Periodical Reviews -- By: John A. Adair

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 177:707 (Jul 2020)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: John A. Adair

Periodical Reviews

By The Faculty And Staff Of Dallas Theological Seminary

John A. Adair


“Doing Theology with Cultural Studies: Rewriting History—Reimagining Salvation—Decolonizing Theology,” Judith Gruber, Louvain Studies 42 (2019): 103–23.

Culture—the ideas and practices of particular people in particular places and times—influences everything that occurs. What happens, though, when certain unjust, immoral, or unchristian elements of the broader culture or cultures influence the pastors and theologians (and therefore the sermons and books) of the church? How do we best critique our own misguided adventures in biblical interpretation and theological formulation?

In a well-written and, at times, compelling article developed from her inaugural lecture upon joining the theology and religious studies faculty at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Gruber seeks out a path for practicing systematic theology in light of cultural studies. In particular, Gruber is interested in how one might utilize in the doing of systematic theology the approaches of Critical Cultural Theories, “which investigate the political dynamics of power and knowledge regimes in cultural and religious formations” (103). Taking this approach “complicates the foundational theological assumption that there is an authentic Christian proprium [attribute] that exists independently from its relations to other identity discourses,” exposing “a dazzlingly diverse range of Christianities” (104). Historical and theological constructions of theological (and ecclesiological?) cohesion and stability, she asserts, have resulted from negotiations over power and knowledge, negotiations that are not prior to discussions about what constitutes Christian identity. As a result, narratives of cohesion should not be used as “absolute norms” in our articulations of the church’s tradition.

In contrast to the traditional theology “from within,” Gruber suggests reformulating theology in the vein of apologetics, which she defines as “speech from elsewhere” (119). The “elsewhere” here is the territory of Critical Cultural Theories. This apologetic theology will in turn allow contemporary Christians to respond to challenges levied from without, account for “the foundational role other discourses” play “in the formation of Christian traditions” in order to better (more justly, more equitably) articulate our own beliefs. For Gruber, this process is interdisciplinary and takes the “ambiguous practices of meaning-making” inside and outside Christian tradition “as the point of departure for constructing

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