Is a Paradigm Approach Relevant to the Appraisal of Contemporary Theology? -- By: Susumu Uda

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 57:1 (Spring 1995)
Article: Is a Paradigm Approach Relevant to the Appraisal of Contemporary Theology?
Author: Susumu Uda


Is a Paradigm Approach Relevant to the Appraisal of Contemporary Theology?

Susumu Uda

I

The term paradigm especially stands out among the most frequently cited technical terms in the contemporary academic world. No one would deny that the appearance of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)1 and the subsequent discussions centering on his theory of paradigm and paradigm shift have decisively contributed to establishing the present paradigmatic climate.

We might be guilty of inexactitude, however, if we merely assume that Kuhn was the pioneer in focusing attention on the fact that science is affected by commitments, presuppositions, philosophies, and value judgments. As scientific studies developed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there was a growing awareness of methodology. Early in this century various sciences gave serious attention to the possibility of working without any presuppositions at all (Voraussetzungslosigkeit). This was the view that scientific research is purely objective and is able to work independently of any presuppositions. In the area of biblical interpretation, as far back as 1831, Leopold I. Rückert, in his Kommentar über den Brief Pauli an die Römer, presented this view by saying that in the interpretation of Scripture it does not matter whether the exegete is orthodox or heretical in his theological outlook, whether he is a supernaturalist, a rationalist, or a pantheist, or whether he is a believer or an unbeliever, since the method used in the interpretation of the Bible is itself somehow neutral or sterile.2 Such a stout assertion not only reflected a very mechanistic type of hermeneutics but also assumed, no doubt, a trust in an ideal humanity along with the then accepted belief in progress. It is generally accepted that the German term Voraussetzungslosigkeit began to be used widely in academic circles in the wake of the controversy concerning the appointment of a Catholic professor of history at the University of Strasbourg. In 1929, Eduard Spranger of the University of Berlin addressed the problem in his Der Sinn der Voraussetzungslosigkeit in den Geisteswissenschaften, where he argued that it is

impossible to work without presuppositions in the sciences of the human spirit and culture. One of the grounds he presented for his argument was that every act and every process of knowing, understanding, and interpreting is influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the knower’s or interpreter’s worldview and value judgments. In tandem with this development, biblical scholars, wres...

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