Method in theology : possibilities in the light of Barth, Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein
Subject Area: Theological methodology. - This involves a broader set of issues than purely epistemological ones. - The specialised conduct of theological enquiry needs to be understood by reference to the special type of phenomenon (God) it engages with. Karl Barth's work is seminal here. - Issues in theological methodology quickly merge into issues within theology. Conversely theological issues are treated with a view to their functional environment. They are involved with a method - a particular way of carrying on. - Understanding their human context (phenomenologically speaking) becomes highly significant. Overview: The Function of the Project - To steer a path between the over-elaboration of dogma (Karl Barth and neo-orthodoxy) and an over-confidence in modernity (what might be called neo-liberalism). - Theology should be able to be seen as a serious human practice amongst others - it should be able to descend from its complex doctrinal discussions, if called upon, and relate on many levels to current life-issues. At the same time it should be able to own its distinctive interaction with God and not dissolve into religious anthropology. 'Conclusion': Theology can be Conducted in a Radically Empirical Way - Wittgenstein's emphasis on describing human practice when adopted by theology reduces the risk of theologians hiding in dogma. Whereas Wittgenstein's understanding of 'the given-ness' of practice (forms of life) denies the possibility of explaining theological practice in terms of a generalised anthropology (a tendency of Liberal theology). - If the interaction with God is to be found within theology it cannot be written in through dogmatic gymnastics (e.g. Karl Barth's trinitarian methodology). Nor can it be imposed from without (inexplicably 'given' - e.g. fideism). It emerges from the detail of the diverse and varied practical situations of its involvement in life.