In a Peanuts cartoon, Linus confided to Snoopy, "I have a theory, Snoopy. See what you think of it." Snoopy was all ears as Linus explained: "I have a theory that the 'head beagle' and the 'great pumpkin' are the same person." After Linus left, Snoopy contemplated this proposal and thought with a frown, "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!" Then, as he lay back down atop his doghouse, he concluded drowsily, "It sounds like some sort of new theology!"

Since the 1960s, many people have become rightly skeptical of new movements and trends in theology. A quick perusal of the shelves of seminary bookstores reveals an overabundance of new theologies: process theology, theology of hope, liberation theology, radical theology--even clown theology! Who can blame Snoopy or anyone for yawning at still one more new movement in contemporary theology?

Yet, something about the poorly named "postliberal theology," arising primarily out of Yale Divinity School, arouses curiosity. Mainline Protestant theologians calling for a "back to the Bible" movement?

"Postliberal" is not a particularly descriptive label. Neither is "The New Yale Theology" or "New Haven Theology." "Postliberal" simply suggests this theology arises out of liberal theology, yet seeks to go beyond it. Whereas liberal theology elevates modern thought and experience alongside Scripture and tradition as a norm for Christian belief, postliberal theology rejects this move without becoming premodern in its approach. In other words, it refuses to elevate secular thought alongside or above Scripture or return to a wooden, literalistic interpretation of biblical narratives.

Postliberal theology is a form of postmodern theology that rejects the Enlightenment emphasis on the ...

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May 20, 1996

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