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Schleiermacher and Bonhoeffer as negative theologians: A Western response to Some Eastern challenges

Jensen, A. (2010) Schleiermacher and Bonhoeffer as negative theologians: A Western response to Some Eastern challenges. In: 2nd St. Pauls College Symposium: The Many Doctrines of God, 8 December 2010, University of Sydney, Sydney

Abstract

Among Eastern Orthodoxy's many criticisms of western theology, the lack of an adequate understanding of apophatic theological language is one of the most prominent. This paper will discuss this claim as presented in the work of Christos Yannaras. While broadly agreeing with Yannaras' identification of the problem, this paper argues that Yannaras overlooked a tradition within western theology that has developed the resources to respond to his challenge. It will argue that Friedrich Schleiermacher's theology is apophatic theology in all but name. The paper continues by outlining Dietrich Bonhoeffer's critique of Schleiermacher, which actually strengthens the apophatic element in his theology. In fact, when Bonhoeffer identifies the experience of the presence of Christ in the Church as the foundation of theology, he develops something which is very close to the ‘apophaticism of person' which Yannaras advocates. While being experientially richer than purely word-based approaches to revelation-centred theology, this apophatic tradition in western theology avoids the shortcomings of ‘classical theism'. It thus provides an important resource for Christian apologetics in a secular world.

Publication Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Conference Website: http://www.stpauls.edu.au/home
Notes: Keynote Lecture
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/14023
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