Wednesday 27 October 2010

Low Torrance Tolerance

It may be a terrible personal failing, but I have an extremely low tolerance for the work of a certain gentleman who is currently much admired and fawned over in church circles I once moved in. No, not Karl Barth - although that would be equally true. I sinfully smiled when reading the following anecdote in Don Cupitt's 2000 book, Philosophy's Own Religion, published by SCM.

Twenty years ago the Scottish dogmatic theologian T. F. Torrance read a paper in Cambridge setting out the whole gospel of the dogmatist. In the discussion that followed I asked him how he accounted for the widespread and intractable disagreements that plague theology. 'Sin,' he answered shortly (and doubtless with people like me in mind), and that was that.

Later Cupitt deals to Barth as well, writing of "the followers of Karl Barth, who are the last remaining people who still think of attempting systematic theology." How true.


  1. Theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher "invented" practical theology in the 18th century. At the time, the German research university model was being born (dreaded by leading Church of God intellectuals) -- that's what all of our higher education now is reflecting, for better and worse -- and the work of theology was being broken up into what is called systematic theology, biblical studies, and church history.

    Schleiermacher proposed that a fourth discipline be added, called "practical theology," that would develop "rules of art" for a way of Christian life and ministry.

    Over the course of three hundred years practical theology devolved into application of the findings of the other three disciplines.

  2. uh...."leading Church of God intellectuals"

    Herbie a leading intellectual-isn't that so oxymoronic?