Tag Archives: systematic Theology

Stanley Grenz’s Theological Anthropology – An Overview (Pt. 3)

This is part three of a short series in which I look at Stanley Grenz’s theological anthropology as it can be found in “The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei.”


Having provided a brief overview of Grenz’s methodological commitments we are now in a position to provide a brief overview of his argument. This text is divided into three parts covering Context, Texts, and Application. Part one, “The Context: Trinitarian Theology and the Self,” traces out historical developments of Trinitarian theology and theological-philosophical-psychological understandings of the self. Part two, “The Texts: The Imago Dei in Trinitarian Perspective” addresses biblical texts which shed light upon the imago Dei. Part three, titled, “The Application: The Social Imago and the Postmodern (Loss of) Self” provides an eschatologically determined, social, ecclesial conception of the image of God.

Chapter one begins with the conviction that theological anthropology must be developed under the confession of the the Triune God. Given this conviction Grenz sets the context for a Trinitarian theological anthropology by providing a survey of the renewal of Trinitarian theology that has characterized the 20th and 21st centuries. Grenz begins with Hegel’s turn to the subject and his assumption that Trinitarian theology must take seriously the close connection between the Trinity and the unfolding of history. Starting with Hegel, he travels through the works of Rahner, Barth, Moltmann, and Zizioulas on his way to LaCugna. The thrust of this chapter is to show that the movement away from psychological models of the trinity and the revival of social Trinitarianism is commensurate with the modern rethinking of the notion of persons. Or as Grenz says, “the ascendancy of the focus on the three Trinitarian persons, in turn, opens the way for a truly theological anthropology.”

In chapters two and three Grenz maps the development of contemporary concepts of the self. Chapter two is dedicated to treating the emergence of the concept of the self. Here Grenz states that the modern concept of the self is marked by one key feature: Inwardness. Quoting Charles Taylor Grenz says “our modern notion of the self is related to, one might say constituted by, a certain sense (or perhaps family of senses) of inwardness.” Grenz makes a case Augustine being the progenitor of the “Western concept of the self with its focus on the inwardness of self-consciousness in contrast to the outwardness of relationality to others.” His historical survey covers much ground, expositing the works of Descartes, Locke, and Kant, all whom according to Grenz elevate the autonomous individual self. A second feature of the inward turn according to Grenz is a desire for self-mastery. He deems Calvin as the progenitor of the individualist quest for self-mastery, hidden under the guise of sanctification. Among the “villains” of this individualistic, self-sufficient narrative, Grenz also cites Jonathan Edwards as bequeathing to evangelicalism an individualistic, self-sufficient, “navel-gazing” ethos of spiritual growth. Chapter three argues that the modern sense of self was destabilized and ultimately completely undermined by the postmodern sensitivities of authors such as Montaigne, Rousseau, Emerson, and Nietzsche.  The result was that the postmodern self became “a bundle of fluctuating relationships and momentary preferences…highly unstable, impermanent.”

How can the Christian faith speak into the problem of the post-modern loss of self? Grenz argues that the concept of the imago Dei is the solution to this problem. Surveying three motifs in the theology of the imago Dei: a structural motif, a relational motif, and a “destiny” motif he argues that these three motifs form a constellation of themes which should be considered together. However, the image of God as “being with a destiny” is the fundamental basis for the imago Dei.

Chapters five through seven treat the concept of imago Dei in conversation with the latest findings from the field of biblical studies. Chapter five treats the exegesis of Genesis 1:26-28, the locus classicus for the imago Dei. He also explores the New Testament designation of Christ as the image of God. In chapter six Grenz further develops the idea that Christ is the divine image, by arguing that “he is the head of the new humanity destined to be formed according to that image in fulfillment of God’s intent for human kind fro the beginning.”

