"Religion, after all (as everyone knows), is a realm of purely personal conviction sustained by faith, which is (as everyone also knows) an entirely irrational movement of the will, an indistinct impulse of saccharine sentiment, pathetic longing, childish credulity, and vague intuition. And theology, being the special language of religion, is by definition a collection of vacuous assertions, zealous exhortations, and beguiling fables; it is the peculiar patois of a private fixation or tribal allegiance, of interest perhaps to the psychopathologist or anthropologist, but of no greater scientific value than that; surely it has no proper field of study of its own, no real object to investigate, and whatever rules it obeys must be essentially arbitrary.
Now, as it happens, theology is actually a pitilessly demanding discipline concerning an immense, profoundly sophisticated legacy of hermeneutics, dialectics, and logic; it deals in minute detail with a vast variety of concrete historical data; over the centuries, it has incubated speculative systems of extraordinary rigor and intricacy, many of whose questions and methods continue to inform contemporary philosophy; and it does, when all is said and done, constitute the single intellectual, moral, spiritual, and cultural tradition uniting the classical, medieval, and early modern worlds. Even if one entirely avoids considering what metaphysical content one should attach to the word “God,” one can still plausibly argue that theology is no more lacking in a substantial field of inquiry than are history, philosophy, the study of literature, or any of the other genuinely respectable university disciplines.
Moreover, theology requires far greater scholarly range. The properly trained Christian theologian should be a proficient linguist, with a mastery of several ancient and modern tongues, should have formation in the subtleties of the whole Christian dogmatic tradition, should possess a considerable knowledge of the liturgies, texts, and arguments produced in every period of the Church, should be a good historian, should have a thorough philosophical training, should possess considerable knowledge of the fine arts, should have an intelligent interest in such areas as law or economics, and so on. This is not to say that one cannot practice theology without all these attainments, but such an education remains the scholarly ideal of the guild. And, as Stoner rightly notes, the absence or near-absence of theology from the general curriculum has done incalculable harm to students’ ability to understand their own fields. This is perhaps especially—or at least most obviously—true in the case of literary studies; but, in fact, it would be hard to name a discipline outside the hard sciences or mathematics that can be mastered adequately without some degree of theological literacy."– David B. Hart, in "Theology as Knowledge: A Symposium," First Things, May 2006
Systematic theology aspires to deal in a consistent way with all significant questions pertaining to Christian faith and to develop answers to each of these questions in correlation with all the others. A theological system, as an original construal of the meaning of Christianity, is a major achievement of the creative imagination. Faithful to the data of Scripture and tradition, as well as to all that is known from other sources, the systematician integrates all these manifold elements by means of certain overarching principles into a complex and unified whole. Thomas Aquinas and the great medieval doctors were systematicians in this sense. So were Calvin and Suarez. In our own century the same may be said of a few authors such as Paul Tillich, Karl Rahner, and Wolfhart Pannenberg.
The greatest systematic theologians have always, in my estimation, been somewhat unsystematic. They have never been slaves to the logic of their system. Augustine never fully reconciled his Neoplatonic metaphysics with his commitment to the biblical vision of salvation through time and history. Thomas Aquinas, notwithstanding his preference for Aristotelian categories, never abandoned his attachment to Neoplatonism, even in the acute form represented by Pseudo-Dionysius. He interpreted Aristotle with extraordinary freedom and, when it suited him, shifted to biblical and juridical categories. Thus the method of models is helpful not only for mediating between different theological systems but for analyzing the inner tensions within a single theologian's work. No opposition exists between the approach through models and the practice of systematic theology.– Avery Cardinal Dulles in The Craft of Theology: From Symbol to System
Oh, as this seems to be LJ etiquette: permission is given to "friend" me, by all means. I'll probably friend you back, once I spot you.
My Amazon "Remember To Buy This Someday"-List.
"Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books." – Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird