Continuing with Allen’s and Springsted’s Philosophy for Understanding Theology, the last two chapters discuss the issues within postmodern philosophy as well as its ethical concerns.
A working definition of “postmodern” cannot be framed without first a foundation of what “modern” philosophy is. Modern philosophy must be objective and universal, and it must have guidelines defining reasonableness. Two issues arise regarding postmodern philosophy, according to the authors. One is the discussion to retain or eliminate sensory perception when searching for meaning (209-217). The second is the nature of language as Wittgenstein, Foucault, and Derrida are the forefront of the discussion (218-230). The final chapter engages morality within philosophy. Neopaganism, tradition, “quandary ethics,” and “virtue ethics” are concepts that are prompting theologists to discern how Christian doctrine and science, society, and environment behave together (237-246).
Switching gears to a new text, Christian Theology: An Introduction by Alister E. McGrath, the author outlines the basic definition of theology and expands with the branches of theology: historical, systematic, philosophical, pastoral, and mystical (101-109). Two key points of note are Barth’s rejection of natural philosophy with, “God was perfectly capable of revealing himself without any human assistance” (111), and Anselm of Canterbury’s, “faith seeking understanding” to which McGrath elaborates: “To study Christian theology as a purely academic subject, from a disinterested standpoint, is to lose sight of the fact that Christianity is about proclamation, prayer, and worship” (112).
McGrath reinforces this previous statement with, “Christianity is not just about beliefs; it is about changed lives” (121). With the various sources for Biblical text, McGrath echoes Hegel’s historical revelation with his narrative theology (129). He sheds light on frequent discussions regarding the the Old and New Testaments: the exclusivity between Old and New Testaments, overlaps of the texts, and the New Testament fulfilling the prophesies in Old Testament writings; he outlines methods for Biblical interpretation: literal, allegorical, logical, or historical (131-135). Fundamentally, Erasmus declares original text must be accurate in order to build additional interpretation (134).
How we know God and how He reveals Himself to us follows. We know God through doctrine (the Bible, the church), His presence (a teleological approach), experience (feeling), and history (153-157). A sticking point for many theologians, natural theology is discussed and discredited with Barth’s, “It is an attempt to know God in a manner…which [is] determined by humanity, not by God” (164). Necessary in postmodern study is the negotiation of theology and science: “continuity”, “distinctiveness”, and “convergence” (168-169).
McGrath seeks original philosophy by outlining Platonism’s Forms and Aristotelianism’s unmoved mover. McGrath continues with appropriate questions such as: can God be proved? and, can Christianity be a valid position? including Thomas’ “Five Ways” (173-184). McGrath, rightly, discusses the language of theology as analogy, metaphor, and accommodation (188-193).
Ultimately, Karl Rahner correctly posits, “that things begin to go wrong when scientists start playing at being theologians, and vice versa, in that they refuse to respect the distinctive characteristics and limitations of their respective disciplines” (169).