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Systematische Theologie: Dogmatik


Allen, Paul L.


Theological Method: A Guide for the Per-plexed.


London u. a.: T & T Clark (Bloomsbury) 2012. 272 S. = Guides for the Perplexed. Kart. US$ 25,99. ISBN 978-0-567-11908-7.


Eric E. Hall

One’s embrace of any theological method comprises an intellec-tual move of utmost importance. Such a move will define the pos-sibilities, types, and expanse of the theological truths one might reflectively access. Should one, for instance, confine oneself to re­flection on tradition and a restating of such alone, one tends to neglect the contemporary world and both the insights and exper-iences that may better elucidate theological truth. Should one ignore tradition altogether, one merely repeats the same arguments ad infinitum.
Not that Paul L. Allen is concerned with those examples per se. Rather, in the introduction of this book, A. simply argues that the need for the study of method has reached a tipping point. That is, given contemporary reflections on method in other disciplines and the unsatisfactory nature of today’s methodological reflections (that they elicit no consensus if one can find any such reflections at all), theologians need to set pen to paper to begin illuminating and arguing about what precisely comprises propriety in theological method. They need to do so, if not to find a manner in which to reach for the proper theological truths, then at least for the sake of being honest about the insights one’s methodological tradition finds valuable.
The purpose of this book, as such, seems clarifacatory. Stated succinctly, »the explicit objective of this book is to survey and analyze the theological methods evident in a historically diverse range of figures of the Christian tradition.« (2) So, A. gives pithy and well-organized intellectual accounts of some of Christian theology’s most important thinkers, from St. Paul, through patristics and medieval theology, up to contemporary reflections. More precisely, A. has leaned on the proper theologian to make clear the nature of both individual theological methods and theological method (as an arena for reflection in its own right) as such.
At the bottom of the book lies the thought of the too often neglected 20th century theologian, Bernard Lonergan, notably from his second tome, Method in Theology. A.’s book creatively synthe-sizes Lonergan’s understanding of functional specialty and the order of methodologically explicit operations within the thought of each thinker that he deals with. As such, A. gives both a hermeneutically sensitive but still systematically appropriate interpretation of these historical theologians, allowing important and easily accessible comparisons on the part of the reader. A. deserves much credit for this achievement.
Indeed, if this reader has any critique, it’s simply that A. speaks formally about the nature and need for method, but he does not offer a prescriptive account of method but in the vaguest manner: rightly claiming with Lonergan and Augustine that »the love of god flooding our hearts« forms the primary condition for theological reflection, and that, also in line with Lonergan, both intellectual and moral conversion are necessary on top of this religious con-version. Then again, A. never claims to want to do so, and, in this regard, even this critique stands as a critique of preference as a de-sire to see what my literary interlocutor himself thinks, which isn’t at all necessary in terms of this book. Needless to say, I’ll likely find a way to incorporate this helpful methodological and theological book into my classes.