Thus, his biblical analysis reflects more a concern with getting the doctrinal facts right. In these sections he often uses words like accuracy and precision making the process of biblical interpretation resemble more a scientific experiment than an exercise in searching for revelation.
The assumption behind it is the idea that only when one removes the cultural aspects of a passage that one can reach the core of a doctrine. In other words, the context is secondary and can be stripped off and replaced by new cultural settings 1 Roger E. Olson "The Future of Evangelical Theology : Roger Olson argues that a division between traditionalists and reformists threatens to end our theological consensus. Erickson Christian Theology.
The most glaring is the absence of any treatment, whether negative or positive, of experience. By experience, I do not just mean personal experience but the notion that God can be known through other forms beyond a close analytical reading of the biblical text. The reader could assume that the source of experience is implied in steps four, five and seven where he suggests consulting historical interpretations, other cultural views and extra- biblical sources. Even so, these sources are mostly limited to other writings further reinforcing an epistemological preference for textual knowledge over other forms such as dialogue, prayer, community practices, the sacraments to name just a few.
One must wonder what could have influence such text-focused approach of doing theology. Besides the historical background presented above, he also provide additional clues to what may be driving this position. When defining religion as a human phenomenon, Erickson does acknowledge the role of experience and practices of the faith. Nonetheless, he compartmentalizes theology as the study of Christian beliefs.
Furthermore he wants to locate his theological method as an alternative to both liberationist approaches that focus mostly on historical reflection and subjective whether pluralist or post- liberal approaches to theology. He defines his approach as both upholding religious experience 4 Ibid, Yet in essence, while trying to correct the liberal over-emphasis on human experience, he ends up separating the two in a way that earlier Christian theologians, especially pre-Medieval ones, would not have done.
For all its criticism of liberal and postliberal theology, projects that arose out of modernity, he still retains modernist duality that separates rational knowledge from experience, theory from practice. He devotes a whole chapter in CT to it and has written a number of books through the years on the topic.
Thus, it is unfortunate that such valiant effort is often times hindered by his neglect of experience as a source for theological reflection. While partially acknowledging the critique of postmodernity, he falls short of embracing some of these insights to reorient his theological method. His response to postmodernism can be summarized as changing the form of the message but not the content. Referring back to his ten step method, engagement with postmodernity only happens in step eight, long after his theology, steeped in modernist assumptions is well established and considered doctrinal.
Postmodernizing the Faith
Therefore, all that is needed is a re-branding of theology. What is missing is a deeper critique of the disconnect with experience prevalent in the modernist method of theological reflection. That is, what is missing is an engagement with postmodernity that precedes his analytical steps and encounters the Biblical text with new eyes. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, , Therefore, before re-packaging theology to a postmodern unbelieving world, theology must move closer to the experience of the church.
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This rift is implicitly suggested in the section in which Erickson explains to the reader why theology is important. Yet instead of seeing this opportunity, Erickson, along with many other evangelical thinkers, has chosen instead frame the postmodern paradigm primarily as an attack on absolute truth and consequently a direct challenge to orthodoxy.
If I can trace the context to which Erickson reacting too, I find it to be not a defense of orthodoxy but of objectivity. At first, he holds on to objectivity as way to differentiate his theology from historical Liberal theology. Moreover, Erickson believes that Christianity will stand the test of time by its doctrines.
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Yet, such equating of classical doctrines with orthodoxy betrays his effort to 8 Millard J. Instead, what he ends up doing is finding new ways to prove that the doctrine was right all along.
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This unyielding position is very much present in the Reclaiming the Center, where Erickson join other conservative theologians and scholars in a response to postconservatism by editing and contributing with chapter. In the opening paragraphs of his chapter, he starts with an illustration about flying planes as a way to make his point that human feelings are unreliable and in some cases lead to tragic consequences.
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This impression is later strengthened when he goes on to suggest, as part of a sketch of future evangelical theology, a return to objectivity. Once that is taken into account, his argument sounds mostly a re-packaged modernist conservative view. Erickson seems to be mostly re-affirming his earlier positions and criticism of postmodernity while conceding very little.
He does, however, starts acknowledging the role of context and experience when speaking of the theology of Barth and Gutierrez. In short, Erickson effort to make theology relevant is more or less a sophisticated attempt to sell classical theology to the postmodern reader rather than re-imagining theological truth within contemporary questions. It is so, primarily because of his biblical data driven method which while adequate for a preliminary biblical exegesis falls short of a robust method to develop theology that transcends modernist epistemological categories.
Doing so, not only misses the mark on engaging a postmodern audience but also misses the opportunity to re-connect theology with the believing community. Grenz offers a compelling alternative by suggesting that contextualization is an essential part of doing theology. He is also able to better connect with the believing community by emphasizing Christianity as a way of life rather than a set of propositional truths. Moreover, he aptly identifies and rejects modernist notions of pseudo-scientific objectivity in the task of doing theology.
For him, theological enterprise should not aim for an exact and definitive explication of truth but a method in which we can provide a concise understanding of the 15 Stanley J.
Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. Therefore, he or she has more liberty to re-define theology in contemporary thought patterns, while still realizing it will not be universally authoritative, but contextual. He also introduces a more pneumatologically-based view of Scriptures.
That is, by linking the third person of the Trinity to the process of illumination, Grenz is able to move the locus of authority away from the text itself to the act of reading and interpreting Scripture.
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In other words, illumination limits the role of analytical understanding of Scriptures, recognizing that interpretation goes beyond the careful collection and analysis of data but also depends on divine activity, just as inspiration would recognize divine activity in the process of writing and forming Scriptures. Justin Taylor and others have pointed out the downsides of Grenz view in that by focusing on the human factor of theology, he may well be undermining orthodoxy.
In this topic, Grenz seems more in agreement with his traditionalist counterparts in emphasizing the unreliability of experience. Now in this book Erickson offers his own promised in-depth analysis and constructive response.
The Christian and the postmodernist
What are the intellectual roots of postmodernism? Who are its most prominent exponents?
What can we learn from their critique of modernism? Where do their assumptions and analyses fail us? Where do we go from here? What might a post-postmodernism look like? Erickson addresses these issues with characteristic discernment, clarity and evenhandedness, neither dismissing the insights of postmodern thought nor succumbing uncritically to its allure.