Thursday, 12 January 2006

Hans Ulrich: discoveries in theology

The new issue of the International Journal of Systematic Theology includes a translation of Hans G. Ulrich’s article, “Fides Quaerens Intellectum: Reflections towards an Explorative Theology,” IJST 8:1 (2006), 42-54. The article inquires about the nature of theological research, and it argues that theological research is concerned not with the justification or reassurance of past discoveries, but with an ongoing process of discovery, in which genuinely new things come to light.

Ulrich writes: “Research aims at discovery, it aims at what is not yet given.... Research has to do with the question of how the unknown and unrecognized comes into our world, how the new appears as unknown and unrecognized” (p. 45). And he argues that theology “does not think ‘after’ what is already given in faith: faith itself consists of the discovery of the novel” (p. 48). Theological thinking “is inquiry after discovery.... It is the discovery of a whole new reality, a reality which awaits discovery but which will only be discovered if the aim does not change unexpectedly into trying to secure or give reasons for what is found. That is, we must not exchange discovery for justifying and displaying what is discovered” (p. 53).

And what is the basic paradigm of this process of theological discovery? The paradigm is the story of Jesus. “It is paradigmatically novel that God’s Son comes into our world, a discovery for which no skill which might have been given before his coming could have been adequate” (p. 53).

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