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scheme o' the weekend

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short on coffee

Give a man a weekend off, he formulates grandiose plans.... There must be some rule about this.

So what I found myself scheming Sunday was something I've toyed with before; essentially, massive idea theft from other cultures and religions to provide materials for a dogmatics. This is the down-and-dirty summary, those repelled by cultural borrowings or theology may wish to move along now...

Anyway, essentially the idea is to use the Islamic divisions of theology as a guide for a dogmatics. Instead of the more usual constructions, which are just topical (usually either arbitrary, or following the Creeds), or Trinitarian-structured, or schematized by an author's principle, I'd propose to use the Islamic divisions, or "sciences", which are essentially distinct disciplines, each interdependent somewhat, but all serving the Islamic life and creed.

Usable examples, courtesy of arrius' summary:

tafseer -- quranic commentary -- obvious counterpart is biblical exegesis and interpretation

aqeedah -- creed -- this is the incontrovertible core, for Christians, it'd include Jesus' death and resurrection, most of the Nicene/Apostles' Creeds

fiqh -- jurisprudence -- well, this one's not gonna come over, actually

hadeeth -- study of the narrations of the prophet -- occasionally, i'd kill for a chain of isnad on gospel pericopes, but this'll be hard to translate, perhaps just to gospel studies?

seerah -- history and details of the prophet's life -- another semi-analogue to gospel studies, it reminds me of the Leben Jesu movements of the 19th c., but it's distinct from hadeeth in synthesizing the traditions to some extent

falsafah -- philosophy (which is closely linked to theology) -- those fighting s.k.'s jihad have no use for philosophy, probably kept only formally as a category for study of logic and rhetoric

arabic -- language study -- greek, hebrew, maybe latin, local language(s), english these days, sources' languages; especially important for missionaries and exercises in x-cultural work

kalam -- theology -- this is a category so broad it still confuses me, but a lot of the effort in islam is directed toward fiqh; this covers all areas of inquiry where disagreement is more or less healthy and normal, and not a matter of belief/disbelief, but speculation and inference from creed and scriptures

sufism -- spirituality -- first thing we do, we'll shoot all the bookstore managers who mix their sufism with their buddhism, and then we'll recognize study and critique of the spiritual life as a real disciplne in theology

recitation -- study of the 7 accepted recitations of the quran -- uhh... yeah, closest analogue is probably liturgics and worship, and it'll be nice to slough off those inclined to controversy over externals into their own section and force them to distinguish their issues properly

Now, Muslim scholars are only expected to really get a grasp on one or two fields by the time they're a mature scholar, though obviously they're interrelated and some minimum knowledge of each is necessary. So what I'd like to see is a Christian dogmatics discussed in terms of these disciplines, or at least a set of those that aren't 'applied disciplines'; no one wants a patristics scholar writing accompaniment music, 9/10 times, and including a complete commentary within a dogmatics is unfeasible unless you're as big a name as Barth, and his killed him, besides being unusably voluminous (imho).

Well, with that kind of structure, what exactly is going to go into it?

Why, I'm glad you asked!

The foreboding bit in the slow pan shot: notes for above are bookmarking Kitamori's Theology of the Pain of God...
American theology is pretty much bankrupt, except for pockets of resistance. The church in the West, having whored itself out to the State and kultur, is worn-out, used and abused, and swiftly being marginalized as it no longer serves the social purposes. The Church in much of the rest of the world, however, is growing by evangelization and under persecution, as well as developing theology reflective of these facts. Much of the interesting work in the West is in discussing and absorbing the insights of other cultures' theology and spiritual life.

As theology is always at least expressed in language, it is inherently a cultural undertaking, and, in the case of those confessing a katholicos ekklesia, it ought to be an intercultural undertaking as well. The rhetoric of "interreligious dialogue" from the 60's, 70's, even 80's, turns out to be a massive distortion of this understanding, but one I can't get into here.

At any rate, this idea theft means that we have to start doing what the ancient church did -- borrow words, phrases, concepts, motifs, from the religion and culture which both surrounds and permeates the churches. This will probably bring charges of cheating, or syncretism, or cultural imperialism, not to mention just plain massive misunderstanding, but we ought to be used to these things by now. If we can't understand Christ emptying himself in Buddhist self-emptying, or his radical submission as perfected islam, we're unlikely to grok the Reason underlying the cosmos as the Alethes Logos at all.

pmfh - 10:43 3/18

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