John Allan Knight

in Liberalism versus Postliberalism

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199969388
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199301546 | DOI:

Series: American Academy of Religion Series


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This chapter introduces the overall argument of the book. It describes the concerns that drive the divide between liberals and postliberals. Liberal theologians are concerned to validate theological claims as being true, while postliberals are concerned with the Barthian project of preserving the lordship of Jesus Christ over all of theology, including method. This leads in turn to a concern to maintain the particularity of soteriological and Christological claims and to avoid systematizing. These concerns yield a postliberal theology that is essentially Wittgensteinian both in its understanding of the meaning of theological claims and in its antitheoretical bias. The liberal concern for validation, on the other hand, yields a theological method that accepts descriptivist requirements for successful reference and a descriptivist or truth-conditional understanding of the meaning of theological claims. Neither of these understandings of language are adequate, but recent developments in analytic philosophy of language make possible more adequate accounts of meaning and reference, which in turn can yield a more inclusive method that can lead beyond the liberal/postliberal divide.

Keywords: analytic philosophy; falsifiability; liberal theology; meaning; postliberal theology; reference; religious language; theological method; validation; Wittgenstein

Chapter.  7303 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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