Archive: Sep 7, 2015, 12:00 AM

Does Systematic Theology need 'Prolegomena'

Before we enter the domain of Systematic Theology and proceed to address the great doctrines of Christianity, are there certain Prolegomena that must be addressed first?  There is certainly a tradition to that effect.  Bavinck, for example, devotes the whole of the first volume of his four-volume Reformed Dogmatics to Prolegomena,[1] and Barth likewise concerns himself with ‘The Task of Prolegomena to Dogmatics’ at the very beginning of his Church Dogmatics.[2]  Barth is acutely conscious, however, that the term is ambiguous.  At one level ‘Prolegomena’ means what theology has to say first.  It pauses to introduce itself, declares its presuppositions, announces its intentions, identifies its sources and lays down its norms.  But at the same time it makes clear that it is beholden to no other discipline, and rests firmly on its own foundation and its own first principles.  In such Prolegomena the method itself is theological.  The existence of God, for example, and the authority of scripture, are not first established on philosophical grounds and only then explored theologically.  Instead, theology proceeds on its own foundation, taking its very first step on the basis of faith in divine revelation.

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