Having established on exegetical grounds that conformity to the image of God in Christ is humanity’s eschatological destiny he then turns towards applying this concept to the problems of the postmodern loss of self. In chapter seven he suggests that human sexuality reflects the relation character of the Triune God. Sexuality, Grenz argues, is constituted by a drive towards bonding, the participation in the fullness of the other. This drive towards bonding is only truly fulfilled in the eschatological community of the saints in union with Christ. Thus, the drive for intimacy so prominent in the sexual self hints at something which is fundamental the the nature of the “self,” namely that the self consists of persons bonded in community.

Grenz concludes his section on application in chapter eight where he constructs a notion of an eschatological, ecclesial ontology of the self. Providing another survey detailing the historical development of thought, this time surveying the history of social psychology and narrative theology, Grenz comes to the conclusion that ultimately the solution to the postmodern problem of the loss of self comes in conceiving of the self as the ecclesial self, i.e. a person whose being is grounded in their relation to the eschatological community of Christ. This is grounded in Zizioulas’s Trinitarian theology, in which he claims that God’s being is constituted by relationship or communion. Thus like God himself whose being is in communion, the human self finds its ultimate expression in communion, more specifically communion with the community of those who are bound to the true image of God, Christ.

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Stanley Grenz’s Theological Anthropology – Method (PT. 2)

This is part two of a short series in which I look at Stanley Grenz’s theological anthropology as it can be found in “The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei.”


As I have already hinted in the previous post, Grenz’s project can best be understood as intentionally engaging post-modernism from an evangelical perspective. Grenz states that this project is a part of a larger attempt in attempting to “set forth a coherent Christian theological articulation that is cognizant of the intellectual challenges posed by central postmodern sensitivities.” In addition to his attunement to postmodern sensitivities, Grenz is attuned to the 20th century renaissance of Trinitarian theology and the implications of Trinitarianism for the rest of theology. Grenz explicitly states that truly Trinitarian theology does not simply involve engaging with the doctrine of the Trinity, it “entails viewing all aspects of Christian doctrine in a Trinitarian light.” These two features of his method, his post-modern sensibilities and Trinitarian commitments, emerge as the first key component of his method for doing theological anthropology: a commitment to doing theological anthropology simultaneously from above and from below, that is from the divine to the creaturely and from the creaturely to the divine. This commitment to simultaneously doing theology from above and from below is just one example of how his postmodern sensibilities affect his theological method. As an evangelical, he clearly wants to give appropriate authority to the typical “from above” type sources: Scripture, Creeds, Tradition. However, being sensitive to post-modernism, he realizes that all theology is done in a creaturely context, which in turn affect how we understand the “from-above” type sources. Thus Grenz allows these sources to mutually inform one another.

In addition to his commitment to doing theological anthropology simultaneously from above and from below Grenz is committed to doing what could be called Christological Anthropology. Briefly, this can be thought of as approach to theological anthropology “in which Christology warrants important claims about what it means to be human.” This is especially clear towards the final chapters of The Social God and the Relational Self. For instance in the chapter titled “From Humankind to the True Human” Grenz has a section titled “The Imago Dei and the True Human” in which he highlights the fact that the New Testament writers elevate Christ as the image of God, and by extension declare that “the believing Community shares in this new Christocentric anthropology.” Chapters five and six can be understood as the development of this Christological Anthropology. In chapter five he develops what Scripture means when it says that Christ is the image of God and in chapter six he develops the notion that humanity’s eschatological telos is participation in the image of Christ.

Another one of Grenz’s methodological commitments is his commitment to doing theology for the sake of the church. For Grenz this means that theology is communal and eschatological. Once again, this commitment is expressed in the final four chapters of his book where it becomes clear that he does not see participation in Christ’s image as an individualistic goal, rather he states that participation in Christ’s image is the eschatological destiny given to the new humanity. Further, Grenz adds that “the transformation is not directed toward individuals in isolation….Instead, it involves the transformation of all one’s relationships, and it entails the creation of a new community of those who share together in the transforming presence of the Spirit.” Grenz’s commitment to theology which is communal and eschatological can further be seen in his final constructive proposal in which he states the Christian identify is more than personal, it is a shared identity.  This shared identity is what Grenz calls the Ecclesial Self. The self, which finds its fulfillment in the eschaton, is constituted through the relationality of those who by the Spirit are “in Christ’.”

