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Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Anniversary) [Paperback]

George A. Lindbeck

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Book Description

20 July 2009

The Nature of Doctrine, originally published in 1984, is one of the most influential works of academic theology in the past fifty years. A true classic, this book sets forth the central tenets of a post-liberal approach to theology, emphasizing a cultural-linguistic approach to religion and a rule theory of doctrine.

In addition to his account of the nature of religion, George Lindbeck also addresses the relationship between Christianity and other religions, the resolution of historic doctrinal conflict among Christian communities, and the nature and task of theology itself. This is a work that all theologians and advanced students should know.

This twenty-fifth anniversary edition includes an English translation of the foreword to the German edition and a complete bibliography of Lindbeck's work.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; Anniversary edition (20 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 066423335X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664233358
  • Product Dimensions: 22.5 x 15.4 x 1.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 588,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

George A. Lindbeck is Pitkin Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. He is the author of several books, including The Church in a Postliberal Age.

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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Enjoyable Book 4 Dec 2011
By Michael - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Lindbeck deals with three different approaches to doctrine:

Cognitive Propositional.
This is the understanding that doctrines make truth claims about objective reality. Propositionalism finds certitude in Scripture and emphasizes the cognitive aspect of faith and religion. This has been the traditional approach of Orthodox Christian belief. Synthesizing these Scriptural truths and doctrines is also a part of this method. Thinkers in this group remain critical of post-foundational approaches.

Experiential Expressive.
This method, which emphasizes religious feeling, was thought to have found universal objectivity for religious truth. While it was presupposed that all religious feeling had a common core experience, it wasn't long before this proved untenable. Difficulty with this approach was found in specifying distinctive features of religious feeling, such that "the assertion of commonality becomes logically and empirically vacuous" (18).

Cultural Linguistic.
This is Lindbeck's method. It's design is ecumenically minded but has fostered a larger discussion pertaining to its use in theological method. At the risk of sounding too reductionistic it might be said that this alternative seeks to understand religion as a culture or a semiotic language. Religion shapes the entirety of life, not just cognitive or emotional dimensions. A religion is a "comprehensive scheme or story used to structure all dimensions of existence" (21). And "its vocabulary of symbols and its syntax may be used for many purposes, only one of which is the formulation of statements about reality. Thus while a religion's truth claims are often of the utmost importance to it (as in the case of Christianity), it is, nevertheless, the conceptual vocabulary and the syntax or inner logic which determine the kinds of truth claims the religion can make" (21).

In terms of measuring religions for truth, dynamic truth is what is to be accepted, which may or may not correspond to reality (37). Truth, in this regard, is what is meaningful (34). Lindbeck uses a map metaphor in which the knowledge provided by the map is only "constitutive of a true proposition when it guides the traveler rightly" (38). This dynamic understanding of truth is not answerable to static propositional truth claims. Religion must be utilized correctly to provide ontology, or meaning (38).

The possibility of salvation as solus Christus is said to conform to this approach. "One must, in other words, learn the language of faith before one can know enough about its message knowingly to reject it and thus be lost" (45). Lindbeck has in mind here fides ex auditu and envisions a post-mortem offer of salvation.

In readdressing propositional truth, it is said that religious sentences have first-order or ontological truth or falsity only in determinate settings (54; recall the map metaphor). Understood in this way, the Cultural Linguistic approach proves to successfully supply categorical, symbolic, and propositional truths.

Rule Theory maintains that what is "abiding and doctrinally significant" about religion is not found in inner experience or their propositional truth, but "in the story it tells and in the grammar that informs the way the story is told and used" (66). In order to make sense of religious experiences they must be interpreted within an entire comprehensive framework.

Lindbeck presents a softer view of doctrine, which is less truth-claiming, and more about community rules. Doctrines, thus, may be reversible or irreversible, unconditional or conditional, temporary or permanent.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the new edition 29 Dec 2011
By Jeremiah Gibbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The previous reviewer does a fine job of summarizing the argument. I don't think he got everything right, but you should read the book yourself if you want more nuance than he gave.

I mostly just want to recommend this edition. After 25 years of vibrant scholarly debate, Bruce Marshall wrote an introduction for this edition and Lindbeck wrote an afterward. Lindbeck's afterward is mostly about some clirifications from Chapter 3...one of the most contended sections of the first edition.

Marshall's introduction is worth the price of the new edition if you are a new reader to Lindbeck. Some veterans will appreciate Marshall's summary comments as well. While Lindbeck intended to write one sort of book (about ecumenism and a model for futhering dialogue), the book has largely been taken to be another sort of book (a book on epistemology and theological method). Marshall helps illuminate some of this history.
2.0 out of 5 stars The Sociology of Knowledge Once Again in Theological Dress 19 Aug 2014
By Wm James - Published on Amazon.com
Prof Lindbeck writes exceedingly well, and has achieved the status of a classic. But this is a defense of an ancien regime that has already achieved declining membership and empty churches. The effort of Prof Frei to resuscitate the Bible for the person in the pew, a distinguishing mark of the new Yale theology, is not in Lindbeck's agenda, and as a result his effort concedes too much. It is also not clear where the book alights on pneumatology, which could explain how smoothly a vanishing act Lindbeck achieves with foundationalism. The revelatory openness which Baptists and Mormons --America's growing religions-- is tightly shut away in L's presentation. As a consequence, a tired orthodoxy is once again reinvented, tightly drawing a failed conceptual scheme underhanded through what is really nothing more than a sociology. His debt to the sociology of knowledge has gone on now for decades without L. being called on it. Berger and Luckmann moved on long ago, yet Professor Lindbeck continues to cling finally to "The Social Construction of Reality" as worthy of canonical status. Additionally, Professor L's use of the later Wittgenstein is highly selective. One could wish he spent his considerable talents less on a failed ecumenical and more on coming to terms with Witty.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Nature of Doctrine 2 May 2014
By Rev. Ron - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Professor Lindbeck's timeless work is experiencing a bit of a revival. It is a great book for
well-educated Clergy and Lay Scholars. I was fortunate to have had him as a Professor. He was one of most outstanding at Yale. I shall always be thankful that for three decades,
I was able to read and re-read this great book! Rev. Ron Hooker (Yale Graduate)
Not often is such a great Reformation Scholar, Professor, and Faithful Christian, to be
found in one person. He is one of the last Vatican II Official Observers still living.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hispanic perspective 11 Jan 2013
By Pablo Mazariegos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a Hispanic seminary student attending a Reformed organization, my challenge is to contextualize reformed doctrine into Spanish. Everything I learn in English sounds great and I love it. But the challenge, for me, arises when I have to: 1. Linguistically translate the doctrine-vocabulary into Spanish; 2. Contextualize the doctrines, which are typically geared/constructed from/to serve the American audience to the immensely diverse Hispanic community. This book was helpful in validating my challenges. There is very few, if any, reformed material exclusively addressing the needs, sins etc of the Hispanic community. This book will be helpful for those trying to address the issue of linguistics and culture so that they can generate a language that can clearly and humbly communicate Biblical principles.
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