08 January 2009

What makes a good systematic theology?

John Webster (once described by Rowan Williams as the finest Anglican theologian of his generation) makes the following observations in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology:

The most illuminating systematic theologies are often characterized by (1) conceptual ingenuity, resourcefulness, and suppleness, which enable a projection of Christian claims suitable to draw attention to their richness and complexity; (2) conceptual transparency, which enables a more penetrating understanding of the primary modes of Christian articulation of the gospel; and (3) broad knowledge and sensitive and creative deployment of concepts inherited from the Christian theological tradition. By contrast, systematic theologies are less successful if they are conceptually monotonous or stiff, if concepts threaten to overwhelm or replace that which they are intended to represent, or if the concepts do not have a discernable relation to well-seated theological usage. (p. 10)

(h/t: Der Evangelische Theologe)

So John, when are we going to see your systematic theology?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

could you provide the source of the Rowan Williams comment? I did some digging and i couldn't find it. was it a spoken comment? or something communicated in private?

Lawrence Osborn said...

He made the comment over drinks at the Barth centenary conference in Oxford in 1986. If I remember correctly, it was in the context of a discussion of British theologians getting academic posts in North America.