Webster on Theological Method

John Webster’s Holiness is, amongst other things, a defence of the trinitarian nature and ecclesial context of dogmatics. Theology as a practice belongs within the Church because it is an effect of the saving presence of God. He writes; ‘Revelation is the self-giving presence of the holy God which overthrows opposition to God, and, in reconciling, brings us into the light of the knowledge of God’ (Holiness, 14). This, being-brought-to-the-knowledge-of-God makes theology not only possible but an exercise in ‘holy reason.’ The effect of this saving knowledge of God is that human reason, along with the entire self, is renewed and redeemed in the gospel.

To speak in this way is to fly in the face of some deep intellectual and spiritual conventions of modern culture. Modernity has characteristically regarded reason as a ‘natural’ faculty — a standard, unvarying and foundational feature of humankind, a basic human capacity or skill. As a natural faculty, reason is, crucially, not involved in the drama of God’s saving work; it is not fallen, and so requires neither to be judged nor to be reconciled nor to be sanctified. Reason simply is;  it is humankind in its intellectual nature. Consequently, ‘natural’ reason has been regarded as ‘transcendent’ reason. (Holiness, 10)

This conception of reason as transcendent, extracts reason ‘from the economy of God’s dealings with his creatures (11). Rather, ‘Holy reason is eschatological reason, reason submitting to the process of the renewal of all things as sin and falsehood are set aside, idolatry is reproved, and the new creation is confessed with repentance and delight. And if what Paul calls the renewal of the mind (Rom. 12.2) is to be visible anywhere, it has to be in Christian theology, in which holy reason is summoned to address the great matter of God and of all things in God’ (12).


4 Responses to “Webster on Theological Method”

  1. I like it mate! … Holy reason all the way! Sounds like a ripper of a book 🙂

  2. This also means that the (ungodly) rationalists fail to interpret the world in the light of the Word by the Spirit, and are actually irrational.

  3. […] All Things New  And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” « Webster on Theological Method […]

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