Analytic Theology: An Interview with Editors Crisp and Rea

How did this book come about? Does the timing of the book’s release, compared to if it were released 10-15 years ago, indicate how philosophical theology work is maturing?

Crisp: Believe it or not, the book came about over a cup of coffee. In 2004-2005 I had a post-doc at the Center for Philosophy of Religion at Notre Dame where Mike and I got to know each other. One of the best things about that year was the time I was able to spend talking to philosophers. Mike and I became firm friends and often spent time discussing philosophical-theological issues. One afternoon over a coffee on campus we were talking about the state of contemporary theology and how strange it was that most theologians didn’t really access contemporary analytic philosophy in the same way that they accessed continental philosophy, especially given the renaissance in philosophy of religion since the 1960s and then the turn to Christian doctrine amongst analytics from around the early 1980s. We thought that we could put together a set of essays that showcased a properly analytic approach to theology – and that is where it all began.

Rea:  Part of what struck us, too, was the fact that philosophers were now talking quite a bit about topics like the trinity and the incarnation that fall squarely within the domain of theology, and it seemed odd to us that, by and large, philosophers and theologians working the same topics were nevertheless almost totally ignoring one another.  It was clear to us that part of the explanation had to do with a sort of disdain among theologians for analytic approaches to theology, and a similar sort of disdain among philosophers for the sort of continental/postmodern approaches that seemed to dominate theology.  We thought it would be good to explore this methodological divide.

As to the question of timing, I think that this kind of book has found a receptive audience because contemporary analytic philosophical theology has become a serious concern. So, yes, it seems to me that its publication is an indication of the maturing literature in the field. But it is also interesting that theologians are beginning to think about analytic philosophy too (e.g. the work of William Abraham – one of our contributors in the book – and Bruce Marshall). I hope that AT may be a contribution that stimulates more theological interest in this field.

What accounts for the turn toward “the explication of core doctrines in Christian theology” by philosophers of religion that self-identify with the so-called “analytic tradition”?

Rea: Part of the reason is surely just the fact that (a) quite a lot of the people working in contemporary philosophy of religion have Christian backgrounds, and (b) by the mid- 1980s, the stock issues in ‘generic’ philosophy of religion—questions about the rationality of religious belief, traditional arguments for the existence of God, and the like—had been pretty thoroughly explored.  I suspect, too, that part of what has happened in philosophy of religion is similar to what seems to have happened in other naturally interdisciplinary sub-fields like philosophy of science and the philosophy of mind:  for a while, philosophers work on certain paradigmatic philosophical issues that they think they can explore on their own; but as the conversations become increasingly sophisticated, they find themselves drawn more deeply into the literature and the problems of the related discipline (particular sciences in the case of philosophy of science, and empirical psychology in the case of the philosophy of mind).

Read the whole thing at the EPS blog.

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