. Formative Factors of Theology
Experience: some experiences of the life of faith precede the verbal expression. We try to make sense out of our experience. In the varieties of religious experience there is a certain basic element common to them all: a quest for something beyond.
Revelation: this is the primary source of theology. Revelation is the holy "breaking in" on human life; God takes the initiative, we respond. In the Christian religion Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of God to human beings. Human language cannot adequately express the inexhaustible reality of Jesus Christ; language points beyond the words to a deeper reality--a person. A pattern runs through all religious experiences: a community of faith usually traces its history back to what may be called a "primordial" revelation; the primordial revelation is a paradigm for the experience of the holy in that community; it becomes normative for the experience of the community. How does a person usually enter into primordial Christian revelation? Through Scripture and Tradition.|
Scripture: "a kind of memory."
Scripture is not revelation but one important way whereby the community has access to the primordial revelation. Christian revelation is a person, not a book.
Tradition: Can mean the Gospel itself, transmitted from generation to generation; or it can mean the diverse forms of expression of the gospel.
5. Historically tradition preceded the scriptures; Scriptures and tradition are complementary; anything can be read into scripture; tradition controls interpretation.
The role of tradition is interpretation; interpretation needs to be done over and over again. Every generation must interpret the ancient formula in its own thought categories. One has to ask what the formula was trying to express within its own historical context and then rethink this.
6. Culture: Theology uses the language of the culture in which it was created. Everyone shares in the mentality of his/or her own culture. Formulations are culturally conditioned and need reinterpretation.
7. Reason: A person must be able to question, scrutinize and criticize his/or her religion. Religion to some extent must be reasonable.
GOOD THEOLOGY HOLDS A BALANCE AMONG THESE FORMATIVE FACTORS.
C. The Development of Doctrine
There is general agreement that even if there is some initial given or basic revelation, nevertheless there is doctrinal development or theological advance as that given is continually being reformulated and expressed anew in words.
There is considerable disagreement about the nature of such development. Development necessitates some kind of continuity. Concepts such as God, Sin, Grace, Salvation, constantly need to be rethought. But there are limits to the possibility of reformulation and redefinition if one claims to still be speaking in the Christian tradition.
D. THEOLOGY IN Relation to Other Disciplines
Theology, philosophy, history and human sciences (anthropology, psychology, sociology and natural sciences) must interact in order to gain mutual insights.
Philosophy: theology, on the basis of faith, focuses on God, human beings and the universe; so does philosophy, though not on the basis of faith, but on the basis of reason and experience.
History: history of religion shows that "the quest for something beyond" is not an isolated phenomenon. History shows that all human thinking and talking is historically conditioned.
Human sciences (anthropology, psychology, and sociology): these investigate the phenomenon of human life scientifically; they offer a scientific account of the life of human beings.
Anthropology shows a process of gradual human development: marked by leaps forward from time to time, yet on the whole continuous.
Psychology shows that religious attitudes and beliefs originated at least in part, to satisfy certain needs and shows that we are less rational than we like to believe.
Sociology shows the community of faith within the world, subject to all the laws of social dynamics, responding to pressure, needs, fears and the desire for security (etc.).
Theologians have to hear what the "sciences" of human beings have to say and to take this into account in their work,
Natural sciences: science has taught us that the universe is not built around our needs and that it's also self-explanatory.