Thursday, September 04, 2008

Charting on Systematic Theology

Over at The Agora googlegroup, we are discoursing on systematic theology textbooks. And I think one of my replies is interesting and should be posted here (with minor edition). Why interesting? Because as I was writing the reply, it dawn to me that that's what I wanted to do but couldn't find time to put it down. It charts briefly my current course in the theological endeavor.

Personally there are two figures that help me to think theologically. And thinking theologically to me has to be constructive, as you already know (!).

That means such thinking should not merely drive us back to church history but to open up discourses where theologies are being construed afresh and relevantly explored.

These two figures are N.T Wright and Rowan Williams. Nowadays, I suspect that sooner Mike Higton, Oliver O'Donovan and John Webster will be the third, fourth, and fifth ones. (Don't know why Anglican theologians are so attractive).

Though Alister McGrath's Scientific Theology is exciting, nuanced, and very helpful in theological thinking but his works lack immediate relevance to society as compared to Wright and Williams.

I tried Robert Jenson, but he seems to be somewhere on the clouds. As for Norman Geisler, you can forget about him. I got 3 out of his 4 volumes of Systematic Theology texts, and thank God I didn't get the complete set. I would opt for Grudem and Erickson rather than Geisler. I've J. Calvin's Institutes and Cornelius Van Til's Intro to Systematic Theology but still couldn't find time for them. On the other hand, I appreciate John Frame's perspectivalism which he developed through his Theology of Lordship series.

But when it comes to Systematic Theology textbooks, I wouldn't recommend works by the two greats, simply because they might appear to be too 'constructive', hence controversial and easily misunderstood. And I don't think 'controversial' is healthy for those who are interested and just starting to pursue understanding.

And I benefit not only through books but through various people who thread on this same passion.


Steven Sim said...

I can recognized the book on NT Wright's hand alright... seemed I have shown signs of being a biblical scholars, bushy beards and a growing belly.

Steven Sim

Sze Zeng said...

That's the picture when Wright was being presented the Michael Ramsey for that book.

Good for you, beard and belly. Trim them and exercise!

The Inquisitor said...

I confess that I fail to see how Rowan Williams theology has "immediate relevance to society". His theology has good points that are relevant to all society of all times and ages, much like good philosophic systems, but "immediate" is certainly not the word I will use to describe the relevancy of his theology because it is almost impossible to translate into a more concrete setting!