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Theology 2.0 - Part 2

Thomas Whitley

We have covered a decent amount of ground in my theology class since the first post in this series, but I have not been covering it here because much of it will be revisited later in the semester in more depth and more detail, so I am waiting to address it until later as well. I do not want to leave you, my faithful readers, without any fodder, though, so I am back at it. Most of our shortened class today was spent on Modernism/Enlightenment and Liberalism. Modernism is the movement, or whatever you want to call it, to which we are all indebted to a great extent. Modernism gave us our scientific method and gave us great phrases such as Rene Descartes' cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). Moreover, modernism gave us our current emphasis on the individual.  Whether the influence of Modernism is positive or negative I will leave for you to determine. The arguments on both sides are lengthy and compelling.

Liberalism is something not altogether different from Modernism. A word of clarification, though, before you read further. By "liberalism" it is meant the movement that is sometimes called "classical liberalism." I am not speaking of that which is on the "left" in doctrine or politics. Liberalism continued with the emphasis of the individual, to a certain extent. Friedrich Schleiermacher is one of the most prominent figures associated with classic liberalism and his work dealt a lot with human experience. He concluded that at the base of all human emotion was dependence. He got to this point by the assumption that one could learn more about God by studying humans. This idea is certainly deplorable to many, but others see great merit in it. Alexander Pope said: "No then thyself, presume not God to scan, the proper study of mankind is man." The negative view of this quote is that Pope wanted only to focus on humans and to have one's self as the focus. The positive view says that Pope understood the futility of believing we can make absolute statements about God. (A memorable phrase to think of here is "all theology is anthropology." While this topic is a bit outside the scope of this post, I will dedicate a post to it if there is any interest in that topic.)

So, what is the point of this post, you may be asking? It is two-fold. The first is to introduce (for those for whom they are new concepts/ideas) Modernism and Liberalism. The second purpose of this post is to facilitate reflective thinking about our own theology and our journey of theology.

My professor closed class with an analogy of a ticket and a train. You are to suppose that you buy a ticket (a theological position) and board the train and ride it as far as it will take you. The goal, then, is to not arrive and think, "How in the world did I end up here?" In other words, examine the implications of your beliefs/theological claims/etc. Now is where you come in. What theological tickets have you bought and at some later point asked, "How in the world did I end up here?" or were otherwise unhappy or surprised by the implications of a belief or position that you held?