Tag Archives: Oliver Crisp

Is Analytic Theology REALLY Systematic Theology?

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Last week Oliver Crisp kicked off the 2016 Analytic Theology Seminar Series at Fuller Seminary. He gave a wonderfully precise and clear lecture on the relationship between Analytic Theology and Systematic Theology. Basically he answered the question:

Is analytic theology really systematic theology or is it really just ersatz theology?

The way that Crisp approached this question was to examine the works of three different exemplars of systematic theology. Scholars whom nobody would doubt their pedigree as analytic theologians. First he examined the purpose and project of John Webster, followed by Brian Gerrish, and concluding with Gordon Kaufman. All very different types of theologians, but systematic theologians nonetheless.

In examining the works of these theologians he came up with a “shared task” of systematic theology. Think of it as a minimalist account of systematic theology:

Shared Task: Commitment to an intellectual undertaking that involves (though it may not comprise) explicating the conceptual content of the Christian tradition (with the expectation that this is normally done from a position within that tradition, as an adherent of that tradition), using particular religious texts that are part of the Christian tradition, including sacred scripture, as well as human reason, reflection, and praxis (particularly religious practices, as sources for theological judgements.

What jumped out to me about this minimalist account of ST is that it involves to main claims. One claim is about the task and the other is about the sources. The task is one of explanation, the primary sources are religious texts (broadly construed) and other secondary sources.

To me this seems like a fairly minimal account of what systematic theologians do. Naturally some may have a more robust account than this, but none will have something less than this. It seems to me, and it certainly seemed to Crisp that Analytic Theology does what is described in “shared task,” however it does it in a way that uses the tools, methods, and sources of the tradition of philosophy we have come to call “analytic.”

So is Analytic Theology truly Systematic Theology? As long as it keeps to the shared task, I have no reason to say why not.

Analytic Theology Seminars at Fuller Seminary Start Today!

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See the message below from Allison Wiltshire

Hello!

I would like to invite you to join us at Fuller Seminary for a weekly series of talks on human and divine love as part of the Analytic Theology for Theological Formation project.  Our team would be thrilled for you to attend any or all of the events. Feel free to pass along this information to your students or colleagues who may also be interested.
Attached you will find a schedule for the entire series that run January-June as well as a more detailed advertisement for the first 7 events. The first event is tomorrow, January 4, from 3-5pm in the faculty commons at the David Allen Hubbard Library on Fuller’s campus. Dr. Oliver Crisp will open up the series by giving an introduction to analytic theology.
For more information you can visit our website, facebook, or twitter. Feel free to contact me with any questions!
Best,
Allison Wiltshire


Allison Wiltshire 
Fuller Theological Seminary
Research Administrator AT project

When We Think About God

“When we’re talking about God we can’t afford to be sloppy.” As you probably know I am studying in a new field that seeks to revive an ancient form of theological reflection: analytic theology. This discipline that combines the rigor of philosophy with the wonder of theology, I work with Dr. Oliver Crisp, professor of systematic theology, and a team of visiting scholars to reflect carefully on prayer, love, and human nature. In the following video – directed and produced by Fuller Studio – I share my passion for theology, the dangers of muddled thinking, and my hopes for the church to be informed by good theology.

“Theology done well not only impacts people’s lives, says something to the world about who God actually is.”

You can see the original post on Fuller’s Analytic Theology Website.

How I Changed My Mind About Evolution

No, this is not a blog about how I changed my mind about evolution, however it is a blog about a book containing essays from many well known and well respected evangelicals about how they changed their mind about evolution.

This book, edited by Kathryn Applegate and J.B. Stump contains a numerous amount of essays from some significant names like:

  • James K.A. Smith
  • Scot McKnight
  • Ken Fong
  • Tremper Longman III
  • Francis Collins
  • Oliver Crisp
  • John Ortberg
  • N.T. Wright
  • Richard Mouw

Any book with a collection of new essays from authors like those – on any subject would already be incredibly fascinating, let alone on such a contentious subject among evangelicals, like evolution.

Most of the essays in this book are extremely personal, they recount the stories of the contributors’ journey toward accepting evolution as a viable Christian belief about creation. Many of the stories are quite typical, which some readers will find encouraging.how-i-changed-my-mind-about-evolution The story typically goes something like this: 1)I was taught evolution was a godless, anti-Christian theory. 2) I became very interested in “creation science” in order to defend Christianity. 3) I actually began to learn about science and evolution. 4) I was able to reconcile my faith and this belief. 5)Conclusion: evolution, contrary to what I was taught early on, is not a threat to the faith.

