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Glossary

by
24 March 2016

Demythologisation: rationalist tendency seeking largely ethical vision of the faith, with miraculous removed and metaphysical downplayed.

Dialectial theology: theology based on tension and judgement, holding revelation above reason, and tending to set grace over and against nature; used especially of neo-Orthodox theology.

Dispensationalism: theological paradigm based on distinct periods of history, each with its own theological character or “dispensation”; typically rejected by mainstream Churches, not least for downplaying continuing value of Judaism.

Liberation theology: mid- to late-20th-century approach to theology and Christian political action, initially largely Roman Catholic and Latin American, seeking to begin from perspective of poorest and least powerful.

Metaphysics: study or consideration of being, and what most deeply pertains to being, such as essence and existence, change and causation.

Mystery: theologically, not what cannot be known at all, but what cannot be known fully; etymologically and theologically related to worship, sacraments, and induction into faith (”mystagogy”).

Narrative theology: late-20th-century emphasis on foundational role of narrative in Christian theology; see post-liberal theology.

Negative theology/apophatic: approach to theology stressing ignorance of God, and sense of what God is not. Contrast positive theology.

Neo-Orthodoxy: revival of theology, at first within Protestantism, after World War I, associated with new confidence in pre-liberal theology, and new emphasis on revelation; Karl Barth is principal figure (1886–1968). See dialectical theology.

Nouvelle theologie: revival of theology, at first with Roman Catholicism, from around 1935 onwards, characterised by invigorated sense of history, and desire to return to primary sources, especially Fathers and Thomas Aquinas.

Ressourcement: see Nouvelle theologie.

Phenomenology: philosophical approach, emerging in early-20th century, based on structure of first-person experience and apprehension — proved basis for fruitful exchange with theology.

Positive theology/cataphatic: approach to theology that stresses what is revealed, and can be known, about God. Contrast negative theology.

Post-liberal theology: late-20th-century approach, first associated with group at Yale Divinity School, with revived emphasis on narrative, and communal basis of meaning.

Process theology: group of theological perspectives, at variance with historical orthodoxy, influenced by philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947), which posit a God who evolves with the changes of the universe.

Radical Orthodoxy: revival of theology, with roots in Anglicanism, from very end of the 20th century, with similarities to Ressourcement, noted for highly theological take on philosophy (and vice versa).

Scholasticism: style of theology, born in 12th century, associated with precision in thinking, attention to language, and disputational “for” and “against” method.

Sola scriptura (and sola gratia and sola fide): approach to theology that claims to be based only on scripture (or grace or faith).

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