Theology and Mystery

William J. Wainwright

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199596539
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Theology and Mystery

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This article discusses the place of mystery in Christian thought and practice. Both Christians themselves and their critics have historically thought that the concept of mystery is central to Christian reflection and Christian worship. It is initially surprising, then, to find that the indices of recent important reference works contain few if any references to mystery. The most important reason for the neglect of mystery may be this. William Alston begins his recent ‘Two Cheers for Mystery’ by observing that ‘contemporary Anglo-American analytic philosophy of religion’ exhibits ‘a considerable degree of confidence in’ its ability ‘to determine what God is like; how to construe his basic attributes; and what his purposes, plans, standards, values and so on are’. No one ‘thinks we can attain a comprehensive knowledge of God's nature and doings. But on many crucial points, there seems to be a widespread confidence in our ability to determine exactly how things are with God.’ And, of course, the more confident one is, the less one will see any need for according the concept of mystery a central place in one's reflections on God. But what if failing to do so distorts these reflections? The burden of this article is that it does.

Keywords: God; Christianity; Christian mysteries; William Alston; Two Cheers

Article.  12997 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Philosophy of Religion ; Christianity

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