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History, Theology, and Faith: Dissolving the Modern Problematic [Paperback]

By Terrence W. Tilley (Author)
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Pages   211
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.24" Width: 6.08" Height: 0.46"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 5, 2004
Publisher   Orbis Books
ISBN  157075568X  
EAN  9781570755682  

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History, Theology, and Faith: Dissolving the Modern Problematic by Terrence W. Tilley

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Terrence W. Tilley is professor and chair of Religious Studies, University of Dayton. He is the author of "The Evils of Theodicy" (Georgetown University Press, 1991), "Story Theology" (Michael Glazier, Inc, 1985; reprint by Liturgical Press, 1991), "Talking of God: An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis of Religious Language" (Paulist Press, 1978), and "Postmodern Theologies and the Challenge of Relgious Diversity" (Orbis Books, 1995).

Terrence W. Tilley currently resides in New York, in the state of Ohio.

Terrence W. Tilley has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Message of the Fathers of the Church

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dissolve the problem of history in tradition & theology  Nov 5, 2004
History, Theology & Faith: Dissolving The Modern Problematic by Terrence W. Tilley (Orbis Books) Theologians have long tried to solve the problem of faith and history with little success. This book argues that the time has come to dissolve the problem-"Both yield fictions; both seek to tell or reveal what is true."
After laying out the "problematic," Tilley analyzes current approaches to the relationship between history and theology and then shows how they affect faith. He argues that there is no single pattern of relation-ships between the two disciplines and that multiple patterns should be recognized. When accurately understood and properly used, historical investigations, so often construed as undermining faith, do no such thing; indeed, they can actually increase or strengthen faith.
Excerpt: This book has four goals. The first is to dissolve the modern problem of history in its "history and faith" or "history and theology" versions. The first three chapters of this book are devoted to delineating how the problem of history has been shaped in its modern formulations. Chapter one portrays the shape of the modern problem of history and some attempted resolutions. The modern problematic tended, at least in the Christian and Jewish context, to focus on scriptural texts. Chapter two shows that the literary forms and historic functions of the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible and the Qur'an give rise to different problems of history. The most important reflection on the problem of history was Van Harvey's book The Historian and the Believer, first published in 1966. I discuss this text at length in chapter three. In effect, Harvey fomented a revolution against the classic form of the problem. He argued against the abstract construal of the problem as a general or universal one of faith in tension with history or historical method. He argued for a new focus on the differing particular ways that historians and believers properly formed and warranted their beliefs. Harvey sought to turn theologians away from sterile debates about historical methods and to consider the ways in which historians war-ranted their judgments concerning historical claims and in which believers formed their beliefs. The key tensions were not between history and faith but between historians and believers.
Unfortunately, too few theologians recognized the importance of this intellectual achievement. Many continue to attempt to solve or resolve "the" problem as defined by Troeltsch and his followers as if Harvey had never written. Some reformulate the issues (Tracy 1981; Schillebeeckx 1979; Fiorenza 1984, 31-33) but do so without extensive consideration of what historians actually do. They also tend to be more concerned with the use of historical evidence and argument in the tradition rather than for the tradition, an issue addressed directly in chapter ten. Perhaps Harvey's challenges to business as usual and insights about the problem of history were lost in the glare of the "death of God" movement in the era in which he wrote. Perhaps the weaknesses in Harvey's sketch of a solution to the problem of the differing intellectual "moralities" of historians and believers overshadowed his accomplishments.
An implication of this book is that Harvey's transformation of the argument from the dualist classic problematic of "faith and history" to the dualist problematic of "historians and believers" was not radical enough. Nonetheless, some have learned much from Harvey's work, including the present writer. I read and reread The Historian and the Believer early in my career as graduate student and scholar, and returned to it and read it closely as I began work on the present book and after I had written articles (Tilley 1999; 2001), some of whose arguments have been adapted for use in the present text. I recognize and acknowledge how much his work has influenced my thinking, sometimes without my knowing it-at least insofar as attempting to dissolve the "problem of history" goes.
