George Lindbeck and Frei’s Later Work
This chapter analyzes the second stage of postliberal theology, which is dominated by Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine and Frei’s essays from the 1980s. Lindbeck contrasts his theories of religion and doctrine with “cognitive-propositionalist” theories and “experiential-expressivist” theories. Lindbeck argues instead for a “cultural-linguistic” approach, using language and grammar as descriptive analogies. Religions are like languages, he says, and doctrines are like grammar. Lindbeck’s proposals depend on the later Wittgenstein, deriving the meaning of first-order religious claims from their use in the community’s form of life. The chapter then discusses Frei’s most important essays from the 1980s, as well as the comparative typology of theological method Frei was working on when he died in 1988. In the essays, he contrasts his own method with the hermeneutic method of Paul Ricoeur and David Tracy, arguing that his own is more adequate. His comparative analysis yields five types of theological method and argues that type four (typified by Barth) is best. The chapter argues that crucial to Frei’s critique of liberal theology, his analysis of theological claims, and his own method is the later Wittgenstein’s views on linguistic meaning.
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