The whole of Christian doctrine, 140 characters at a time

On theological styles

Having played with this idea, and begun the writing, I find myself feeling that, of all the summaries of Christian doctrine I know, I am coming closest in style to the Ramist-influenced Reformed scholastic theologies of the early seventeenth-century – perhaps particularly Ames’s Medulla. Ames (and with him Wollebius and others) adopted a terse, single sentence style, of course, and so this is probably an inevitable result of using Twitter. I also respect these theologians greatly, however.

A more discursive style – that of a Calvin or Barth – allows the use of rhetorical force, the ability to communicate mood or emotion as well as proposition. Barth and Calvin were alike masters at this, and not a little of the power of their theology comes from the rhetoric. In each case, however, there is an astonishingly clear logical presentation underlying the rhetorical appeal.

I’ve not made it a secret that I am concerned that contemporary theology is often rather too close to ‘mood music’ – conveying feeling without doing the hard logical work underneath. Adopting a form the forces me to say what I think without room for rhetorical flourish is, therefore, a discipline calculated to help me avoid (what I see to be) the most serious current pitfall in theology.

Category: Reflections