“Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light through whom is splintered from a single White to many hues, and endlessly combined in living shapes that move from mind to mind.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
A clear-cut definition of Analytic Theology (AT) can be slippery at times. It might be like trying to describe a flavor; you don’t fully know it until you taste it. Likewise, maybe the best way to understand this analytic “flavor” of theologizing, is by immersing yourself in the discussion that is already blossoming amongst analytic theologians.
If nothing else, Analytic Theology is a way of doing theology that puts the strengths of analytic philosophy to use in understanding the things of God. But what if you don’t know what analytic philosophy is? Should you just stop reading now? If you bear with us, we think you’ll find there are riches to be had, even for those at the lower end of philosophical literacy.
The reputation persists that the realm of AT is just full of logic-choppers, who spend all their time in the head and none in the heart (and never the two shall meet). Or, similarly, there’s the rumor that God’s most beautiful and awe-inspiring attributes become neutered by AT’s relentless dialectic dissecting. Allow us to attempt to reframe these attitudes.
Imagine the totality of our Christian belief and practice is like a cathedral, and each aspect of our faith is like one piece of its architecture. Our doctrines about prayer, God’s love, atonement, sin, incarnation, etc., are all interconnected, each supporting the other like pillars and arches of a cathedral. You may at times start to think that one of these pillars seems like it doesn’t make rational sense, which causes the adjacent arch to slump, and before long the ceiling is in danger of caving in. Well, there are resources for preventing this collapse, and even for reinforcing the beauty of this cathedral of faith, one pillar at a time. Each theological topic examined can steady the sacred space in which we worship. This mission is at the heart of the AT project.
This is the introduction to the work of a 3-year project, hosted at Fuller Theological Seminary, towards the goal of doing this type of theology research. With each new article, lecture, or dialogue, AT brings clarity to metaphysical concepts, which previously may have felt too abstract to shed light on. If this interests you check out our first Beauty of AT guide, and stay tuned for more to come!