One final, methodological commitment, which might be easy to overlook is Grenz’s Pannenbergian understanding of the development of history and theology. Pannenberg, who was Grenz’s doktorvater, believed that the truth of Christian doctrine unfolds partly by means discussion and deliberation. This belief leads Pannenberg to include long sections of exposition detailing the historical development of doctrine in his multi-volume systematic theology. In providing long, detailed outlines behind the history of doctrines, he shows his belief that doctrine does not just materialize, rather doctrine has a history which develops and eventually matures. The structure of Grenz’s work displays his commitment to a method akin to Pannenberg’s. In part one Grenz sketches the development of Trinitarian thought from Hegel to LaCugna. He states that this ongoing development of Trinitarian theology entails “a more profound understanding of God as inherently relational and dynamic.” His belief that doctrine develops positively by means of theological debate is made even clearer when he says that “the retrieval of doctrine of the Trinity has paved the way for a fully theological anthropology,” (as if this was impossible prior to the 20th century). His commitment to a Pannenbergian understanding of the development of history and theology is further displayed in the fact that chapters two and three map the conditions that gave birth to the postmodern loss of self. Chapter two traces the rise of the concept of the centered self whereas chapter three traces the undoing of the concept of self. Much like Pannenberg who traces the historical development of concepts in depth, for the sake of showing that true doctrine develops and unfolds through history, Grenz seems to imply that a more accurate notion of the self has gradually developed thanks to these historical theological and philosophical movements. In other words, a truer anthropology has developed and is developing through the history of theology.

Stanley Grenz’s Theological Anthropology – An Introduction (Pt. 1)

Today marks the beginning of a short series in which I look at Stanley Grenz’s theological anthropology as it can be found in “The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei.”


In writing The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei the late Stanley Grenz, a Canadian evangelical theologian, joins a chorus of voices drawing a connection between Trinitarian theology and social concerns. Grenz, is well known for being one of the most significant Trinitarian Evangelical theologians. Even more importantly, Grenz is known for his engagement with postmodernism grounded from an evangelical perspective. Even stating that The Matrix of Christian Theology, of which The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei is the first volume, is intended to provide “the contours of an appropriate theological Construction that takes seriously postmodern concerns, sensitivities, and insights.” (x) Thus, the location of Grenz’s project is best understood as the intersection between post-modernism and evangelicalism. As an evangelical theologian Grenz wants to take grenz023-smseriously the deposit of faith found in Scripture, tradition, and evangelical theology; all while acknowledging the traditional foundationalist way of doing evangelical theology is under fire, especially from philosophers and theologians advocating for a post-foundational epistemology. Thus Grenz attempts to take a post-foundational approach to his theology.  This post-foundationalism builds on the insight that “belief systems, including Christian doctrinal constructions, are better viewed as forming a web – or a mosaic – than an epistemological house built upon an unassailable foundation.” (x) This mosaic includes “canonical scripture, the theological heritage of the church, and the intellectual currents of wider culture.” (x)

This brief series of blogs seeks to engage with this post-modern yet thoroughly evangelical contribution to theological anthropology. Over the next few days I will highlight some key features of Grenz’s method and manner of argumentation, provide an overview of his argument, and conclude by considering some of the strengths and weaknesses of Grenz’s project.

The Philosophy of the Hebrew Bible

I no longer find myself sitting in the bright, sunny, and (awfully) hot Mediterranean climate of Pasadena, rather I find myself sitting in the bright, sunny, and (awfully) hot Mediterranean climate of Jerusalem. So why am I here? To engage with a similar sort of project that the AT project is engaged with at Fuller Seminary; I am here to think through the relationship between Scripture, analytic philosophy, and the life of faith.

Jerusalem

On June 12th-23rd a group of Christian and Jewish scholars whose expertise range from biblical studies, to political philosophy, to analytic theology gathered to discuss Yoram Hazony’s book, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.

