Systematic and Philosophical Theology – William Nicholls

Theology today can mean anything from reverence for the living God to the proposition that God is dead.  How has the ‘science of thinking about God’ reached this dilemma?

In modern times theology has run into that same crisis which has been induced in the whole of civilized culture by the direction of science.  The volume outlines the directions in of thought adopted by such modern theologians as Barth, Bultmann, Bonhoeffer and Tillich in the face of scientific challenge.  it reveals a liveliness and openness in modern religious thought which suggests that, whatever it may become in the future, theology is not dying.

Over the last year I have been paying attention to some famous American apologists and have come to the conclusion that they are very much like politicians in their answers to questions.  Finding Systematic and Philosophical Theology at the back of my bookcase has allowed for some more meaty theological thought instead.

The theology in question is focused on German protestantism of the first half of the 20th century, although there is some mention of Catholicism as well, when ideas converge.  All this is actually a lot more interesting than it may sound, believe it or not.

For laypeople who are reading out of general curiosity, such as myself, the first chapter is handy in summing up theology of the church upto the 19th century, before dealing in a more detailed way with 19th century German belief.

Beyond this, each chapter starts with a brief biography of the particualr thinker, and deals with their formative lives, how those years and the culture of the time impacted upon their thought, and deals with their works, whilst giving a broad summation of the specifics.

The two that took my fancy most were Rudolf Bultmann and his forensic take on the early church, and Paul Tillich who thinks along the boundary of theology and philosophy. Added to this the final chapter that looks at Scandanavian and American theologians, as well as those up and coming at the time, has given me plenty of choice for further reading.

The ideas discussed range from a critical history as applied to the Gospels, the quest for a proper biography the real Jesus, specualtion on the length of the gap between the Gospels being written down and the events occuring, and, most notably, the everchanging interpretation of said Gospels.

Reading about the process of thought and how it has evolved throughout the cultural shift of ages, along with the relationship to science and philosophy, is extremely interesting.  In this case the two World Wars, most notably the second with it’s schism in German Christianity thanks to the influnce of the Nazis is especially interesting.

Not a bad return on the 20p that I spent on this book.

4 Replies to “Systematic and Philosophical Theology – William Nicholls”

  1. Geez, Louise! Ste J,, you do get around in the reading world. I personally am not a fan of theology and philosophy, I think mainly because of my preference for images and pictures in my language. I don’t always dislike philosophy, for example, but cases in point are always my preference betore abstract words and expressions. You’re just more of an intellectual than I am, I guess.


    1. I try and put myself about a bit, so to speak. I would get bored otherwise. I know what you mean about the visual being more intuitive to understanding. I suppose it depends on the philosopher too, Aristotle does my head in, but Plato is more interesting. Although I haven’t gone Greek in a few years.


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