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Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction. Chapter 4: The Modern Period, c.1750 to the Present. Theology and Cultural Developments in the West. The Enlightenment critique of traditional theology The rationality of Christian beliefs

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Alister mcgrath christian theology an introduction l.jpg

Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction

Chapter 4: The Modern Period, c.1750 to the Present

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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Theology and Cultural Developments in the West

  • The Enlightenment critique of traditional theology

    • The rationality of Christian beliefs

    • The basic ideas of Christianity can be derived from reason

    • Reason can judge revelation

    • Conflicts with traditional Christian theology

      • The notion of revelation

      • The status and interpretation of the Bible

      • The identity and significance of Jesus Christ

      • The doctrine of the Trinity

      • The critique of miracles

      • The rejection of original sin

      • The problem of evil

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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  • Romanticism and the renewal of the theological imagination

    • Appeals to human intuition and imagination

    • Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), The Christian Faith

  • Marxism: an intellectual rival to Christianity

    • Karl Marx (1818-83)

    • Marxism in Russia and Europe

    • Marxism and Latin American liberation theology

  • The crisis of faith in Victorian England

    • George Eliot (AKA Mary Ann Evans, 1819-90)

    • Matthew Arnold (1822-88)

  • Darwinism: a new theory of human origins

    • Charles Darwin (1809-82), Origin of the Species

    • William Paley; Charles Kingsley

  • Postmodernism and a new theological agenda

    • Abandonment of centralizing narratives (metanarratives)

    • Deconstructionism

    • Impact on biblical interpretation and systematic theology

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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Key Theologians

  • F.D.E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834)

    • Christian Faith: defense of the faith to its “cultural despisers”

  • John Henry Newman (1801-90)

    • From the Oxford Movement to the Catholic Church

  • Karl Barth (1886-1968)

    • God’s self-revelation

  • Paul Tillich (1886-1965)

    • Correlation of culture and faith

  • Karl Rahner (1904-84)

    • “transcendental method”

  • Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-88)

    • Theodramatics

  • Jürgen Moltmann (b.1926)

    • A suffering God

  • Wolfhart Pannenberg (b.1928)

    • Revelation as history

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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Denominational Developments in Theology

  • Catholicism

    • Second Vatican Council (1962-5)

    • Catholic Tübingen School (1830s)

    • Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Rahner

  • Orthodoxy

    • Russian Orthodoxy

    • Greek Orthodoxy

  • Protestantism

    • Liberal Protestantism

    • Neo-orthodoxy

    • Postliberalism

    • Fundamentalism

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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  • Evangelicalism

    • Four central assumptions:

      • The authority and sufficiency of Scripture

      • The uniqueness of redemption through Christ’s death on the cross

      • The need for personal conversion

      • The necessity and urgency of evangelism

    • Adiaphora

  • Pentecostal and charismatic movements

    • Three “waves”:

      • Classic Pentecostalism (early 1900s)

      • 1960s and 1970s in mainline denominations and Catholicism

      • The “signs and wonders” movement (e.g., John Wimber)

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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Some Recent Western Theological Movements and Trends

  • Liberal Protestantism

    • Friedrich Schleiermacher

    • In light of modern culture and knowledge, Christian beliefs were:

      • abandoned (e.g., doctrine of original sin)

      • reinterpreted (e.g., divinity of Christ)

    • Optimistic view of human nature

    • Middle road between traditionalism and rejection

    • Paul Tillich (1886-1965)

    • Critiques

      • Universal human religious experience?

      • Reliant on transient, secular cultural developments

      • Willing to abandon Christian distinctives to be acceptable to culture

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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  • Modernism

    • Catholic theologians and the Enlightenment

    • Alfred Loisy (1857-1940)

    • George Tyrrell (1861-1909)

    • Modernism in mainstream Protestant denominations

      • England

      • United States

  • Neo-orthodoxy

    • Karl Barth (1886-1968), Church Dogmatics

    • The self-revelation of God in Christ through Scripture

    • Dialectical theology

    • Neo-orthodoxy

    • Critiques:

      • Emphasis on the trascendence and “otherness” of God

      • No external criteria to verify claims - fideism

      • No account of other religions

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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  • La ressourcement, or La nouvelle théologie

    • Catholic theological revival in France

    • Jean Daniélou, “The Present Orientations of Religious Thought” (1946)

    • Rediscovering and reappropriating original sources of theology

    • “Primacy of the pastoral” (Yves Congar)

  • Feminism

    • Conflict with Christianity

    • Reappraisal of the Christian past (Sarah Coakley)

    • Challenges to traditional theology

      • The maleness of God

      • The nature of sin

      • Pastoral theology

      • The person of Christ

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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  • Liberation theology

    • Latin American context, 1960s and 1970s

    • CELAM II (1968 gathering of Catholic bishops at Medellín, Colombia)

    • Basic themes:

      • Oriented toward the poor and oppressed

      • Critical reflection on practice

    • Use of Marxist theory for social analysis

    • Key theological issues

      • Biblical hermeneutics

      • The nature of salvation

  • Black theology

    • North American context, 1960s and 1970s

    • Joseph Washington, Black Religion; Albert Cleage, Black Messiah

    • The “Black Manifesto,” Detroit, 1969

    • James H. Cone (b.1938), Black Theology of Liberation

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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  • Postliberalism

    • Rejection of “universal rationality” and common religious experience; particularity of the Christian faith

    • Antifoundational: rejects universal foundation of knowledge

    • Communitarian: appeal to values and language of a community

    • Historicist: importance of traditions and historical communities

    • George Lindbeck, Nature of Doctrine (1984)

    • Paul Holmer, Grammar of Faith (1978)

    • Theology as descriptive, intrasystematic discipline

    • Christian ethics in communities (Stanley Hauerwas, b.1940)

  • Radical orthodoxy

    • 1990s movement in Anglican theology

    • John Milbank (b.1952)

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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Theologies of the Developing World

  • India

    • Christianity indigenous to India by the fourth century

    • European colonizers

    • Resentment of westernization

    • Keshub Chunder Sen (1838-84)

    • Indian independence, 1947

    • Christianity and Hinduism

      • The cosmic Christ includes all pluralities of religious experience

      • Christ is the goal of the quest of Hinduism

      • Hinduism’s relation to Christianity is analogous to the Old Testament and Judaism

      • Christianity is incompatible with Hinduism

      • The Hindu context gives to rise to a specifically Indian form of Christianity

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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  • Africa

    • European missionaries and colonizers

    • Indigenous African theologians

      • John Mbiti (b.1931), Kenya

      • Kwame Bediako (1945-2008), Ghana

      • Charles Nyamiti (b.1931), Tanzania

    • South Africa and apartheid

Wiley-Blackwell 2010


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