A Tanner Sighting


            Or better “citing.”  It was spotted in the recent edition of the Anglican Theological Review, Vol. 105.  It occurs in an article, “Toward an Anthropologically Engaged Theology: Implication from Human Evolution for Theological Anthropology” by Matthew T. Seddon.  Seddon has a PHD in Anthropology, the study of human development.  He is a scientist, but he is also an Episcopal Priest functioning in parish ministry.  He is also an academically grounded theologian.  One should not let the big words put you off for this is a very readable essay on the way Theology can and should engage science.  The tradition of theology engaging science has a long history in the Anglican World.  One thinks of Charles Gore book Lux Mundi, published 1888, in which he declared his belief in a Christianity that could court the demands of human reason.  More recently, the particle physicist turned Anglican priest and theologian, the Revd. Dr John Polkinghorne, made a significant contribution to this tradition.  The politicalization of theology in the recent decades, however, has eclipsed this tradition, so it was refreshing to see Seddon essay in the Anglican Theological Review. 

            As he ended his paper, he cites Tanner’s Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology (Guides to Theological Inquiry) 1997His paraphrase, page 423 of ATR, aptly summarizing his paper and its ambitions.  “Furthermore, this understanding indicates that the Imago Dei is not static: it is emergent, and we share in that emergence.  We are and always have been becoming—becoming more fully human—not just in our intellectual, spiritual, and moral lives, but in our very being.  Indeed, our diversity which is in many ways an expression of creativity, reveals that we are supremely creative, which validates the use of theological creativity.”

               The possibility of an anthropologically engaged theology carried out with in the structures of Tanner’s systematic theology is not only imaginable, but it is beneficial to both.    In a sense it verifies Tanner’s claim that her systematic can be tested in experiential theology, be it the life of Christ, the 16th century debate about grace or a contemporary engagement with science.  A scientific endeavor theological engaged, carried out in systematic like Tanner’s, would have the benefit of a linkage with the moral and meaning for the human endeavor. An objective science has for some time been content to operate without this link, but in the present climate I think that has become quested.

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