One essay in particular, that I found helpful (no surprise here) in understanding the logic behind most of these “evolutions” in belief about creation, was Oliver Crisp’s essay. In his essay he outlines three principles which have helped him reflect upon how faith connects to evolution. The first is that notion of faith seeking understanding. From a position of faith we are committed to understanding our faith. The second is that all truth is God’s truth. Because God is the creator, not truth will actually be a threat to who God is, so we shouldn’t be afraid to seek truth ruthlessly.  Also, this means that in principle our understanding of Scripture and since are compatible, even though we may not yet see how they are compatible. The third is that God is mysterious. Who can fathom God’s ways in providence and creation. He can create in any way he deems necessary.

So who should pick up this book? I think there are several people who need to read it. First, I think that people who don’t believe that evolution and Christianity can be compatible. I recommend this to them, not because they should read this and “believe.” Rather It would be helpful for them to see that genuine Jesus loving Christians can hold to evolutionary theory (whether or not they are correct). Second, those who feel tension in holding their belief in evolutionary theory and robust evangelical faith. Such people need exemplars who can show the way forward in how to hold both views together.  Finally, people who’s “last objection” to becoming a Christian is that they need to check their rational-scientific mind at the door when coming to faith in Christ. As Oliver Crisp’s essay so clearly articulates, all truth is God’s truth. If our faith is true, and evolutionary theory is true, then this poses no threat to God whatsoever.

Book Giveaway

Book Giveaway: I would love to give out a copy of this book to whoever believes it would be helpful to their faith. In order to be eligible to win a copy of this book you can do one of several things (each will constitute one entry).

  1. Tweet out this blog post and mention @cwoznicki
  2. Like this post.
  3. Comment below on how this book would benefit you and your faith.

I will choose one winner very soon. The winner must live within the US in order to be eligible to receive the book.

(Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review)

Analytic Theology in Pastoral Ministry

Last week a group of pastors from across denominations gathered at Fuller Seminary to explore the prospects of analytic theology for pastoral ministry. For many of the pastors there, this was their first exposure to analytic theology; so there was a lot of discussion on what exactly analytic theology is. The colloquium on analytic theology and prayer witnessed serveral presentations from Fuller’s AT team, including Oliver Crisp, Jordan Wessling, and James Arcadi. However my favorite presentation was not by anyone on the

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Bryan Fergus serves as a pastor at Calvary Community Church and as adjunct faculty at Phoenix Seminary.

AT team, it was by a pastor from Arizona: Bryan Fergus from Calvary Community Church. Bryan presented on the topic of Analytic theology in pastoral ministry. Here are my notes from his talk.

  • Why a D.Min?
    • Conviction that we need more middle men – pastor/theologians who can reach down from the academy from the churches and to reach up from the church to the academy w/issues that really face the church.
  • How can AT enhance my pastoral ministry?
  • Thinking this way theologically is good for us who are in the everday business of pastoral ministry.
    • Characterized by rigorous thinking – this is a good thing!
  • What are the benefits of AT for our role as pastors?
    • The precise, rational thinking encouraged by AT facilitates the responsive presentation of truth
      • Isn’t this an obvious given? Couldn’t we engage in any number of intellectual pursuits that hone these skills?
      • AT is uniquely equipped to help us with this part
      • Facilitates the ability to think more critically
        • Helps us grow in responding to “yeah… but what about this?” when we are preaching
        • Learn to anticipate the objections
      • Teach from the pulpit in a more logical and responsive way
    • AT presents a rational path to the faith that many need in our age of skepticism
      • AT is well equipped to walk the middle path between rationalistic faith and experiential faith
    • AT is uniquely equipped to address the “gaps” in our theological understanding.
      • Even those who affirm the authority of scripture, still have to deal with some “gaps” i.e. hell, why would a good, omnipotent, omniscient God create a world with a possibility of hell. We know THAT but we don’t know WHY or HOW of many things in Scripture work.
      • AT is friendly for the exploration of these gaps
      • Why not explore the how/why? Why not invest the same kind of energy we would with friends & family to really get to know God?
      • The endeavor of of exploring these gaps is an act of worship
    • Prayer – Petitionary Prayer and “Gaps”
      • Scripture calls us to pray…
        • Jesus tells his followers to ask their Heavenly Father for things that are important to them.
        • Jesus teaches his disciples a model prayer that includes petitions.
        • Jesus himself prays a prayer of petition.
      • Why or What difference does PP make?
        • God is omniscient… how do our petitions change anything if God already knows it happens?
        • God is perfectly good… why won’t he do the best thing anyway?
        • God is immutable…. How do our prayers make any difference to what God does?

