Re: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology? (was: natural theology, bad and good)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Mon May 11 2009 - 11:07:08 EDT

Cameron -

Humor is certianly allowed on the list & I've practiced it a number of times here. If anything, I have to restrain myself from excessive use. I assumed that you weren't entirely serious about the anti-spanking lobby as a source of modern theology but it added to the air of caricature.

& that air of caricature is certainly present in your sketch of "liberal" theologians & their motives below. To suggest that Pannenberg, the modern theologian who revived interest in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus in the 60s & has consistently defended it, who has been active not only in academic theology but as a man of the church in the ecumenical movement, is just in it for the money, borders on the libelous. (Yea, you didn't literally say that, but the affect conveyed by your language is pretty clear.) & Teilhard, wasn't allowed by his church to publish anything in theology, let alone "tak[e] a salary from Church-funded institutions for teaching Christian theology"!

I've been where you are, so permit me a story of a minor revelatory moment. Well before I started seminary I was discussing theology a bit with my fairly conservative Lutheran pastor in Australia & made some disparaging remark about "Bultmann" (Sort of spitting out the name, the way anti-evolutionists do with "Darwin"). The pastor said thoughtfully, "Yes, Bultmann's christology is quite weak, but he's very good on Paul." And I thought "Oh - you mean a theologian can say some things that are valuable even if he's wrong about others?"

I still remain puzzled by your response to what I said in reply to your request for what I saw as the Archimedean point in theology. I expected some criticism but of my own position but not of theologians who have very little in common with me and certainly not of modern theology as a whole. Why bother to ask for my view of the matter? Just to use it as a excuse to criticize others? What do the views of Cox or Hartshorne have to do with mine? If you just want to castigate what you understand modern theology in general to be then you can do it without my participation.

I never suggested that you hadn't read modern theologians. You did, however, say "I am for the most part uninterested in any theology written after about 1600-1700 anyway, except to the extent that it helps to revive and explain for modern audiences the pre-modern tradition of theological thought. I take that to mean that you think that modern theology in general has little positive value for the ongoing mission of the church, &, as I've said, I think that that is a very dangerous attitude. Of course that doesn't mean that pre-1600 theology is to be abandoned. It's very appropriate that one of the Gospel selections suggested for the commemoration of theologians in BCP is Mt.13:47-52, especially the last verse.

"And he said to them, 'Therefor every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.'"


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Cameron Wybrow
  To: asa
  Sent: Monday, May 11, 2009 4:27 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology? (was: natural theology, bad and good)


  "The anti-spanking lobby" was meant as a joke -- a parody. I trust that humour is allowed in posts to this list.

  I wasn't saying that your particular theology resembled the picture I painted. You had complained that I didn't read enough modern theology, and my remarks were meant to explain why I didn't. Much of the modern theology that I've read -- by Hartshorne, Teilhard de Chardin, Harvey Cox, J.A.T. Robinson, Haught, Pannenberg, and others -- seems to me to be a desperate attempt of liberals to justify why they don't believe what centuries of their Christian ancestors believed, while still taking a salary from Church-funded institutions for teaching Christian theology. In this light, can you blame me for preferring to breathe the cleaner, purer air of Etienne Gilson, Thomas Aquinas, and C.S. Lewis -- people who were actually proud of traditional belief, rather than embarrassed by it? I have no disrespect for thoughtful infidels, and I have no disrespect for thoughtful conservatives. My quarrel is with the liberals, who appear eager to serve two masters. It is impossible to accept or reject Christianity when presented with a mushy liberal picture of it. On the other hand, when one contrasts C.S. Lewis's *The Abolition of Man* with Bertrand Russell's *A Free Man's Worship*, what is at stake is perfectly clear. I don't know why post-WW II Christian believers have such difficulty thinking out the basic questions, but certainly the obfuscations of liberal theologians haven't helped matters any.


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: George Murphy
    To: Cameron Wybrow ; asa
    Sent: Friday, May 08, 2009 8:26 AM
    Subject: Re: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology? (was: natural theology, bad and good)

    I'm surprised by this. You asked what, in my view, was the "Archimedean point" in theology and I think my answer was clear - "True theology and the recognition of God are in the crucified Christ.". Of course that needs to be expounded more fully & that's the task of doing theology, but what I was stating with appropriate brevity (though I did go on at greater length than that one sentence) was a "point." & instead of any response to that you launch into a criticism of modern theology. I have no desire to defend the type of theological smorgasbord that you caricature (the anti-spanking lobby?) & certainly don't regard my own theology as anything resembling that. Nor do I think that I've given anyone any reason to think that it does.


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Received on Mon May 11 11:07:59 2009

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