In this book Hazony contends that western culture has made a major mistake in not seeing the Hebrew Bible as a significant philosophical work. Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and Plotinus’s Enneads are all part of the Western philosophical cannon, but why isn’t the Hebrew bible? Hazony argues the reason this is so is because the Hebrew Bible has been deemed a “work of revelation” as opposed to a “work of reason.”

 

YSSAccording to Hazony the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures are “in fact closer to being works of reason than anything else.” (Hazony, 3) He laments the fact that Western culture, due to Christian influence, has read the reason-revelation-dichotomy into the Hebrew scriptures. This dichotomy, in turn, has affected the standing of Hebrew Scriptures within public spheres. By turning back to conceiving the Hebrew Scriptures as a work of reason, Hazony hopes to restore its standing in public dialogue. Not only does Hazony argue that the Hebrew Scriptures are works of reason, rather he argues that “Hebrew Scriptures can (and should) be read as works of philosophy, with an aim to discovering what they have to say to the broader discourse concerning the nature of the world and the just life for man.” (4)

Hazony’s attempt at constructing a philosophy of Hebrew Scriptures has two major parts, which respectively, make up the structure of his work as an introduction to the philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. First, Hazony provides a methodological framework by which we can begin to read the Hebrew Scriptures as works of philosophy. He then proceeds to provide some examples of how the authors of scripture were engaging philosophical discourse. This latter part addresses topics like metaphysics, epistemology, and political philosophy. In addressing such topics, he provides plenty of fodder for further reflection by philosophers and analytic theologians.

Dome of the Rock

Over the next few days I hope to write a bit more about the sort of project Hazony is engaged in, so you can expect a few blogs either on the ideas in the book, or ideas that have come out of this workshop and the conference following the workshop.

LATC 2017: Dogmatics & Systematic Theology – Scott Swain

Here are some notes on Scott Swain’s plenary lecture at LATC 2017….

Introduction

Bavinck: Dogmatic Theology is the knowledge God has revealed in his word to the church about the world and creatures as they stand in relation to him.

  • Dogmatics exists because of the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.20170112_203913

Some concerns of Systematic Theology

  • Concerns for unity – NT & OT, Theological Knowledge and other Knowledge
  • Scope – all of scripture
  • Proportion – science of everything, but not about everything
  • Relations – between different areas of Christian theology

B.B. Warfield found that it was necessary to defend the disciplines right to exist. Barth later on concluded that “nothing we are producing now can stand with the achievement of medieval, post-reformation, etc. dogmatics”

  • 20170112_203913Though it hasn’t reached its glory days, it holds some degree of prominence again today

The recent ascendency of ST hasn’t necessarily received a strong welcome from evangelicals. BB Warfield even acknowledges some think that Biblical Theology has replaced ST.

BT’s resistance to letting ST rule has grown. Evangelicals have questioned ST’s ability of ST… it tends to impose a structure not transparently given in scripture. “ST doesn’t encourage the exploration of the Bible’s plotline.”

BT seeks to seek out the rationality and genius of each genre and to ground stuff in unfolding drama of redemptive history.

More recently Missional theology also wonders whether ST needs help. Missional theology would direct ST to attend more to the missional nature of Scripture, and direct itself towards the church’s missional end.

Aim: commend a particular conception of ST as theoretical, contemplative, wisdom.

Thesis One

  • God presents himself to us in his word under the mode of a vision of glory, theological vision is therefore a wonder to be held, a truth to be known, a doctrine to be believed.
    • Vermigli – contemplative wisdom holds first place over practical wisdom
      • The end of Christian godliness is that in us should be repaired that image…. That everyday we may grown in the knowledge of God.
      • Speculative knowledge prior to action

