Two Causes for the Rise of Analytic Theology: Convergence and Response

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Never since the late Middle Ages has philosophical theology so flourished as it has during the past thirty years.
— Nicholas Wolterstorff (2009)

In today's blog, I want to give a mere head nod to a second "cause" (for lack of a better word)  behind the rise of Analytic Theology. Let me give the first cause here, and then the second following.

Analytic Theology: a First Cause (Convergence) 

This story is old news to anyone involved in AT. Let me put it down briefly for newcomers. When I sat through philosophy classes or conversations about Analytic Theology, one is often told that AT arose as a result of an intersection between theological and philosophical work in the latter 20th century. While it may come as a surprise to some, there were  Christians working in the Anglo-Analytic philosophical departments of various institutes during the latter half of the 20th century. (Some readers may still be under the illusion that philosophy is not a field that Christians have worked in or should - this is something that should be quickly rectified in their thinking. I can tell my story and comment on this in another posting. )   

Anyhow, Analytic philosophy underwent a sort of course change following its first phase in the early 20th century. The first phase was, broadly speaking, dominated by thinkers like G. Frege, B. Russell, Wittgenstein, and company. That phase focused on the logical positivist agenda, among other things. This was a self-referential agenda that eventually died at its own hand.  Analytic Philosophy in the last third of the 20th century bears affiliations to that earlier generation but is quite different in some respects. Back to our story. As it is told, Christians working in analytic philosophy in the latter third of the 20th century (Basil Mitchell, Plantinga, Wolterstorff, etc..) took up Christian theological issues in their work (e.g. incarnation, Trinity), rather than sticking merely to philosophical issues (e.g. necessity, causation). Good work was done. One could fill out this story with the birth of the Society of Christian Philosophers (SCP) and its quick growth. Plantinga, Wolterstorff, and others have various videos and chapters where they tell the story of these decades. ( Seefor example Nicholas Wolterstorff. "How Philosophical Theology Became Possible within the Analytic Tradition of Philosophy." In Analytic Theology: New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology, by Crisp, Oliver D., and Michael C. Rea, eds., edited by Oliver D. Crisp, and Michael C. Rea. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.  )

As the 80s and 90s rolled along there thus existed two streams of rich work being done side by side; one philosophical (done by Christians in philosophy departments), and another theological (done by seminary professors). Rarely did the two cross. Toward the end of the 20th century that isolation began to break down through various reasons, which I can only guess at. Topics such as Open Theism undoubtedly drew together these two groups as scholars searched for work that had been done on divine foreknowledge. The availability of the internet post-1995 undoubtedly made these resources easier for everyone to exchange. Yearly ETS/EPS and AAR meetings being held close by may have helped. The birth of philosophy programs at seminaries like Talbot brought faculty of theology and philosophy close by. Professional friendships have a story to tell here. Eventually, in the first decade of the 2000's Oliver Crisp and Michael Rea sit down at Notre Dame and discuss what could be done to help philosophers and theologians talk to each other more, engage more, etc.. And on the story could go until we are where we are today with study centers, journals, grants and other efforts all put forward in support of analytic theology- way of engaging in Systematic theology using some of the methods, literature and personalities of analytic philosophy (as exemplified by Christian philosophers). So here we have the rise of AT as a result of natural convergence of fields. 

Analytic Theology: A Second Cause (Response)

Much briefer but still worth noting is a second cause for the rise of analytic theology. That seems to be a response to - among other things - challenges to the traditional Christian faith. Here I am thinking of the publication of John Hicks book The Myth of God Incarnate. As Randall Rauser briefly summarizes the story here (Click here for Rauser's blog)... and I quote him here...

In 1977 John Hick published The Myth of God Incarnate, an edited collection of essays by leading scholars which fell like a bomb on the playground of British theology. The objections to the incarnation presented by the contributors to that book were many, but perhaps the most incisive was presented by Hick himself as he railed against the very coherence of the doctrine: “To say, without explanation, that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was also God is as devoid of meaning as to say that this circle drawn with a pencil on paper is also a square.”The Myth of God Incarnate put many Christians on notice: the doctrine of the incarnation was under attack, not simply from the historians and textual critics, but from the philosophers.”

