Monday, April 23, 2007

Tracy's Imagination

I've been reading David Tracy's book The Analogical Imagination lately. It came in on a shared 14th place on my list of recent theological works, the oldest work to do so, just making the time frame allowed (it was published in 1981).

The book is a kind of overview of the (then) present state of systematic theology, and as such a very good one. Tracy is balanced, he has a very wide knowledge of different kinds of theology, and he presents the works he cites fairly.

As a person deeply influenced by Tillich, it is nice to read Tracy's appreciation of Tillich which is very high. At least back in -81 Tillich's influence was still strong apparently. Whatever happened then?

I like Tracy's discussion on the public and publicness of theology. Theology has three audiences: the church, academia and society, and it need to be public in all areas. This is an insight that seems to be lost on many writers today, that write for the church, uses the academia and neglects the rest of society completely.

So, Tracy's book is good to read, it might broaden your knowledge in many areas. That said, it seems to me that Tracy's own ideas are not really as important as he seems to think. His talk of classics, religious and otherwise may have some pedagogical value, but beyond that I am unsure... I don't really know what I'm supposed to do with it. He also has a language that is a bit irritation at times. I order to try to communicate the significance of the gospel, he uses words like danger and risk a lot, and it doesn't really work, it just strikes you as odd.

This criticism apart, I tend to agree a lot with Tracy's views of theology and how it should be done. I feel much more at home in this kind of theology than, for example more recent kinds of "post-modern" theology. Does that make me old-fashioned or conservative. Or has theology lost its way? At the moment I'm leaning towards the second alternative.


Andrew said...

Patrik, I'm wondering why Tillich isn't as popular these days?

Patrik said...

Me too.

I guess the general rise of the conservative evangelical is the main reason. Not that the "popular" theologians today are all conservative evangelicals, but the entire field seems to have shifted radically to the right in the English speaking world. Tillich has - wrongly - become the symbol for all things liberal.

::aaron g:: said...

I like Tracy too!

Can you comment on what you see as the "pedagogical value" of the the Christian Classic?

Patrik said...

What I meant that is can be useful to compare religious classics with classics of art, literature, philosophy to show their "truth" - this is as I see it Tracy's main point - but I'm not sure if it goes much further in really understanding the special status of for example Christ in Christianity.