Thesis Two

  • Dogmatic theology has a mixed character, but is still a unity
    • Some disagree – theoretical and practical
    • The unity of the object is not in the material of the object….
    • Because holy scripture speaks of doctrines and morals and describes the principle of unity
  • JI Packer’s illustration of balconeers watching people travelling below. They are onlookers….. travelers, face problems which are essentially practical. They may think over the same area, but their problems differ. The theology of travelers has a theoretical angle. Packer seems to suggest that any concern that unprocessed theory is arcane and uninteresting, engaged in the vice of curiosity.
  • Speculation… a viscous mode of contemplation.
  • We should be anti-speculative but we cannot afford to be anti-theoretical or anti-speculative.
  • Does thinking of theology as “contemplative wisdom” encourage idolatry?
    • Luther: sinful human and the God who justifies
    • Bayer – thinks that it suffers from a totalizing problem, and a de-historicizing problem.
    • With Bayer we can agree that it is susceptible to these mistakes – but the many errors of Hegel aren’t addressed by abandoning ST but modifying it (perhaps under a Pilgrim context)
    • This allows us to insist upon the limited nature of our contemplation
    • Directs us to expecet perfect contemplation only in the beatific vision
    • Some problems w/Bayer – his view undermines God’s self-presentation of his word. Yes God is the justifier, but it does not exhaust God’s action.
  • Dogmatics desrives its character from its primary object: the Triune God
  • Bavinck: God is independent, not only in his existence but in all his attributes and perfections
  • God does not exist for any reason that exists outside of himself. From him and through him and to him are all things
    • Thus while the study of God produces all kinds of practical ends, but it is not exhausted in its service towards practical ends
    • Godliness prepares us for contemplation of God
    • God is Wisdom’s goal

Thesis Three

  • Theology is not a view from nowhere
  • Dogmatic theology occupies itself with God, it is a view of God
  • Theology’s object is twofold – God’s being, wisdom, and power ALSO the unsearchable depth of God’s works
    • It is the thrice holy God almighty and all things relative to God
  • It contemplates objects contemplated by other objects as well, what distinguishes dogmatic theology is not the uniqueness of its objects or what it knows, what distinguishes it is the prespective from which it knows God, humanity and the lilies of the field…
    • From the perspective of God’s self revelation, his naming of humanity, his care for the lilies of the field
  • Dogmatic theology is a view of God from God
    • How? Cuz God has revealed himself to us as he himself is
  • This is why dogmatics does not follow the method of so many science of reasoning from effects to causes. The method of dogmatic theology is to begin from God. That is because that is how God has revealed himself in his word.
  • It is also a view of God from the presence of God
    • Our theology, ectypal, contemplates it from a humbler vantage point. To profess theology is a priestly ministration
  • It is the view of God from God in the presence of God

Thesis Four

  • It takes a systematic shape in commending its work of contemplation
  • What shape might a modest system of dogmatic theology take?
    • Astonished contemplative wonder of Paul, also John’s sketches
  • Following a brief introduction, a system of theology might first treat the depths of the riches of the triune God in his unfathomable being
    • This is not very popular in modern theology
    • “Protestant Theology for Liberals” as an example – it treats God exclusively in relation to creatures.
    • While its true of pilgrim theology that creaturely mediation is a fact, something more is required. Treating God before his relation to creatures takes seriously that God is who he is apart from anyone else. He is who he is.
    • Treating God himself before treating his relation to creatures – allows us to treat his relationship’s mixed nature. One of absolute benevolence, marvelously disinterested interest in us.
    • It may treat secondly, the works of God. Nature, Grace, Glory. Each of these three works are related. Grace restores and perfects nature.
    • Third – connect each individual topic to God as cause. It is due to the fact that strictly speaking, the nature, ends and activities of God’s creatures only exist in relation to God, and therefore creatures can only be understood in relation to God, their supreme author and end.
  • In following this method ST proves itself true to its name as Theology – God, always God from beginning to end (Bavinck)

Dogmatics is a mixed discipline…contemplative understanding of dogmatics might inform the organization of theology. How might such a conception relate to theological and academic disciplines?

Dogmatic theology has the capacity for functioning as an inclusive discipline. Because of its attention to the supreme object and its concern to order all thing in relation to him, it can provide a framework to organize the other disciplines. For these disciplines are finally ordered to the glory of the Triune God and our wellbeing in him.

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