I have heard more than one person suggest (maybe for a total of three including Rauser) that much of the current AT literature kicked off in earnest thanks to the atmosphere surrounding the response to Hick's book. One of the best examples would be The Logic of God Incarnate (note the similarity in title's) by Thomas Morris. In this case, we have the rise of AT as a result of the convergence of challenges to Christian doctrines. One could perhaps include in this field Open Theism mentioned in the first part, and well as the problem of evil (POE). Here we see theological problems that are uniquely susceptible to philosophical solutions: God and evil, God and time, God and knowledge, the Hypostatic Union, the Trinity, and perhaps in the last 20 years, the Atonement. Much like the earliest history of the church, where Christian theology developed in response to doctrinal challenges, we see the same thing occuring (not that it ever stopped) 2000 years later.

Advice on taking first steps into analytic philosophy.

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Today I ran across a 2015 blog by James Anderson on taking some first steps towards gaining skills in analytic philosophy (one of the major background skillsets behind analytic and philosophical theology). Furthermore, in the comment section are some comments by Greg Welty on approaching educational choices about what schools to attend if one is a Christian student. Finally, in the comment section is also a great list of books that would make an excellent starter library (I have pasted the list below). 

Anderson suggests, in his blog post, Plantinga and Swinburne as sources to read, not because he agrees with all their conclusions (he does not), but because they stand as worthy exemplars of how to go about doing philosophical theology. Anderson also suggests that a key skill needed in doing philosophical theology is the ability to construct arguments well.  He lists resources to that end. 

At the risk of being overly simplistic, I think one needs two or three years move through 1-6:

  1. Learn a sufficient amount of concepts in metaphysics, epistemology ethics, then wider topics like philosophy of science, language, philosophical theology, etc...  - the topics, the moves, the major discussions. This takes at least two years of near constant engagement if one wants to feel less than completely lost in philosophical contexts. 
  2. Learn how arguments are constructed and how they fail, succeed (i.e. learn some logic). From my experience one does not need to become a logician (whatever that means) but one does need a least a good working knowledge of the basics. 
  3. Watch the pros do their thing in terms of applying (1) and (2) above to more up to date issues and topics.  
  4. Talk philosophy with others who know the field and care about you. This is perhaps the most underrated activity (one I was unable to do much of when I was directly studying philosophy) but that I suspected had a major formative impact on those who could. 
  5. Try writing your own stuff either in a classroom setting or in blogging? Philosophy and theology are done formally in written format. At conferences, they live on the edge and read papers - out loud! Papers are (often as a next step) submitted to journals as contributions to an ongoing conversation. 
  6. Start moving into your own areas of interest. This will drive you back to repeat stages (1) and (2) ... not that you ever stop... as needed for your own work. 

So read Anderson's blog here - 

I've pasted the book list from Greg Welty ... yes, I've totally lifted it from the above blog post largely because it is only a book list and was a posted in a comment. Also many of these (all?) books were already on our site, but this is a nice list for starters. 

Shorter list (Welty's opinion). Last year I created my own shorter list (with pictures!) and you can find it here but below is Welty's list. 

Short List:

  1. Diogenes Allen and Eric Springsted, Philosophy For Understanding Theology, Second Edition (Westminster John Knox Press, 2007) [ISBN: 978-0664231804]
  2. Thomas Flint and Michael Rea (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011) [ISBN: 978-0199596539]
  3. Michael Rea, Oxford Readings in Philosophical Theology: Volume 1: Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement (Oxford Univ. Press, 2009) [ISBN: 978-0199237463]
  4. Michael Rea, Oxford Readings in Philosophical Theology: Volume 2: Providence, Scripture, and Resurrection (Oxford Univ. Press, 2009) [ISBN: 978-0199237487]

Longer list:

  1. Marilyn McCord Adams, Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  2. James Anderson, Paradox in Christian Theology: An Analysis of Its Presence, Character, and Epistemic Status (Waynesboro, Georgia: Paternoster Theological Monographs, 2007).
  3. Augustine, The Trinity, trans. E. Hill (New York: New City Press, 1991).
  4. Gustaf Aulén, Christus Victor, trans. H.G. Herbert (New York: MacMillan, 1969).
  5. Oliver Crisp, Divinity and Humanity: The Incarnation Reconsidered (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007) [978-0521695350]. 202 pages.
  6. Oliver Crisp, God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology (London: T&T Clark, 2009).
  7. Oliver Crisp (ed.), A Reader in Contemporary Philosophical Theology (New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2009) [9780567031464]. 392 pages.
  8. Oliver Crisp and Michael Rea (eds.), Analytic Theology: New Essays in the Philosophy of Theology (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011) [ISBN: 978-0199600427]
  9. Richard Cross, The Metaphysics of God Incarnate (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
  10. Stephen T. Davis, Christian Philosophical Theology (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006) [978-0199284597]. 320 pages.
  11. Steven T. Davis, Daniel Kendall, Gerald O’Collins (eds.), The Incarnation: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Incarnation of the Son of God (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004) [978-0199275779]. 430 pages.
  12. Steven T. Davis, Daniel Kendall, Gerald O’Collins (eds.), The Redemption: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on Christ as Redeemer (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2006) [978-0199288755]. 384 pages.
  13. Steven T. Davis, Daniel Kendall, Gerald O’Collins (eds.), The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002) [978-0199246120]. 424 pages.
  14. Stephen Finlan, Problems with Atonement: The Origins of, and Controversy About, the Atonement Doctrine (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2005).
  15. Stephen Finlan, Options on Atonement in Christian Thought (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2007).
  16. Thomas P. Flint, Divine Providence: The Molinist Account (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1998).
  17. Thomas Flint and Michael Rea (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011) [ISBN: 978-0199596539]
  18. Paul Helm, The Divine Revelation: The Basic Issues (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2004 [1986]) [978-1573833042]. 164 pages.
  19. John Hick, The Metaphor of God Incarnate (Westminster: John Knox Press, 1993).
  20. Hud Hudson, A Materialist Metaphysics of the Human Person (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001).
  21. John Leslie, Immortality Defended (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2007).
  22. Thomas McCall, Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism?: Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarian Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmanns, 2010).
  23. Thomas V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1986).
  24. Thomas V. Morris (ed.), Philosophy and the Christian Faith (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988).
  25. John Perry, A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1978).
  26. Alvin Plantinga, ch. 12 of Warranted Christian Belief (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000) [978-0195131932]. 528 pages.
  27. Michael Rea (ed.), Oxford Readings in Philosophical Theology – Volume I: Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009) [978-0199237463]. 384 pages.
  28. Michael Rea (ed.), Oxford Readings in Philosophical Theology – Volume II: Providence, Scripture, and Resurrection (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2009) [978-0199237487]. 448 pages.
  29. Eleanor Stump (author), Thomas Flint (ed.), Hermes and Athena: Biblical Exegesis and Philosophical Theology (University of Notre Dame Studies in the Philosophy of Religion, 7) (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 1993) [978-0268011000].
  30. Richard Swinburne, The Christian God (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
  31. Richard Swinburne, Responsibility and Atonement (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).
  32. Richard Swinburne, Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy (Second Edition) (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2007) [978-0199212477]. 376 pages.
  33. Charles Taliaferro, The Cambridge Companion to Christian Philosophical Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009) [978-0521730372]. 288 pages.
  34. Kathryn Tanner, Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2001).
  35. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995) [978-0521475570]. 340 pages.

Analytic Theology for Pastors - Part 1

Next Friday Fuller Seminary will be hosting a colloquium for pastors who are interested in analytic theology. In light of that I would like to throw out a few thoughts to signal how I think about analytic theology. Perhaps these thoughts will help readers (pastors among them). In this first blog I want to sketch out a bit of background information. In part two I'll either give more specific examples, or discuss where to go if you are interested in learning more. 

What is analytic theology? Lest I scare away certain readers too quickly, I'm going to avoid using the "P" word right out of the blocks. (Keep reading, you'll figure it out). Instead I want to begin by easing into some basic ideas that float through my mind when I think about analytic theology. 