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An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology

Analytic theology is one of the cool, sexy hip things happening. – Michael Bird

Summary

What is analytic theology? I’ve written quite a bit about that question on this blog before. And honestly, a lot of people have throw in their two cents regarding this question. But what we have in Thomas McCall’s An Invitation to Analytic Christian Theology is probably the clearest most concise, most accessible introduction to the topic. As Oliver Crisp says in a blurb “until now it [analytic theology] has had no introductory text…McCall provides a stellar volume for this purpose.” 41muf9-ot5l-_sx331_bo1204203200_

McCall begins this introduction with a brief history of analytic theology, chronicling its emergence from analytic philosophy to analytic philosophy of religion to what we have now, analytic theology. He notes that there is no single decisive settled meaning for the term, but we could say that:

Analytic theology signifies a commitment to employ the conceptual tools of analytic philosophy where those tools might be helpful in the work of constructive Christian theology. (16)

He then addresses some of the common objections people have made about the movement including: “analytic theology relies on a univocal account of religious language,” “analytic theology is an exercise in natural theology,” “analytic theology is naïve with respect to the history of doctrine,” “analytic theology is only apologetics for conservative theology,” and “analytic theology isn’t spiritual edifying.”

[It should be noted that the last objection in particular is an objection that hits close to home for me. I’m a part of Fuller Seminary’s Analytic Theology project whose stated purpose is to focus on three Big Questions as case studies to road test the value of analytic theology in a vocational context: prayer, divine love, and the theological implications and engagement of the sciences of human origins…. The project hypothesizes that Analytic Theology (AT) provides a rigorous intellectual framework for the training and formation of church leaders. Our team will approach this in two ways. First, by “thickening up” AT theologically, providing examples of work that showcases the virtues of AT in written outputs and publications on the three Big Questions of the grant. These are prayer, divine love, and theological anthropology in conversation with the sciences. Second, we will bring together theologians and scholars with pastors and church leaders to explore the ways in which theology, and AT specifically, may be of service to the life of the church.” So yeah, I do think it can be spiritually and pastorally edifying.]

The work McCall does in laying down the foundations of Analytic theology will be very helpful for those seeking an introduction to the topic. But for those who are sort of familiar with analytic theology the later 4 chapters will be of greater interest. In these chapters he addresses the relationship between analytic theology, Scripture, the history of doctrine, and culture. The final chapter addresses how analytic theology stands in relation to theology’s proper posture and approach to its ends. McCall ends with some suggestions about how the analytic theologian may relate to modern theology, the theological interpretation of scripture, global Christianity, and pastoral concerns. In McCall’s opinion, the future of analytic theology is quite promising, precisely because it represents a renewal of older ways of doing theology.

Case Studies

One of my favorite things about this book were the “case studies” that McCall did over the course of each chapter. In the chapter on Analytic Theology and Scripture McCall uses Analytic theology to help bring clarity to what we mean when we say X is biblical. The term “biblical” and “unbiblical” often gets thrown around without sufficient precision. This actually makes for some poor arguments when arguing that one’s position is “biblical” and an opponent’s position is “unbiblical.” McCall places the term “biblical” on a spectrum between stating that: The Bible explicitly asserts P –> the Bible includes sentences that assert p and sentences that assert (not)P. This set of distinctions is important and is helpfully brought to the forefront of our theological work with the help of analytic theology which places a large amount of importance on clarity.

Besides the ctommccall-005ase study on the term “biblical,” McCall applies the virtues of analytic theology to put D.A. Carson’s use of the term “compatibilism” under the microscope. This is an excellent example of how analytic theology can help us to do even biblical theology. In his chapter on historical theology he uses analytic theology to address several contentious Christological controversies: 1) the metaphysics of the incarnation and 2) physicalist Christology. In his chapter on culture McCall takes on recent discussions about creation and evolution. This is likely McCall’s least innovative case study. Nevertheless, this is probably one of the most “practical” of the studies. What the creation/evolution debate really needs is clarity, as the debate suffers from proponents on both sides speaking past one another in broad generalities about the opponents supposedly held position. Consider even how some of those involved in the debates tend to make it an all or nothing issue: evolution or creation, with no clear working definition of what exactly these terms mean. If the dialogue is to go forward these sides need nuancing, and McCall helps bring this to the table.

Some Thoughts

As Mike Bird said – Analytic Theology is one of the cool, sexy hip things happening. He is absolutely right. However the future of analytic theology will be determined by how well it can weave its way into the life of the church. If analytic theology is to stay insider game, played by a small group of experts, the movement will likely die. However, if analytic theology is to become something more than a mere fad it will have to do something… it will have to prove that it has something to contribute to the life of the church. McCall’s work in this introductory text shows that Analytic Theology has what it takes to become more than a mere fad – if done well – analytic theology will become a staple part of the church’s task of thinking and speaking about God in a way that honors the Christian faith.

Note: I received this book this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.