Secular theology

Secular theology

The field of secular theology, a subfield of liberal theology advocated by Anglican bishop John A. T. Robinson somewhat paradoxically combines secularism and theology. Recognized in the 1960s, it was influenced both by neo-orthodoxy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Harvey Cox, and the existentialism of Søren Kierkegaard and Paul Tillich. Secular theology digested modern movements like the Death of God Theology propagated by Thomas J. J. Altizer or the philosophical existentialism of Paul Tillich and eased the introduction of such ideas into the theological mainstream and made constructive evaluations, as well as contributions, to them.[1]

John Shelby Spong advocates a nuanced approach to scripture (as opposed to blunt Biblical literalism at the other end of the scale), informed by scholarship and compassion, which he argues can be consistent with both Christian tradition and a contemporary understanding of the universe. Secular theology holds that theism has lost credibility as a valid conception of God's nature.[2] It rejects the concept of a personal God and embraces the status of Jesus Christ, Christology and Christian eschatology as Christian mythology without basis in historical events.[3][4]

The movement chiefly came about as a response to general dissatisfaction with the Christian establishment's tendency to lapse into "provincialism" when presented with the "unusual" theological ideas common during the 1960s.[5][6][7] The movement also suggested the legitimacy of seeking the holy outside the church itself. Thereby it suggests that the church did not have exclusive rights to divine inspiration. In a sense, this incorporated a strong sense of continuous revelation in which truth of the religious sort was sought out in poetry, music, art, or even the pub and in the street.[8]

Certain other religions besides Christianity have developed secular theologies and applied these to core concepts of their own traditions. Notable among such movements has been the Reconstructionist Judaism of Mordecai Kaplan, which understands God and the universe in a manner concordant with Deweyan naturalism.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Williams, Rowan; Robinson, John; Hall, Douglas J. (2002). Honest to God. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 0-664-22422-9. 
  2. ^ Spong, John Shelby (1991). Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism : A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture. [San Francisco]: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-067518-7. 
  3. ^ Spong, John Shelby (1994). Resurrection: myth or reality?: a bishop's search for the origins of Christianity. [San Francisco]: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-067546-2. 
  4. ^ Spong, John Shelby. Born of a Woman. [San Francisco]: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-067523-3. 
  5. ^ "THE PRESENT FRONTIERS OF WESLEYAN THEOLOGY". Retrieved 2007-09-14. [dead link]
  6. ^ Dorrien, Gary J.. The Making of American Liberal Theology: Idealism, Realism, and Modernity, 1900-1950. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 0-664-22355-9. 
  7. ^ George Newlands. The Transformative Imagination: Rethinking Intercultural Theology. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 0-7546-3827-8. 
  8. ^ "Death of God Theology". Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  9. ^ "Mordecai Kaplan's Pragmatic Religion". Retrieved 2008-02-16. 


  • Harvey Cox, The Secular City (1965).
  • Harvey Cox, Religion in the Secular City: Toward a Postmodern Theology (1984).
  • Clayton Crockett (ed.), Secular Theology: American Radical Theological Thought (2001), ISBN 0415250528
  • Amos Funkenstein, "Secular Theology" in the Modern Age (1986)
  • John Warwick Montgomery, The shape of the past: A Christian response to secular philosophies of history (1975)
  • Wolfhart Pannenberg, Christianity in a Secularized World, (1989).
  • John A. T. Robinson, Exploration into God (1967).
  • John Shelby Spong, Jesus for the Non-Religious (2007), ISBN 0-06-076207-1

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