  1. Analogy 1: Analytic Theology is theology done in a new key. Pastors are no doubt familiar with theology done in other "keys"  such as Biblical theology, historical theology, practical theology or systematic theology. To do analytic theology is to do theology, similarly, in a new key or perhaps even as one phase of systematic theology. Analytic theology is theology, but it involves approaching theology in a certain way. 
  2. Analogy 2: Analytic theology is (in some ways) to theological thought what knowledge of Greek/Hebrew are to certain stages of doing exegesis.  Just as you have tools for interpreting the Scripture, there are certain tools (i.e. words, concepts, long running dialogues to join, classic books to read) to aid in thinking carefully about theology. Pastoral training has historically included the development of at least a minimal set of skills in Greek and Hebrew. This enables the teacher or pastor to work carefully with the original language of ScriptureWithout knowledge of original languages one is dependent upon what others write or say, and in many areas one's interpretation of a passage will depend upon what others, who do have competency in the languages, say that a certain passage means.

    Could you do exegesis without knowing any Greek and Hebrew? Yes. Do you want to as a teacher or pastor? Ideally no. Could you understand the bible without knowing anything about historical backgrounds and Biblical geography? Yes. Do you want to as a teacher or pastor? Definitely not. Likewise, can you lead a discussion about the attributes of God, or the incarnation, or the makeup of the inner person,  God's relation to time and space without knowing some analytic or philosophical theology? Yes. Do you want to as a pastor?  I'm going to suggest, "No". Minimally, just like knowing something about the original languages will help you use tools better, similarly knowing something about analytic theology will help you use theological tools better. 
  3. Analytic theology is like a man who brings things out of his storehouse that are both old and new. One could argue that analytic and/or philosophical theology has been done since the days of the church fathers. Those who hammered out the ecumenical creeds engaged in certain forms of philosophical theology as part of their background work. Scholastics like Anselm, Aquinas and Scotus set a high water mark for such thought many centuries later. In our own day there seems to have been a rebirth of this way of approaching theological questions post 1960 as Christians, working in philosophy, applied their skills to theological questions. The story for that hiatus will perhaps need to wait for another blog.  Therefore (point 4)...
  4. Analytic theology should not be equated with turn of the century analytic philosophy any more than a seminary's current identity should be tightly equated with their turn of the century forebears. Analytic theology was born out of a mix between (as noted above) analytic philosophers with doing work on topics of Christian theology - but in ways that involved more philosophical approaches. Here you see I've gone and used the "P" word!  Before you write this off as inapplicable to followers of Christ - let me remind you of a favorite phrase of pastors. "The question is not if one is a theologian. We are all theologians; we all think about God. The question is how well we think about God." Might I add, as one who once thought philosophy had nothing to do with Christianity, that, "We are all likewise philosophers." We all think and think about thinking. We all discuss The question is, "How well do we do it?" It turns out that Athens has much to do with Jerusalem. More on that in another blog. Back to the story then... 

    Because there was a shift in analytic philosophy after the fall of logical positivism, one should not associate analytic philosophy immediately with Bertrand Russell, the early Wittgenstein, Frege, etc..  If you hear someone attempting to equate analytic philosophy (and by extension analytic theology) to merely reducing theological statements to formal logic, remind yourself that you are being presented with a incomplete caricature.  Yes, some of the high octane stuff may be encounters at the borderlands between analytic theology and philosophical theology (or philosophy of religion) but this is by no means the heart of analytic theology. There is something here fore everyone; especially the questions! If one merely skims through analytic theology to discover the sorts of questions that one has forgotten to ask, or assumed they knew the answers to, one will have done well. 

     Just to finish up this point, more representative names for philosophical theology would include (yes I am randomly listing names out  thereby leaving off some that should not be left... and yes I am risking a false abstraction by trying to organize them by generations):  
    1. (1st Gen) Basil Mitchell, George Mavrodes, Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorf,
    2. (2nd Gen) Plantinga/Wolterstorff again, William Hasker, Thomas Flint, Linda Zagzebski, Eleonre Stump, Richard Swinburne, Thomas Morris...
    3. (3rd Gen) Oliver Crisp, Michael Rea, Thomas McCall, Trent Doughtery, ...
    4. (4th gen) recent PhD students etc.. 

