Oxford

Graham Ward offers yet another convincing comment about the importance of theology borrowing its language from other discourses. Speaking about the University of Oxford’s decision to change the name of their Theology department to “Theology and Religion,” Ward states,

 Any theology… has to situate its inquiry within the history of religions… Theology has to recognize that it has very few tools for its own science. There cannot be a pure dogmatics as some 20th century theologians believed and persuaded others to believe and pursue. As Aquinas recognized in the opening question of his Summa Theologica, theological inquiry borrows the tools for its analysis from every other intellectual science… If Christian theology, to take one example, has to inquire into what is creation, what it is to be human, the ontological distinction between Creator and creation, the process of sanctification, the nature of sin, the relation of time to eternity, history of salvation and much more, it just cannot ignore the reaches of the discoveries, debates and explorations in the sciences exploring similar and cognate terrains.

Ward’s critique of “20th century theologians” is clearly leveled against Barth and his followers. Yet Ward does more than simply reject Protestant dogmatics on Roman Catholic grounds à la von Balthasar. Like Sarah Coakley’s recent Gifford Lectures, Ward moves beyond a strict “Christomonism” critique, asking us to consider again natural theology’s potential.

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