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Saturday, July 29, 2006 

The Proper Starting Point of All Theology

Recently, I stated my goal of reading more works on systematic theology. I have begun this committment by reading (though intermittently) Robert Jenson's Systematic Theology: The Triune God(vol1). Already I am impressed with Jenson. Why? Because Jenson recognizes the true starting point of all subsequent theological reflection:

"To attend to the resurrection is to attend to God self-identified as 'the one who raised the Lord Jesus'. Whoever-and, indeed, whatever-did that, the church says is the reality we mean by 'God.' To attend to the Resurrection and to attend to this particular putative God, to take either as the object of our reflection, are the same." (Jenson, 12)

My kind of theologian.

Amen to that.

This a good issue to think through; thanks for posting it.

If I'm not wrong, there are some who more or less start with reason, evidences, etc. and 'work their way' to God (Geisler). Others begin with the comunity of the people of God (e.g. Franke, Grenz). Others with the Cross (e.g. Moltmann?). Yet others with creation (process theologians?).

But do starting points really matter? As long as the same 'ends' are achieved? what do u think?


Alwyn

Are you familiar with the work of Thorwald Lorenzen? See his _Resurrection and Discipleship: Interpretive Models, Biblical Reflections, Theological Consequences_ (Orbis, 1995) and his more popular follow up, _Resurrection, Discipleship, Justice: Affirming the Resurrection of Jesus Today_ (Smyth & Helwys, 2003).

Alwyn,

I think starting points have to matter in some ways since I'm not so sure that the 'ends" are always achieved or at least certain aspects of theology (such as a theology of 'resurrection') tend to not be explicated. For example, it is my experience that one of the reasons a theology of resurrection is rarely elaborated is because so many theologians begin from incarnational theology which typically ends up subordinating the function of the resurrection in soteriology.

Michael,

I am not familiar with Lorenzen's work. I will definitely have to look that one up. Thanks for the recommendation.

No hassel. I think you haven't gotten Moltmann pegged just right. He began with _A Theology of Hope_ and that is an eschatological (and thus resurrection) starting point.
He never wants to sever cross and resurrection, which, it seems to me, is instinctively right. As Moltmann later put it, _A Theology of Hope_ begins with the resurrection of the Crucified One and _The Crucified God_ begins with the crucifixion of the Risen One. By the time he gets to _The Way of Jesus Christ_ he has found (in dialogue with Anabaptists and various forms of liberation theology) that the meaning of cross and resurrection event depends on seeing it through the lense of the life and teachings of the man Jesus--otherwise we miss the human causes of the crucifixion and we fail to see what kind of life-pattern is vindicated in the resurrection.

So, maybe I'm agreeing with Alwyn that from wherever we start, we must get to everything. Or, since "systematic theology" is too restraing, we must reconceive dogmatics several times from different perspectives--each starting point giving us a different angle on Truth too big to see completely from any angle.

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