Theological Studies Reforming Theology: Toward A Postmodern Reformed Dogmatics -- By: John R. Franke

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 65:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: Theological Studies Reforming Theology: Toward A Postmodern Reformed Dogmatics
Author: John R. Franke


Theological Studies
Reforming Theology: Toward A Postmodern Reformed Dogmaticsa

John R. Franke

[John R. Franke is Associate Professor of Theology at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, Pa.]

I. Introduction

Reformed theology is reforming theology. This assertion arises from the Reformed concern for the ongoing reformation of the faith and practice of the church according to the Word of God in the context of ever-changing circumstances and situations: ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda. This concern for the continual reformation of the church suggests a corresponding principle with respect to a Reformed conception of theology. Reformed theology is always reforming according to the Word of God in order to bear witness to the eternal truth of the gospel in the context of an ever-changing world characterized by a variety of cultural settings: theologia reformata et semper reformanda. Among the most central intellectual commitments that inform this approach to reformation and theology are the primacy and freedom of God in the governance and guidance of the church and the world along with the contextual and corrupted nature of human knowledge. Accordingly, the process of reformation from the Reformed perspective is not, and never can be, something completed once and for all and appealed to in perpetuity as the “truly Reformed” position. In the words of Jürgen Moltmann, reformation is not “a one time act to which a confessionalist could appeal and upon whose events a traditionalist could rest.”1 Rather, an approach to reformation that acknowledges the primacy and freedom of God in all creaturely relations along with the limited and distorted conceptions of human knowledge will be an ongoing process that is “always reforming.”

However, while this “reforming” principle preserves the primacy of the Word of God in the church and properly acknowledges the contextual nature of all human confession, Michael Welker observes that it has also brought Reformed theology into a “profound crisis” at the beginning of the new millennium. He

notes that the speed, diversity, and complexity of social and cultural change in Western industrialized settings have particularly taxed Reformed theology with its particular openness to contemporary cultural developments. Hence, the theologia reformata et semper reformanda can sometimes appear “to be at the mercy of the shifting Zeitgeist” in which it falls “victim to the cultural stress of innovation.” Welker concludes that when Reformed theology has “entered that stress, it [has] ...

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