      If pressed I would say that the 2nd generation were those who threw open the floodgates on this area of work by demonstrated that Christian philosophers could do philosophical work every bit as rigorous as secular philosophers. Furthermore they demonstrated that theological topics provided rich ground for learning and advancing philosophical work. 
  5. But what is analytic theology? From my limited perspective here are some of the places where you see analytic theology in action. First, it seems to me that many Christian philosophers and analytic theologians have a bit of a realist bent to them. In other words, man, not all, analytic theologians, in discussing something like the hypostatic union would take this as  areal union meriting more than handwaving-as-explanation. An analytic theologian would not quote a list of Bible verses (and take themselves to be giving an explanation or model for the hypostatic union). Nor would they wave such explanations off as pure mystery. Nor would they be eager to take on board higher Biblical criticism and explain the incarnation as a mythical construct of the early Christian community. Instead an analytic theologian might think about how the clues of Scripture, philosophy,  or the sciences help us to think of a model for what the hypostatic union might work like ... and here is a key... in a way that is faithful to some of the material that we have while at the same time avoiding some problem. 

    Analytic theologians tend to be problem solvers and solution creators. If I've seen anything, I've seen the analytic crowd attempting to find ways to hold onto orthodox theology by developing solutions to conceptual puzzles encountered in theology. While some Christians may declare certain topics to be "mystery" and thus off limits - we can at least ask what makes them right about where the boundaries lie? What if, unbeknownst to some theologians, there was an entire parallel world of rich thought about theological issues that provided conceptual tools for thinking carefully (and at times more fruitfully) about what others categorize under "mystery".   To that end (point 7)
  6. Behold the parallel universe! It turns out that on a great number of topics, theologians and Christian philosophers have been writing - great stuff - and not reading each others works. Word on the street is that philosophers and theologians are friends but keep their distance. I'm reminded here of Air Force pilots and Navy Sailors. They know they are on the same team but they both have their own ways of doing things, their own equipment, different chain of commands, etc.. They serve the same nation but often live in very different "communities". Likewise Christian theologians and philosophers. Analytic theology is all about bringing these two domains of rich work into fruitful contact.  
  7. Analytic theology is not apologetics, but they do have one thing in common. Analytic theology is quite different than apologetics. The later is aimed at defending the faith or making progress in evangelistic encounters. Exchanges between believers and non-believers provide the real world context. Analytic theology by contrast is aimed at putting thinking tools (honed by Christians working in philosophical theology) to work on theological topics. Church dogmatics, or teaching the church theology is the real world context here. Where they bear a slight resemblance is that at times both  theology and apologetics find themselves engaged in unravelling challenges that stand in the way of comprehending (not exhaustively of course) certain theological ideas. Often these challenges are posed by those who do not consider themselves followers of Christ as part of the structure of their non-belief. (E.g. Christian theology often speaks of a soul. Neuroscience says the mind is reducible to (i.e. just is) the brain and that there is no soul. Therefore Christian theology is wrong on this account. And because Christian theology is wrong here then ... and I'll leave it to your imagination to fill in the blank. This is a rather pedestrian example of a theological topic from the theological loci we call anthropology that could come up in both a Sunday School class or on the street corner.  

    Stick with me now... Haven't theologians always talked bout such things? What is particularly analytic about this topic? The biblical scholar might list off verses containing words like sarx, or nephesh in an effort to figure out what was meant by those terms. The historian will enumerate what the church has taught about the soul in various eras. The analytic theologian is going to enter the conversation and investigate claims about what really contradicts what here, or perhaps show that someone in the conversation is equivocating on how they are using a phrase, or introduce various models from the philosophy of mind for how one could understand the soul (e.g. hylomorphism, property dualism, idealism, emergent dualism, etc.. ) and suggest which one best fits with the Biblical texts. 

    But what will analytic theology do for me and my church? 

