I was in a discussion with a friend yesterday about the state of theology today. My basic premise was that the previously functional lines of division don’t work anymore. During much of the 20th century there were more or less three theological camps, at least for Protestants and if you end up talking to older ministers they feel obligated to place you in one of these three theological camps before assessing what you are saying. In many cases, I assume because they get uncomfortable with what I am saying, place me in the camp they can’t stand. For example, I am talking to a conservative evangelical and he thinks I am a Bultmanian Liberal because I start talking about historical criticism or treat truth as a category more expansive than fact. Or let’s say I am with a Mainline Liberal minister who warns me that I am turning into a fundy because I believe sin is a theological category worth using or that God was, is, and will be redemptivly active in the world. It is as if what I am saying just does not compute in their world.
I am sure when many of the people I talk with were in seminary these categories may have served a valid purpose (at least for those who like to categorize a theological vision into a single category losing all the nuance). BUT they just don’t work any more if your goal is to actually converse, listen, learn, exchange, dream, imagine, reflect, or just not trivialize someone else when in dialogue here in the New World. So here’s my idea. I am going to attempt to summarize these three Old World Theological paradigms and then see if we (assuming someone else plays along) can come up with more appropriate questions to be concerned about.
Feel free to help me edit the descriptions of these three Old World schools of theology. I’ll change them if you think of something good to add, change, or nuance. The three I am thinking of are conservative orthodoxy, neo-orthodoxy, and liberal theology.