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Constructive or Systematic Theology

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Posted

Okay, here's another question for y'all. Either I'm really green or the industry's a-changin'. I have begun to see the term "constructive theology" crop up in my travels across school websites. Wikipedia, our *trusted* source of all generalized knowledge, has this to say about it,

"A potential problem underlying such study is that in constructing a system of theology, certain elements may be left out, or "forced" in order to maintain the coherence of the overall system... While not a proponent of the language of 'constructive theology,' Karl Barth frequently criticized the practice of systematizing theology or structuring a coherent system upon a philosophical foundation external to theology's own internal commitments."

While I acknowledge the inherant inability of systematic theology to put the mystery of God into neat, little boxes, I alway thought a good systematic theologian would be flexible enough to allow for mystery in his/her working systematic theology and that rooting out logical fallacies and deviations from biblical theology was a necessary part of the work of systematic theology.

So, is Wikipedia off it's rocker (offering an incomplete or slanted definition) or is the shift from systematic to constructive theology part of a larger movement, say toward a post-modern approach to theology? I know this question is less about getting into academia as it is about the movements within theological academia, but it is important to know which schools espouse which philosophy of theology if indeed we are not talking about two equivolent terms here. I would appreciate your thoughts and experience on this. Thanks!

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Posted

There is a good discussion of constructive theology in this paper here. http://www.ams-lgbtq.org/Updates/Horst.htm

constructive theology and systematic theology are not at all the same thing. I think what wikipedia is trying to say is that constructive theology is gaining a foothold as a valid school of thought. Systematic theology has been criticized widely by people of color and women for failing to attend to its own context.

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Posted

There is a good discussion of constructive theology in this paper here. http://www.ams-lgbtq...dates/Horst.htm

constructive theology and systematic theology are not at all the same thing. I think what wikipedia is trying to say is that constructive theology is gaining a foothold as a valid school of thought. Systematic theology has been criticized widely by people of color and women for failing to attend to its own context.

Awesome! Thanks for the tip. I'll go read it.

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Posted (edited)

My working definition of the two has to do with the adjective. In my mind, "Systematic Theology" claims that theology is, well, a system, and that answers can be right or wrong (in a broad sense). "Constructive Theology" acknowledges that theology is a construct and, as such, has the stamp of the theologian on it. In the end, I see both as "theology," just that one (constructive) is acknowledges the inherent instabilities and fallibilities of personal perspectives.

Hope that makes sense. I'm not much of a theologian, so understand that I am greatly oversimplifying a complex topic (and perhaps even getting the oversimplification wrong).

Edited by Postbib Yeshuist

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