    1. It will make you  as a teacher a more careful thinker by forcing you to clarify how words are being used or misused in your discussion of theology. We often use words like "this is", or "this shows" or "this proves" or "God could just do ____",  in ways that are inaccurate. Sometimes we claim God could do things that are logically impossible just because we have a sloppy view of omnipotence.  Sometimes we claim to hold a view and simultaneously hold things incompatible. This isn't a fault. We've all thought hard about some things, but perhaps not about other things. So AT will help you become more internally consistent with your set of beliefs. It will help you discover the implications of certain theological beliefs. Perhaps something you say you belief implies something you don't actually want to imply!
    2. Many of the people in our congregations learn physics and calculus in high school. They go on to operate on bodies and massive computer networks. They manage hedge funds and teams of brilliant people.  Ironically the church can sometimes treat such people like children when it comes to engaging them theologically. New Testament scholar Michael Wilkins points out that history has reversed itself. Where once the pastor was the most educated person in the congregation, it now seems that the pastor is often the least educated! When the smart people in our congregation get to wondering about certain "questions" it does them no good to hear too frequently that "These things are just mysteries that we won't know until heaven". Too much of this can invite skepticism. Why not introduce them to a formidable world of careful thinkers who can guide them through questions on God's hiddenness, the Trinity, human constitution, whether prayer changes God, free will, etc.  Making this move will require some education on the part of the pastor however.
    3. Analytic theology can help you realize that some topics that Christians wave off as "speculative" or "mysterious" are not that at all; it's just that they didn't yet have the conceptual tools to think through the answer set yet. I can personally recall questions that I thought were absolute mysteries (while attending a leading evangelical seminary) that now (with a degree in philosophy under my belt) I look at very differently. I can now (at least) map out both the exegetical options, as well as the conceptual options for certain topics. It is one thing to list out all the verses that speak about the soul. It is a completely different think to list out 6 different ways a person may or may not have a soul and be able to think about which model best fits the verses. Complete game changer. But yes, it takes time to get there. 
    4. Because of its affinity for historical retrieval, analytic theology can introduce you and those in your church to partners from bygone centuries that asked the same questions - and at times - more carefully worked through options (i.e. see Aquinas). This can also bring a newfound respect for older writers. 
    5. Often analytic theology can help you find the connecting links necessary for bridging  concepts from the everyday world (e.g. psychology, neuroscience,..) to Biblical and theological concepts. 
    6. While we must always take care to not be prideful, AT can bring a bit more confidence. This is because after enough experience one can take themselves to be working with a whole extra dimension of care/clarity/info that wasn't there before. 
    7. Analytic theology frequently sends us running back to the Scriptures, now that one has been introduced to a host of conceptual options (see 4 above)  for new exegetical clues. In other words, it provides yet one more thing (along side background studies, exegetical studies, and theological studies) to triangulate just where you want to position yourself theologically on a topic. At times it can almost feel like you are working with three dimensions of a theological idea rather than two. (Dimension one: what does the text say? Dimension two: what options and limits do other theological concepts provide? Dimension three: what logical or conceptual or scientific limits further clarify this issue? Dimension four: what historical limits or options are there). 

    We Are Back Like Rip Van Winkle!

    We're Back...

    So. It's been waaaay to long since I last wrote - BUT - in that time I finished up my MA in philosophy and was accepted into a PhD program in Analytic Theology under the supervision of Oliver Crisp. In PhD programs and subsequent opportunities it is important that one learn from others but ultimately "be themselves". Other people have a variety of ways learning and exploring. In my own experience I get some good motivation from creating tools/systems for others to use. To that end I'd like to map out some of the core questions/topics that I see analytic theologians or philosophical theologians talking about. Yes by this time in history there are too many, but at least we can start with the basics. God's relation to time, divine foreknowledge, how we know about God, what soul is, what persons are, etc.. 

    The Map.

    This site already has a Bibliography that can be built out. This will be different. We can call this The Issues Map and later we can change the name into something cooler. So here is a basic plan. 

    1. Create a page each for the major categories of theology (e.g. God, Persons, Salvation, Last Things)
    2. On each page list out the major questions/topics/issues in simple title format. Perhaps as a question. Each statement/question would be a link to it's own page with as clear and brief of an article as possible. (E.g.) What is the relationship of God to Time? Is the Son Eternally Subordinate to the Father?)
    3. Below that (tabbed over) there can be various sub-questions or summer its. (e.g. "God Is Atemporal") 
    4. As I create articles, various other questions (to be answered) will surface. I can quickly stop, create a link to a fresh page, and title that page (leaving it blank to fill in later). 
    5. Articles will reference sources to support the summaries. 

    Ready set go...

    Writers Needed

     One of my favorite characters in Raphael's  The School of Athens.

