Macquarrie’s Doctrine Of God -- By: Tim Bradshaw

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 44:1 (NA 1993)
Article: Macquarrie’s Doctrine Of God
Author: Tim Bradshaw

Macquarrie’s Doctrine Of God

Tim Bradshaw


Macquarrie critises the Hebraic monarchical view of God in favour of a panentheist interpretation; this means that he wishes to stress the inner relationship between the being of God and nature in a more emanationist model of creation, although he seeks to retain a measure of creative ‘act’ also. He works from an existential analysis of ‘being’, following Heidegger, to a recasting of dogmatic theology in terms of Being and beings. Revelation, personhood, God and Trinity are elaborated accordingly. Critical questions include those of sufficient distinction between God and the world, God as personal, and the viability of the method from Being to Christian theology.

I. Introduction

John Macquarrie, recently retired Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford, has for years been offering a reinterpretation of the doctrine of God which seeks to mediate the truth of Christian faith in modern conceptuality. He has sought to work out his reinterpretation in a spirit of charity towards the orthodoxy of the past and towards other more conservative schools of interpretation. It was interesting that he contributed an essay to The Truth of God Incarnate,1 the collection of essays assembled in response to the The Myth of God Incarnate.2 Macquarrie is not easy to pigeonhole as a theologian, and he can be likened in this to some of the leading continental theologians such as Rahner and Pannenberg, thinkers who show genuine independence of mind and freedom from the bonds of dogmatisms, ancient or modern. He is probably the most accessible theologian advocating a clear shift of the doctrine of God towards panentheism, hence his importance.

Macquarrie’s great range of erudition also marks him out as akin to such continental theologians. The extraordinary learning

displayed in his Twentieth Century Religious Thought3 for example, is sobering. Like his continental counterparts too, his thought is heavily influenced by post-Kantian German philosophy, in particular by Heidegger but also by the absolute idealist tradition. As a translator of Heidegger’s Being and Time, and as one of the world’s leading expositors of the existentialist tradition, he brings to his theology a weight of philosophical expertise unusual in British circles.

Indeed, his refusal to be bound by the straitjacket of British empirical philosophy has been particularly significant. This is because one important aspect of his work ...

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