Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Booknotes: A Little Book for New Theologians

Kelly M. Kapic, 2012. A Little Book for New Theologians. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press

What I am advocating here is what I have elsewhere called an anthroposensitive theology, by which I mean a refusal to divorce theological considerations from practical human application, since theological reflections are always interwoven with anthropological concerns. This combination of "anthropo-" ("human"; "relating to human beings"; from Greek anthropos) and "sensitive" is an attempt to avoid an overly simplistic classification of theology as either theocentric (God-centered) or anthropocentric (human-centred).

Clearly our theology must be God-centered, but this language can mask the reality that our theology is at the same time, concerned with our relation to this God. While other terms such as "pastoral" or "experiential” could be used, these terms often carry either unnecessarily negative connotations or represent a notion of what is done only after theological reflection, as though we work to get our theology correct and then move on to practical concerns. Yet in the complex relationship between life and theology, we should admit that for good or ill our experience and practice not only grow out of theology but also inform it. With this in mind, we turn our attention to characteristics that we must cultivate as the appropriate context for our theological activity:
• faithful reason
• prayer and study
• humility and repentance
• suffering, justice and knowing God
• tradition and community
• love of Scripture (47,48)

For if you do not come, you do not see;
if you do not see, neither do you believe;
if you do not believe, you are still standing far off.
But if you believe, you come near,
and if you believe, you see.
Augustine, "Exposition of the Psalms"

We are all called theologians,
just as [we are] all [called] Christians.
Martin Luther, "Sermon on Psalm 5:17"

Let me seek you in longing,
and long for you in seeking.
Let me find you in love,
and love you in finding.
Anselm (c. 1033-1109), Proslogion

The proper end of the drama of doctrine is wisdom: lived knowledge, a performance of the truth.
Kevin J. Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine

Whether eating, drinking, laughing or working, all that we do is done before the face of God. This is what undergirded the Reformation slogan coram Deo-living before God in all areas of life. This especially applies to our theological studies. Here we are on holy ground, and thus our attitude must be an attitude of prayer. If we are to be faithful, we must always be aware of his presence. (67)

Love theology, of course: but love the-
ology for no other reason than it is
THEOLOGY—the knowledge of God-
and because it is your meat and drink
to know God, to know him truly, and
as far as it is given to mortals, to know
him whole.

B. B. Warfield, "Spiritual Culture in the Theological Seminary"

Second, I am a child of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation movement, which distinctly unpacked such slogans as sola fide ("by faith alone"), sola gratia ("by grace alone"), sola Scriptura ("Scripture alone
solus Christus ("Christ alone") and soli deo Gloria ("glory to God alone"). Of the branches that grew in the soil of the Reformation, I locate myself particularly with the Reformed tradition, originally shaped by the likes of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562) and the more well-known John Calvin (1509-1564). This movement, sometimes unfortunately restricted by the name Calvinism, has developed in a variety of ways and locations since that time. I am shaped by this tradition untold ways, and I am thankful for it. (99)

In this way we recognize both the distinctions and the unbreakable links between the incarnate Word, to written Word and our reception of that Word. Thormas Oden argues that we can think of it this way: Christ is the “revealed Word," while Scripture is the "written Word”. Scriptures serve as our primary source to know the Word, with all other "sources," including tradition ("remembered word"),  experience  ("personally experienced word") and reason (which helps us make sense of the word) serving as secondary sources without the same authority as Scripture. (112)

Thomas C. Oden, The Living God: Systematic Theology, 3 vols (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1987)

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