How does one navigate the pluralism of our world today?
There’s a lot at stake in this question. Currently, there are only
a few options available to Christians in a
globalized/pluralistic/postmodern society: liberal accomodationism,
conservative retreatism, Hauerwasian sectarianism, and the newcomer:
Milbankian (Radical Orthodoxy) withdrawal into the liturgy.
I know, that’s a lot of “-isms,” but none of these options offers a
Christian the ability to maintain a “robust doctrine of God” (Steve’s
words) and a robust
understanding of pluralism. In other words, is there a way to negotiate
a healthy, dialectical relationship with culture and maintain an orthodox doctrine of God? Steve and I both think there must be, there has to be.
Among practical theologians, there have been a couple major avenues
for navigating these waters. Among the University of Chicago
theologians (Tillich, Tracy, Browning), there has been an evolving
“correlational” model in which theology and culture stand in a
dialectical relationship. Tillich said that culture asks the questions
and theology provides the answers; Tracy and Browning amended this by
saying that each asks questions and each provides answers — i.e.,
theology and culture stand in a mutually critical relationship.
Among the Barthians (Frei, D. Hunsinger, Loder), the response has
been more of what Steve alludes to in his posts: theology has a unique
ability to articulate issues of ultimacy, like God’s revelation, which
comes from outside of the created order. Thus theology trumps all other
disciplines when it comes to issues on which theology is uniquely
While I appreciate the former’s ability to take culture seriously,
it tends to reduce theological reflection to the terms of culture (and
can be a mask for natural theology, as Steve points out). The latter
maintains theology’s integrity, but stands in a position of
interdisciplinary domination, which I find unacceptable in a
pluralistic environment (it’s tough to convince someone to have a
conversation of mutual regard if you start out by stating that you will
inevitably win the argument!).
That’s why I’m attracted to the model of transversal rationality. I’ll flesh that out in the next post…