Friday, 17 April 2009

Honest Theology

I've grown jaded about the competence and objectivity of "hard theology" since beginning a degree in that discipline. Biblical studies are endlessly fascinating, but when it comes to the dogmatic side, I've learned to shrug my shoulders and press on regardless through, what often seems in effect, a muddle of highly refined apologetics and wishful thinking. Tarting it up with specialized terminology convinces nobody but the already convinced.

At the root of the problem is the reality - in clear contradiction to historic church doctrine - that a fall/redemption narrative is nonsense; a fact that's inescapable to any thinking person in modern times. The was no Fall from a primal state, mortality and decay has been part of life on this planet from the very beginning. Whatever we make of Jesus' life, ministry, death and resurrection, it cannot atone for a mythical sin by Adam, Eve, or any other ancestral figure or group. There is no "original sin", and that's only the beginning of the conundrum.

But wait, Alister McGrath and N. T. Wright come riding in to the rescue from Team Anglican, Ratzinger astride a Vatican donkey, and a host of rabid neo-Calvinists uttering the sacred mantra "karlbart[h]: ommmmmmmm". That's without counting the ragtag bunch of drooling zombies from Dallas Theological Seminary and its ilk.

So it's a huge relief to find Philip Kennedy's A Modern Introduction to Theology. It won't appeal to fundamentalists, anglogelicals or their kin, but it will bring succor to those about to throw up their hands in disgust and walk away because of the duplicity and dishonesty of those who want to cling to pre-modern verities, and thereby sell their souls for - with apologies to ye olde KJV - the pottage that Augustine sod. You'll meet Feuerbach and Kant, find quotes from Cupitt and Kung, and much more - without the usual tap-dancing and tambourines in the background. Kennedy avoids the jargon, and cuts to the chase. I read it over two days, and am heading back in with a highlighter.

Long overdue: five stars.

1 comment:

  1. Yes - theology in most circles today is merely a specious form of apologetics. It's a shame that all the fascinating big questions have become the stomping gound of the most narrow-minded. Thanks for your book recommendation, though - I'll look out for it.

    I recently read a line about the Fall and its relation to redemption. It amused me. It was written by William Poole, and can be found in Milton and the Idea of the Fall (2005, p. 5):

    "original sin is a very difficult concept for any Christian to dismantle, as a proper demolition job leaves Christ with not all that much to do"

    Well, I thought it was kind of funny, anyway. But I'm in biblical studies, and definitely not theology.