Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Research ideas

Gabriel Fackre talks about 3 poles of authority in theology: Scripture, tradition, & experience. Astute observers will notice the correspondence with the so-called Wesleyan quadrilateral, with the omission of reason as a source of authority. It is reasonable to assume that reason, especially if it includes what Michael Polanyi called personal or tacit knowledge, undergirds each of the other three sources of authority. Stanley Grenz and John Franke follow a similar schema, substituting "culture" for "experience" without specifying exactly how culture can be authoritative for theology.Helmut Thielicke, using the lens of Jesus' "Prodigal Son" parable, suggests (revising Barth's rejection of natural theology and particularly the analogy of being) that Christians/theologians ought to pursue (and maintain active conversations with those who pursue) what could be described as cultural knowledge—in philosophy, science, social policy, the arts, and so on. His claim is that, at the point where such pursuits inevitably come up against data that cannot be explained in terms related to ordinary human knowledge, God in grace is able to "break into" human experience, supplying from outside what cannot be known otherwise.Amos Yong, drawing on Irenaeus's metaphor of the ubiquitous Spirit and incarnate Word as the "two hands of God," proposes a pneumatological approach to appreciating the contributions of what I have called above "cultural knowledge," particularly as regards world religions. He notes the way Lints divides contemporary theologians who are exploring this subject into postliberals (such as Lindbeck, whose method is primarily about hermeneutics/narrative) and postmoderns (who use the categories of epistemology/metaphysics). Those divisions may now be somewhat artificial.In the philosophy of science, I find Nancey Murphy's work—drawing on Imre Lakatos—most interesting, along with Alister McGrath, T. F. Torrance, and Philip Clayton, whose work on emergence and panentheism includes what he regards as a helpful dualism that is coherent with Thielicke’s position as I have understood it.In philosophy, particularly metaphysics, I really like what Donald Gelpi does as he compares/integrates the insights of Charles Sanders Peirce and Bernard Lonergan, particularly as he updates Lonergan's categories of conversion as funding what Lonergan identifies as foundational (public) theology.In sociology, Peter Berger has taken some very interesting turns, and Luke Timothy Johnson uses sociological categories in New Testament studies.Re: world religions, I appreciate Amos Yong's "research programme" (to use the term as Murphy captures it from Lakatos for theology). The central points in the above seem to be the interface between theology and other disciplines and a theology of conversion. I want to explore this through the lens of one particular philosophical/epistemological position: how does all the above inform a theologically sound use of constructivist theory/practice in education, especially as it relates to distributed learning and the use of technology?

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