrysostom, Hom. XIV. Phil iv. 4-7, v. 9.
  20. Breck, Scripture in Tradition, 38.
  21. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 33.
  22. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 34.
  23. Justo L. González, The History of Christianity, Volume I: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 369.
  24. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology (600–1300) (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), 270–271.
  25. González, The History of Christianity, Volume I, 369.
  26. James Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012), 176.
  27. Josef Pieper, Scholasticism: Personalities and Problems of Medieval Philosophy (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine's Press, 2001), 55.
  28. Pieper, Scholasticism, 64.
  29. Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, 178.
  30. Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012), 311.
  31. González, The History of Christianity, Volume I, 372–373.
  32. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation, 311.
  33. Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, 178.
  34. González, The History of Christianity, Volume I, 374.
  35. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, 256.
  36. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, 260.
  37. Erickson, Christian Theology, 462.
  38. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, 261.
  39. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, 262.
  40. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, 262–263.
  41. Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, 177.
  42. Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, 175.
  43. Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, 178–179.
  44. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, 289.
  45. Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, 183.
  46. Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, 181.
  47. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, 288.
  48. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, 285.
  49. Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, 179.
  50. Pieper, Scholasticism, 65.
  51. Hitchcock, History of the Catholic Church, 185.
  52. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation, 91.
  53. Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation: A History (New York: Penguin Books, 2003), 148.
  54. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 63.
  55. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 172–173.
  56. Jaroslav Pelikan, Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300–1700) (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), 332.
  57. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 221–222.
  58. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 351-352.
  59. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 248.
  60. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 250.
  61. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 252.
  62. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 223.
  63. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 350.
  64. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 223.
  65. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 227-228.
  66. Pelikan, Reformation of Church and Dogma, 335.
  67. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 228.
  68. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 349.
  69. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 351.
  70. Pelikan, Reformation of Church and Dogma, 333-334.
  71. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 224-225.
  72. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, 292 and Reformation of Church and Dogma, 337.
  73. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 374.
  74. Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture, 73.
  75. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 230.
  76. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation, 108-109.
  77. Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture, 60.
  78. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation, 112113.
  79. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation, 160.
  80. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 237.
  81. MacCulloch, The Reformation, 500.
  82. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 238.
  83. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 240-241.
  84. Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture, 61.
  85. Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture, 62.
  86. Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture, 66.
  87. González, The History of Christianity, Volume II, 241-242.
  88. Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture, 102, 104.
  89. Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture, 106-108.
  90. Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, 292-293.
  91. Clark, To Know and Love God, 213.
  92. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation, 307.
  93. Paul K. Helseth, "Christ-Centered, Bible-Based, and Second-Rate? 'Right Reason' as the Aesthetic Foundation of Christian Education," WTJ 69:2 (Fall 2007), 2.
  94. Helseth, "Christ-Centered," 3.
  95. Helseth, "Christ-Centered," 4.
  96. Helseth, "Christ-Centered," 7.
  97. Helseth, "Christ-Centered," 9.
  98. Augustine, De trin. XXIX, 6.
  99. Bouteneff, Sweeter than Honey, 22.
  100. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 42.

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