Thursday 15 December 2005

The task and theme of theology

Back in August I offered six theses on the task and theme of theology. At the time, Jim West responded with six counter-theses. And now the Weekend Fisher also responds with her own very nice list of six theses.

My only question about the Weekend Fisher’s fine list is whether it in fact describes theology or faith. It seems to me that faith is “communion with God,” while theology is a reflection about this communion—i.e., reflection on faith. It is through faith that we know God (or better, faith is knowing God); and faith itself can be more or less implicit, pre-conceptual and intuitive. But where faith becomes conscious of itself, where it begins to think reflectively and methodically about itself, there is theology.


Weekend Fisher said...

Many interesting discussions are over the definitions. I'd hold that theology proper is knowing God. Of course "reflection on knowing God" is also theology (though it risks becoming theology-once-removed). Knowing God is not "faith", but causes faith. Which is to say that, when you see that God is trustworthy, you trust him, and that in focusing on God your awe and reverence grow; eventually "knowledge becomes love".

I think it's a shame when this first-level theology gets swept out of the "theology" camp. It results in less focus of our study on this most basic quest for knowledge of God. How often since Athansius has a keen mind turned itself to the quest of knowing God instead of knowing theories about him? It's happened, but not nearly often enough. This trend also cuts off the meta-theology from its roots, leaving it at risk of drying up or losing its connection to its own relevance.

I get on a roll sometimes, but I mean it all.

Take care & God bless

Anonymous said...

"Knowing God is not 'faith', but causes faith"? I don't think so. The only knowledge of God is the knowledge of faith, which, as Calvin says, "is more a matter of the heart than the brain, and more of the disposition [affectus] than of the understanding [intelligentiae]" (Inst. III.2.8).

And it's not that "when you see that God is trustworthy, you trust him", as if faith were a matter of observation followed by inference, just the reverse: when you trust God you see that God is trustworthy. For God and his trustworthiness are internally, not externally related, like "spinster" and "unmarried", not like "spinster" and "old" (or some other contingent predicate). As in Rush Rhees' analysis of the divine identity: love, grace, trustworthiness are related to "God" as hands, feet, face are related to "human being". Such is the "grammar" of God.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey you got reasonably close to what I'm saying: faith inheres in God as a basic attribute and yes, our faith is a matter of observation of God's faithfulness followed by recognition of God's faithfulness (not so much "inference", it's just simple recognition). Some theological schemes have gotten out of the habit of seeing faith as the Bible typically portrays it: trust. "Abraham believed God" (etc) ... and again "counting that he who made the promise was faithful".

Faith is created by showing people God's faithfulness, which is to say Christ (Paul to the Romans), and showing them God's grace (John's gospel), which again is to say Christ. And the Spirit comes into them when/because they receive Christ (Paul to the Galatians). I have to say that I'm not one who holds to Calvin's school or paradigm.

Say, if you'd like to continue the conversation maybe we could take it up on our blogs so that we're not cluttering up the comments section?

Take care & God bless

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