Trinity And Church: An Examination Of Theological Methodology -- By: John D. Morrison

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 40:3 (Sep 1997)
Article: Trinity And Church: An Examination Of Theological Methodology
Author: John D. Morrison

Trinity And Church:
An Examination Of Theological Methodology

John D. Morrison*

It is useful here to make a basic distinction between two types of orthodoxy: pre- and postmodern. Both are schooled in the same scriptural texts. Both celebrate the same Christ. But one has journeyed through and dwelt in modernity, while the other has not. Postmodern orthodoxy is distinctive not in its essential doctrine but in its historical experience. It has been deeply impacted by modern sociology, physics, psychology, and, more so, by modern history, which premodern orthodoxy has either avoided or by historical accident never had a chance to meet. Postmodern orthodoxy by definition must have undergone a deep immersion in modernity and its varied forms of criticism (Marxian, Nietzschean, and Freudian primarily), worked for it, hoped with it, clung to it, and been thoroughly instructed by it, yet finally has turned away from it in disillusionment, only to come upon classical Christianity as surprisingly more wise, realistic, resourceful, and creative than modernity itself. 1

This statement by Thomas Oden is indicative not only of the cultural sway within which and to which the Church is to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ but also of the difficulty of the theological task to which the Church is called. Therein the doctrines of the triune God, who has redeemed and called out a people to be his own in Jesus Christ, and the Church, which is called to know and worship the triune God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit, are formatively related and mutually reflective theological issues: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.” In the study that follows I intend to critically examine primarily the theological methodology of three recent texts in evangelical theology, each of which claims the term “systematic.” That methodological claim will be analyzed via the respective expressions of God’s triunity and ecclesiology.

Theology for the Community of God by Stanley Grenz 2 may be one of the most consistently integrated works of comprehensive theological expression in recent decades. The theme of community ties the work together from first to last. For that reason the unifying motif of Grenz’ theological methodology either makes or breaks him, particularly as his community theme is manifested in reflection on God’s self-disclosure as Trinity and on the Church.

* John Morrison is associate professor of theological studies at Liberty University, P.O. Box 20000, Lynchburg, VA 24506–8001

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