Theology and the End of Doctrine

Theology and the End of Doctrine

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This book is about the crisis brought about by doctrine's estrangement from reality--that is from actual lives, experiences, histories, and from God. By invoking "the end of doctrine," Christine Helmer opens a new discussion of doctrinal production that is engaged with the challenges and possibilities of modernity. The end of doctrine refers on the one hand to unquestioning doctrinal reception, which Helmer critiques, and on the other, represents an invitation to a new way of understanding the aim of doctrine in deeper connection to the reality that it seeks.

The book's first section offers an analysis of the current situation in theology by reconstructing a trajectory of Protestant theology from the turn of the twentieth century to today. This history focuses primarily on the status of the word in theology and explains how changes in theology in the context of the political and social crisis in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s led to a distancing of the word from reality. Helmer then turns to the constructive section of the book to propose a repositioning of theology to the world and to God. Helmer's powerful work will inspire revitalized interest in both doctrine and theological inquiry itself.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 248 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 11.68mm | 294.84g
  • Louisville, United States
  • English
  • 0664239293
  • 9780664239299
  • 637,551

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Theology and Doctrine

I. Theology between Church and Academy

II. Theology's Concern with Doctrine

III. The Lure of Eternity

IV. Historicist Shock

V. Linguistic Turn

VI. A Look Ahead

Chapter 2: From Ritschl to Brunner: Neither Mysticism

nor Metaphysics, but the Problem with Schleiermacher

I. What Does Doctrine Mean?

II. Ritschl and the Doctrine of Justification

II.1. Righteousness and Justification

II.2. A New Take on Justification

II.3. Justification and the Problem with Schleiermacher

III. Mysticism to Mediation

III.1. Mediation in Relationship: Spirit

III.2. Mysticism in Relationship: Nature

IV. Brunner and the Word against Schleiermacher

IV.1. The Problem of "Ground": Metaphysics

IV.2. The Problem of Immediate

Self-Consciousness: Mysticism

IV.3. Theology of the Word

V. The Problem with Schleiermacher

Chapter 3: From Trinitarian Representation

to the Epistemic-Advantage Model:

Word, Doctrine, Theology


I. From Word to Doctrine

II. Theology and Trinitarian Representation

II.1. Word in the Aftermath of War

II.2. Word in the Crisis of National Socialism

II.3. Word in the Prolegomena to Theological System

II.3.1. Word and the Dialectics of Genre

II.3.2. Word and Dogmatics

II.3.3. Word, Trinity, and Dogmatics

II.4. Doctrine and Ground of System?


I. The Epistemic-Advantage Model of Doctrine

I.1. Doctrine as Root Assertion

I.2. Christian Beliefs, Communal Identity, God

I.2.1. Christian Beliefs and the Harmonizing Hermeneutic

I.2.2. Christian Beliefs and Communal Identity

I.2.3. Christian Beliefs and God

I.3. Luther's Contribution

I.4. Christianity as a Worldview

I.5. Conversion to a Worldview

II. The End of Doctrine

Chapter 4: Language and Reality: A Theological

Epistemology with Some Help from Schleiermacher

I. At the End, a (Tentative) Beginning

I.1. Bible and Doctrine

I.2. Reception and Production

I.3. Qualifying the Help from Schleiermacher

II. Language and Reality in the New Testament

II.1. Jesus and the New Testament

II.2. Mysticism Again

II.3. Total Impression

II.4. Acclamation

II.4.1. Predication and Intensional Logic

II.4.2. Predication in a Linguistic Milieu

II.5. Consciousness, Language, and Doctrine

III. Theological Epistemology and Doctrine

III.1. The Origins of Doctrine

III.2. The Development of Doctrine in Intersubjective Milieu

III.3. Doctrine in a Global Context

III.3.1. Categorization

III.3.2. Construction

IV. From Epistemology to Content

Chapter 5: Acknowledging Social Construction

and Moving beyond Deconstruction: Doctrine

for Theology and Religious Studies

I. Doctrine as Inevitable Social Construction

II. Beyond Deconstruction

III. Getting Clear on the Social Construction of Reality

III.1. Conversation with Religious Studies

III.2. The Return to History

IV. Language, Doctrine, Reality
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Review quote

"The title is deliberately ambiguous: the true 'end' (purpose) of doctrine is to point beyond itself to the relation of the living God to human beings in this world. Where this 'end' is lost to view, we are threatened with the 'end' (demise) of doctrine. Christine Helmer wants to reinvigorate doctrine. To accomplish this goal, she takes us on a historical journey through twentieth-century theology: from the Ritschlian reaction against mysticism and metaphysics and Brunner's critique of Schleiermacher through Barth's theology of the Word to the creation of an epistemic model by the so-called Yale School in which doctrine has lost its referential status altogether and thus its connection to divine and historical reality. Helmer's constructive solution proceeds through a recovery of Schleiermacher's epistemology (exploding a few myths about the great Berliner along the way!) in order to advance an understanding of doctrine as the expression of a socially conceived interaction with the 'real.' What emerges from this fine study is a theological epistemology that expands and deepens Barth's concept of the Word in important ways and an understanding of doctrine that repairs the damage done to its reputation in recent decades." --Bruce L. McCormack, Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary "This is a stimulating work in constructive theology that opens up fresh approaches to several problems at once: the dual responsibility of theology to church and academy, the tension between transhistorical truth and historical tradition, and, most of all, the relation of doctrinal language to a theological reality (i.e., God) that, precisely because it is living, invites us to say not only something faithful but also something new." --Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School "Succinct and elegantly written, this book is an unflinching engagement with our contemporary suspicion that doctrine (or theology itself) has come to an end. Helmer sketches a compelling vision of a new end for doctrine--one that is designed to resonate across academy, culture, and church. That she manages to do this in conversation with theology, religious studies, and philosophy without ever losing the forest for the trees makes her book an excellent candidate for cross-disciplinary discussion." --Andrew Chignell, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Susan Linn Sage School of Philosophy, Cornell University "Helmer's book is a groundbreaking revitalization of doctrine for Christian theology and faith but also for the academy. It critiques two prominent approaches: authoritarian views of doctrine that deny its constructed character and the reductionist tendencies of religious studies where 'theology' and doctrine are viewed as anti-intellectual. The crucial connection of doctrine to transcendence through human witness, Helmer argues, requires recognition of doctrine's socially constructed character and the necessity of change. Reappropriating the contributions of Martin Luther and Friedrich Schleiermacher in enormously enlightening ways, she even shows how the work of Karl Barth supports her case for combining social constructionism and the transcendent." --Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Professor of Theology, Duke Divinity School "Recent discussion on doctrine has often been critical of the theological insights of modernity. Christine Helmer undertakes a careful revision of this discussion, emphasizing the need to take history and religious studies seriously. She demonstrates that this emphasis does not downplay the language and reality of theological doctrine but gives them a new relevance." -Risto Saarinen, Professor of Ecumenics, University of Helsinki
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About Christine Helmer

Christine Helmer is Professor of Religious Studies and German at Northwestern University. She is the author of The Trinity and Martin Luther (Zabern 1999) and contributing editor of numerous books on biblical interpretation, historical theology, and contemporary theology, including The Global Luther: A Theologian for Modern Times (Fortress 2009).
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