Types of Christian Theology (Revised)

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Types of Christian Theology (Revised)
Hans W. Frei (1922-88) was one of the most important American theologians of his generation. This book makes available the work in which he was engaged during the last decade of his life. Based on his 1983 Shaffer Lectures at Yale University and his 1987 Cadbury Lectures at the University of Birmingham, it presents Frei's reflections on issues and options in contemporary Christian theology, especially on the relation of theology to biblical interpretation and on the place of theology as an academic tradition. In this book, Frei proposes classifying theologians according to whether they see Christian theology primarily as an academic discipline or as an internal activity of Christian communities. He describes five variations of these views. The first, represented by Immanuel Kant and Gordon Kaufman, regards theology as a philosophical discipline within the academy. The second, represented by theologians as diverse as Wolfhart Pannenberg, David Tracy, and Carl Henry, correlates specifically Christian cultural structures of meaning with general ones. The third type, represented by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Paul Tillich, occupies the middle of the spectrum. The fourth type, represented by Karl Barth, emphasizes the internal descriptive task of theology but remains open to ad hoc correlations with concerns of the wider culture. The fifth, which includes D.Z. Phillips and other Wittgensteinian fideists, opts for pure self description, though this group defends its position with philosophical arguments that, oddly enough, connect it with the other end of the spectrum. Frei argues in favor of the third and fourth options. In his view, theologians like Schleiermacher, and even more,Barth--although often seen as polar opposites--enable theology to remain most faithful to the priority of the ecumenically attested literal sense in biblical interpretation.
Publication Date: 
February 1, 1994