What is Systematic Theology?

What is Systematic Theology?

ROBERT M. DORAN
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 250
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442683297
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  • Book Info
    What is Systematic Theology?
    Book Description:

    In his classic workMethod in Theology, Bernard Lonergan left many questions unanswered in regard to his treatment of systematics. InWhat Is Systematic Theology?Robert M. Doran attempts to articulate and respond to these questions.

    Doran begins by accepting four emphases presented by Lonergan concerning systematics: first, that its principal function is the hypothetical and analogical understanding of the mysteries of faith; second, that it should begin with those mysteries of faith that have received dogmatic status; third, that it must proceed in the 'order of teaching' rather than the 'order of discovery'; and last, that it must be explanatory rather than merely descriptive. He then addresses questions that are raised by each of these emphases.

    What Is Systematic Theology?is the most thorough attempt undertaken to date to advance Lonergan's program for systematics, fully in the spirit of his work but addressing issues that he left to others. Doran's idea of a core set of meanings for systematics - or a 'unified field structure' - is highly original, as is the integration of the systematic ideal and contemporary historical consciousness.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8329-7
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
    Robert M. Doran
  4. 1 The Question
    (pp. 3-6)

    In this book I will confront basic methodological issues in systematic theology and take a position in their regard. While I do so relying on and continually referring to the enormous contributions of Bernard Lonergan to the clarification of those issues, still I begin with the assumption that there is a certain amount of unfinished business in what Lonergan wrote about systematic theology. That unfinished business sets my agenda. My purpose here is not to present an exhaustive interpretation and evaluation of Lonergan’s writings on systematic theology. I have begun that sort of study, but have decided that it must...

  5. 2 The Principal Function of Systematics and the Issues This Raises
    (pp. 7-16)

    There are four emphases in Lonergan’s writings about systematics that I regard as crucial; they must continue to be affirmed even as we attempt to develop the notion of systematics found in his work.

    The first emphasis is the insistence that the principal function of systematics, around which the other functions are assembled, is precisely what Lonergan says it is, namely, the hypothetical, imperfect, analogical, obscure, and gradually developing understanding of the mysteries of faith.¹ The theologian has already affirmed these mysteries in the statements in which one expresses one’s own positions or ‘doctrines,’ and has done so on grounds...

  6. 3 Dogma and Mystery
    (pp. 17-27)

    We have indicated areas of fundamental agreement with Lonergan on the method and objectives of systematics, as well as the questions that arise even from these points of agreement. It is time to turn to developments on what is explicitly given us by Lonergan in his writings on systematics.

    The first point I would make by way of expanding upon Lonergan’s emphases has to do with the relationship between dogmas and the mysteries of faith. It is a complex point.

    First, what is dogma? On Lonergan’s interpretation, the doctrine about doctrine of the First Vatican Council correlates ‘dogmas’ with ‘mysteries.’...

  7. 4 Theological Doctrines
    (pp. 28-41)

    While systematics is centred in an understanding of the mysteries of faith, it is not limited to such mysteries, even when ‘mysteries of faith’ is taken to include more than dogmas, even when it includes the elemental meanings that, as I will argue below, are closest to the form of divine revelation itself. Systematics is an understanding of mysteries, yes, but there are also doctrines, both theological and ecclesial, that do not directly express mysteries of faith but that systematic theologians attempt to work into a synthetic construction. I am especially concerned here, not so much with ecclesial doctrines that...

  8. 5 Categories
    (pp. 42-52)

    A third area where Lonergan’s reflections on systematics can be developed or at least filled out has to do with the transposition of categories. A fourth area concerns the integration of categories transposed from past contexts with categories developed today. And a fifth area concerns the correct way to conceive the relation of the general categories to the special categories. These three points may be covered in one chapter on categories. As my first two points, so these three are rooted in Lonergan’s own statements, and I am doing little more than heightening their importance.

    In my discussion of the...

  9. 6 Mediation
    (pp. 53-60)

    Next we must consider the function of mediation. The issue is intimately related to what we have just said about systematic theological understanding. And more will be said on the topic below, in the context of a discussion of praxis and of theology itself as the praxis of constitutive meaning.¹

    Lonergan writes in an often-quoted sentence at the beginning ofMethod in Theology, ‘A theology mediates between a cultural matrix and the significance and role of a religion within that matrix.’² But seldom has the question been faced, What kind of mediation is performed by theology, and especially by systematic...

  10. 7 Structure
    (pp. 61-77)

    Next, there is the question, What determines the overall structure of a systematic theology? How would one go about a synthetic organization of the meaning constitutive of the Christian church? Where would one begin? In particular, is there a set of theorems and/or hypotheses that can serve, however inchoately at the present time, as what we might call a unified field structure for the entire discipline or functional specialty ‘systematics’?

    In attempting to provide an answer to these questions, I will build on several quite explicit affirmations that appear in very different places in Lonergan’s writings.

    First, as we have...

  11. 8 Anticipations
    (pp. 78-88)

    The level of our own time, which demands thinking on the plane of history, and the related issue of adequate categories impose at least three demands on a systematic theology, three expectations that someone beginning such a theology must anticipate meeting. More will be mentioned later about these expectations,¹ but it is well to call attention to them now before proceeding further.

    First, the ground is now available to enable a contemporary systematic theology to anticipate an ongoing genetic sequence of interrelated systematic positions. Systems are inevitably open. Every system eventually will give rise to questions that the resources of...

  12. 9 The Question of Ground
    (pp. 89-143)

    Our first anticipation named one important manner in which the situation today is remarkablyunlikethe medieval scene. For in our time we know in a quite explicit manner the limits of possible achievement. We know that we may ambition, not some grand synthesis that will stand secure forever, but only an ongoing set of genetically related successive syntheses, all of them incomplete, with the totality residing at a given time not in the mind of any single theologian, but in a collaborative community. Thus a methodological statement that clarifies the objective – What is systematic theology? – and the open heuristic procedures...

  13. 10 System and History
    (pp. 144-206)

    We come at last to the relation between the systematic ideal and the reality of historical consciousness or historical mindedness. I would distinguish at least four meanings of the expression 'system and history.’¹ The first two, ‘Developing Synthesis’ and ‘System as Witness,’ are methodological: How can the systematic ideal be reconciled with historical relativity? The third, 'History as Mediated Object of Systematic Theology,’ completes the heuristic anticipation presently possible for the unified field structure of systematic theology. Discussion of this third meaning takes up most of the present chapter. The fourth meaning, ‘Theology as Praxis,’ treats the historical responsibilities of...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 207-238)
  15. Index
    (pp. 239-253)