Avoiding a “God-less” Theology

14 10 2009
writing...the old fashioned way
Image by Darwin Bell via Flickr

In a now famous little article by Nils Dahl (“The Neglected Factor of New Testament Theology”) the point is made: “New Testament theology, as practiced in the contemporary scholarly community, does not speak about god but about the way in which the New Testament authors talk about god; its discourse about God is indirect… the theme of ‘God’ has been neglected in New Testament theology.” How amazing that this could happen -a loss of the forest for the trees! There is always a danger isn’t there that ideas about God can capture our attention at the expense of actually thinking about and relating to God!

Dahl adds a provocative thought to this that perhaps under the influence of the Christological school of Ritschl in the 19th century, we think of Christ but not God.

Posted by Bruce Lowe




2 responses

17 10 2009

Interesting observation. I don’t think this is due to any particular school but to the fact that NT scholars (biblical studies as whole) are a mixed bag of secular, liberal, and conservative Christians. The only way we can all talk about the same thing is to stay focused on the text as text. On the other hand let’s not forget that the NT is in fact what it’s authors say about God. it is the witness to the events and significance of Jesus Christ. Let’s not pretend that it’s more pious to have a simplistic hermeneutic.

19 10 2009
Bruce Lowe


Right. Simplistic hermeneutics never do more than over-simplify things. And of course things are more complicated than their just being witnesses to the events and significance of Jesus Christ. The authors were also penning purposed pieces, written for example (with Mark) to suffering Christians, etc. In this sense they give us an even greater array of perspectives on God. Having done our hermeneutics well to see their view of God in light of their purposed situation, it then depends where you are coming from theologically (not so much hermeneutically). How do you see God’s Spirit working in them so that through their backgrounds and experiences with Jesus, they correctly represent God. It is this theological side you rightly picked up on too, in the first part of your comment. Thanks for your thoughts.

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