    One of my favorite characters in Raphael's The School of Athens.

    My vision for the blog here at the Analytic and Philosophical theology site is that it would be known as a place that consistently released accessible blog posts which introduce readers at the local church level (or readers from other backgrounds) to both the work already done in analytic/philosophic theology and the work being done currently. Below are potential topics that I would like to see contributors (myself included) write on. If you are interested in contributing once, or multiple times for this blog click the Contact link above.


    1. What is philosophical theology?
    2. Rise of philosophical theology in the 20th century.  
    3. Can we define the boundaries of philosophical theology - when are we doing it and when not?
    4. what is the relationship between philosophical theology and systematic theology? 
    5. What is Analytic Theology and how does it differ from philosophical theology? 
    6. Is there a substantial difference between philosophical theology and philosophy of religion? 
    7. Contrasts between philosophical theology today and similar philosophical or theological projects in centuries past?  
    8. What groups and goals are represented by those doing philosophical theology over the last few decades? What method, interests, or basic belief sets do these persons share in common (e.g. Christian theism? minimal theism? mere interest in certain topics?)

    Philosophical Theology and the church.

    1. What does Philosophical Theology offer the church today?
    2. How can local church leaders make use of the resources of Phil Theo? Must they gain a certain level of philosophical education themselves to do so effectively? 
    3. What practical tools do leaders and theologians turn to so as to gain access to the core deliverances of philosophical theology in recent decades (if such tools exist ). 
    4. What is the relationship between those working in philosophy, philosophical theology and the church? Might this be similar to the relationship of any professional working in a domain that crosses boundaries with the resources of the church? 
    5. Are there ways philosophical theology or philosophy generally can be misused or misunderstood by the church? 

    Topics for Future Writers

    1. For this section I have the rather idealistic hope that some articles written may summarize work done on certain topics (over the last 30 years) in a way that helps to meet the need raised in question 3. above. Perhaps they could take up each major section of theology, telling newcomers what sort of resources (or interesting dialogues) they can expect to find in any particular branch of systematic theology.

    What do I hope to do with this site?

    I'm looking for help.

    The other night I stayed up and made this ---> It was one of my goals for 2016 to start a blog where I could slowly transition from the classroom, to producing/contributing to a field. (What was I thinking?)

    "The best of phil theo." (Getting overwhelmed is easy - we need help finding the best stuff to spend our energy reading, thinking through).

    [1] Help "anyone" discover the best phil theo resources on topics. 
    [2] Inform people about what is currently going on in the field
    [3] Produce visuals/aids/summaries/surveys on central topics/works. 
    [4] Blog once every two weeks.
    [5] Offer rewards, incentives, fun stuff.
    [6] Develop an operational work-flow to make this manageable. 
    [7] Help others meet their own goals with this site somehow

    I NEED: 
    (a) A list of topics for 2016 that volunteer writers could pick from in advance and contribute to. ( "What is phil theo?" "Why phil theo matters?" are great places to start).

    (b) Generous people to contribute blog posts on those topics above - especially people who like to help others learn.

    (c) Must-read-this, type suggestions, for a "Practical Bibliography Project" - You've seen William Abrahams published Bibliography for Analytic Theo. I'd like to build something like that, online, that links out to philpapers or google scholar - and is actively updated (maybe even voted on). Rather than list everything it should list the classic stuff, the "must read" stuff. Tags like "Start Here, or Beginner/Advanced" and article voting, might make this more practical.

    (d) Who's Who - list out people with solid reputations for work on certain topics (i.e. follow X if you want to know about divine causation)

    (e) Friends who are interested in maybe helping out with something like this while it is new. Perhaps volunteering to keep up a section of the site or keep me up to speed on what is going on with a certain topic

    DO YOU HAVE: Warnings? Suggestions? BETTER GOALS? Advice before I start?

    Getting Our Gear Ready!

    The goal for the philosophical theology blog is to have a place where fresh content is available on philosophical theology. I plan to invite friends working in philosophy or theology to contribute material in analytic theology or philosophical theology on a regular basis. We may dedicate each month to a topic, and then invite several people to contribute (one item per week) content  for that month. One option is to have someone summarize and important work in video or written format. If you would be interested in contributing please contact me.