Some of Harvey's later writings also helped me break down the dualistic or polar pattern of the earlier "problem of history" problematic and of Harvey's own dualistic contrast of the moralities of "the modern historian's principles of judgment and the Christian's will to believe" (Harvey 1968, front cover).
Chapters four and five argue that the modern problematic of faith and history can and should be dissolved. Chapter four unpacks the unwarranted assumptions that theologians have often made in discussing the relationship of history and theology. Chapter five argues that unpacking claims of Jewish theologian Richard Rubenstein and Christian theologian Marcus Borg shows that historical investigations, often thought to undermine faith, do not do so unless one makes additional philosophical claims not necessitated either by religious convictions or by the practices of historical investigation. The first five chapters are the argument leading to the first goal.
The second goal is to understand how history is related to religious traditions beyond the dualistic problematic. Chapters six and seven turn to specific theological issues beyond the modern problematic. Chapter six argues that there are specific religious principles that are immune to undermining by the evidence of history. These principles go far to give religious traditions their identity. The convictions that express those principles are not invulnerable, however, to historical evidence. Additionally, some persons may be in situations that render the convictions that shape their own faith incredible, in part due to the marshaling of historical evidence; that issue is explored more fully in chapter ten. Chapter seven shows the problems that arise when one neglects to distinguish between such identity-giving principles and the historically conditioned convictions that formulate them. A key component of this argument, then, is the distinction between enduring (but rather empty) principles in and of a religious tradition and the particular (and rather robust) articulations of them as operative convictions.
The third goal of the book is to attend to the actual practices of historians rather than to the theories of history distilled by philosophers. I have argued elsewhere (Tilley 1995, 5-13, 53-89) that philosophers' distillations of religious propositions from religious practice in a tradition can be misleading. Similarly, I find that theologians dealing with the problem of history rarely, if ever, look at what historians actually do; theologians tend to use philosophical accounts of history and historiography, rather than to examine the practices of history. Chapters eight and nine show the "history" side of the issue: historians' principles and practices are much more complex and controversial than many theologians seem to recognize. Chapter eight analyzes the extensive disputes over the status of historical claims in light of the collapse of the "noble dream" of historical objectivity in the twentieth century. The argument there shows, in general, that history qua history cannot easily function as an "authorizing" discourse; pace the approach of many theologians to the problem of history. Chapter nine analyzes a specific dispute over how to approach the issue of the "historical Jesus" to show that religious historians are not immune from the progressive loss of the "authorizing" function of historical investigations.
The final goal of the book is to show that the relationships between historical investigations, theological construction, and religious practice are ad hoc rather than systematic. The final two chapters analyze patterns that can be discerned in those relationships, though, since I claim the relationships are ad hoc, I cannot claim to have a complete account of those relationships. Chapter ten argues for a nuanced understanding of the relationship of history and theology. Chapter eleven shows how the problems of history-and theologians' attempts to work with those problems-can affect religious practice and belief. Both chapters presume a "practical" approach to the problem. As chapters eight and nine looked at the practices and responsibilities of historians, so chapters ten and eleven look at the practices and responsibilities of theologians and believers in light of the contemporary challenges (not the "modern problem") of historical investigations to theological construction and religious practice and belief. Underlying this work is the fundamental assumption that one's religious commitments have to do not merely with one's belief but with one's life and the practices which give that life structure and which give one's convictions their distinctive meaning (cf. Tilley 1995, 5-57, which argues against the construal, especially in philosophy of religion, of religion as constituted by "beliefs" or "propositions," and argues for an understanding of religion as a set of practices; also see Tilley 2000, 50-87). A final chapter rehearses the argument and claims that it was and is necessary to make this journey.
Both history and theology are quite different from what they were seen to be in the mid- to late twentieth century. Hence, it is time to dissolve the problem of history as we have construed it and to reconfigure our understanding of the relationships of historical investigations, theological constructions, and religious convictions. In sum, that is the task of this book.

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