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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Creatureliness, freedom, and hope.

A passage from an underappreciated 20th-century liberal theologian, James W. Woelfel, from an essay entitled "The future of American liberal religious thought: A critical perspective":

Creatureliness as a foundation for theological reflection will require liberal religious thought to deal fully with human existence in inextricable relationship to its planetary and cosmic ecology, and thus with God as inescapably bound up with nature as well as with us . . .

[Freedom.] In both its personal and its social dimensions human life is at best a fruitful interdependence and at worst a vicious bondage . . . American liberal religious thought, with its own legacy of optimism, must in a future that is at least as much a source of apprehension as of hope come more radically and seriously to grips than ever before with the depths of human bondage . . .

Hope has become a central category in contemporary theology . . . Insofar as American liberal religious thought views the human situation entirely within the boundaries of birth and death, it will as it looks to its own future have to deal much more seriously than it has with the question: What does liberal religion have to say to people whose situation is hopeless? Does it have anything at all to say? Is it so fixated on hope and future that it cannot affirm the meaningfulness of human life without hope? (James W. Woelfel, The Agnostic Spirit as a Common Motif in Liberal Theology and Liberal Skepticism. San Francisco: Mellen Research UP, 1990: 55-60.)

Great questions! Woelfel is also the author of Borderland Christianity: Critical Reason and Christian Love (Abingdon P, 1973), which I found to be more elegantly written. Since neither book was ever even remotely a best-seller, interlibrary loans is probably the way to go to find a copy.

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 11 November 2003 at 5:02 PM

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Richard Hurst:

November 12, 2003 09:39 PM | Permalink for this comment

Those all seem like good thoughts, but I must say ... Creatureliness? Not a word that rolls off the tongue!


November 12, 2003 10:37 PM | Permalink for this comment


Try "incarnation." It's a tad more felicitous.


November 13, 2003 05:12 PM | Permalink for this comment

Why must liberal theology be ponderous and dull? I like Woelfel's questions, but what awful style! I wish scholars could escape the clutches of grad school seminars. I had to take up blogging to get my writing under control! ;)

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