The Adventist Approach to Theology

Introducing a study on theological methodology

N.R. Dower is an editorial director of Ministry


Some weeks ago it was my privilege as a member of the Biblical Research Institute Commit tee to listen to a presentation by E. Edward Zinke on "Approaches to Theology." This material was so carefully researched and clearly presented that we re quested the committee to make it available as a supplement to all of our MINISTRY readers. This we are glad to do with this issue of THE MINISTRY magazine. In this supplement the author surveys various systems of theology as a basis for comparing or contrasting the Seventh-day Adventist approach to theology with them. The uniqueness and importance of the Seventh-day Adventist approach to theology is also illustrated and clarified.

The study begins with a summary statement regarding the general method by which religion has developed within the history of mankind. From there it moves into the history of Christian theology, noting that to some extent the theology of historic Christianity has developed in ways not altogether dissimilar to those of other religions. A characterization is made of method in theology during the period of the early church. Beginning with Origen, one of the first to give clear consideration to method in theology, the presentation then moves to Anselm and Aquinas, two major figures of medieval theological thinking, in order to examine the relationship they saw between revelation and reason.

The Reformation provides the next sampling of approaches, beginning with William of Ockham and his reaction to the medieval synthesis between faith and reason. A summary statement of the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura follows as a contrast to approaches to theology taken within the early and medieval periods. The survey then skips to the contemporary theological scene, pointing out the major change that took place in theology as a result of Kant's influence and illustrating that change particularly by Schleiermacher's words. A basic continuity is seen in spite of the differences between the theological method of the medieval period and that of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Protestant thought, as well as contemporary Catholic theology. Then follows a brief section designed to illustrate the relation ship of contemporary Biblical studies to the general procedures that have been carried out in theology.

The concluding section deals with an evaluation from a Seventh-day Adventist perspective of critical Biblical studies and of method in theology in general. A proposal follows for method in theology within the Seventh-day Adventist declaration that Scripture is the starting point for all thinking about God, man, and the universe.

We are greatly indebted to Pastor Zinke for this excellent work. The paper was presented to those who attended the Bible conferences in Europe this summer, and the reception there was equally good and much appreciated. We are happy to make it available to our ministers and other workers throughout the world field.


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N.R. Dower is an editorial director of Ministry

October 1977

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