Monday, December 29, 2008

On Theological Method

I came across a couple of paragraphs in the forward of Love's Endeavor (by W. H. Vanstone)that seem to encapsulate Vanstone's theological method. I am wrestling with many of these ideas at the moment because they seem to fit, and yet do not fit, within the evangelical tradition of my upbringing. Without saying any more, I turn to H. A. Williams:

Theological truth is the truth of God's relationship with man and it is the fruit not of learning but of experience. In this sense all theology, properly so called, is written in blood. It is an attempt to communicate what has been discovered at great cost in the deepest places of the heart -- by sorrow and joy, frustration and fulfillment, defeat and victory, agony and ecstasy, tragedy and triumph. Theology, properly so called, is the record of a man's wrestling with God. Wounded in some way or other by the struggle the man will certainly be, but in the end he will obtain the blessing promised to those who endure.

The theologian in this respect is no different from the poet or the dramatist. All of them must write in blood. Yet what the theologian is called to do with his experience is different from what the poet or dramatist does. [...] Its center of interest is different in two ways. First, the theologian's primary concern must always be God's relationship with man, and any relationship a man may have with his fellow-men or the world he lives in must always be subsumed under the primary relationship with God. Secondly, the theologian has been nurtured by a tradition of belief and practice and all the time he must relate his insights to the tradition which has nurtured him. However first hand, and in that sense original, those insights may be, they cannot be entirely out of the blue. They have to connect in some way with insights already achieved.

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