Showing posts with label Kathryn Tanner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kathryn Tanner. Show all posts



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.


Tanner and Poet


It is comic for an over-80 to be reading systematic theology, as it not likely to be on the final exam.  It has more to say to those who are responsible for the Christian witness to the world, pastors, preachers. Teachers and even poets.  Still, since the middle of the summer I have reading Tanner, and find myself in kind of rear-guard movement, wanting to witness to the importance of her systematic theology.  Thus, we have this Face Book page, “Tanner Talk of Omaha,” a sister page to “On Giving My Word Tancreti.”   The two pages might seem unrelated, but they do bare on one another.  Retrospectively, I recognize that the theology that underlies the poetic of On Giving My Word is similar to Tanner’s and gains clarity from it.  It is similar because my reading in the Seventies and Eighties, Rahner, Schleiermacher and Bart, was similar to Tanner’s.  Had I been aware of it at the timeing I was writing that poetry, it would have served as useful guide to the coherent God talk I was attempting, now can gain by being judged by it. 

I would illustrate this with a quick reference to a short poem you will find in On Giving My Word, page 248, “As God Will’s.”  One of Tanner’s principles of coherent God talk, is that God’s agency does not compete with human (creaturely) efficacy.   I wrote:

                               It is God’s will that I chose.

                                             I would like God to tell me

                                             If I should go to the right or the left.

                                             If God did, then I would not have to choose,

                                             Which is not God’s will for me.

                                . . . . 

                              So, I shall choose, which is God’s will for me,

                                             and if I prosper and live, I shall be a communion for God.

                                             And if I dimmish and die, God will be a communion for me.

                              As God wills.

 God’s will does not trump human will, because God’s will works in a different plane than human will. We might try to imagine that by drawing a line on a paper, make a diagonal from one side to another.  This line represents God will, agency.   Everywhere an act of human will is possible, God is will it.  So, at any point on the paper draw a short line.  That represents an act of human will.  Save for a parallel, line they will intersect, share a point, which the possibility of communion.

 For me “Tanner Talk” will not be so much a guide to the future, as a reflection of the past.


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