Conclusion On Feminist Liberation Theolgy

The deeply experiential character of much late twentieth-century theology, from Karl Rahner to liberation and feminist approaches, is a remarkable shift given centuries of a priori theological method. Western theology and spirituality are in the process of overcoming an ancient and radical divorce between them. The beginnings of a separation can be traced to the beginnings of 'philosophical theology' around the thirteenth century. This was accelerated and deepened by Enlightenment presuppositions about knowledge. The result has been what T S.Eliot called a 'dissociation of sensibility' in Western culture that separated thought from feeling, mind from heart, and theology from life. The journey of the mind, the way of knowledge, thought and theory, was contrasted with the journey of the heart, the way of love, prayer and action (Louth 1983:1-3; Bechtle 1985:305).

However, the last twenty years have seen a substantial convergence so that theology as a whole has been increasingly able to acknowledge its experiential roots and spirituality has begun to establish itself in the academy as an interdisciplinary subject for study. Theological method and themes necessarily play a large part in the study of Christian spirituality. However, the discipline also increasingly draws upon history, psychology, comparative religion and social anthropology. There are differences of opinion as to whether 'spirituality' is a sub-discipline of theology, whether subordinated, for example, to doctrinal theology or a distinct area entitled 'spiritual theology'. It seems that majority opinion is moving towards an acceptance that 'spirituality' is an autonomous discipline which functions in partnership and mutuality with theology. Thus, theology is an integral part of the study of spirituality because it is essential to the full interpretation of Christian spiritual experience. Yet, spirituality is also integral to theology both because it raises questions which theology must consider and also because, as Karl Rahner pointed out, the empirical realities of spirituality supply data that are necessary for theology and not available from purely doctrinal sources (Schneiders 1989:689-90).

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