Carl Raschke’s Critical Theology: Introducing an Agenda for an Age of Global Crisis is a brief look at the integration of critical theology into global theology. Now that I’ve basically just restated the title in different terms, what does it actually mean? Raschke states it as: “The thesis… is that the new era of global crisis demands a whole new theological formulary that is unprecedented both in the content of the challenges it faces and in the conceptual resources or ‘intellectual capital’ on which it must draw” (10). Essentially, the idea is that there is a global crisis–a kind of intermingling of ideas that makes it difficult to sort out what is what–and in order to deal with that, Christian theology must utilize a new set of tools for thinking and conceptualizing ideas.
After a chapter outlining this “Age of Crisis” in greater depth (along with a very brief history of critical theory), Raschke draws upon many lines of critical theory to show how it might be used to communicate Christianity effectively on a global scale. Mostly, this plays along the lines of highlighting several important critical thinkers (Jurgen Habermas, Martin Heidegger, Immanuel Kant, and the like) and showing how their thought may be applied to broader theological trends. Of course, none of this is done naively, as some of the pitfalls of critical theory are also acknowledged. But the focus is almost entirely on what critical theory brings to the table as far as the “global crisis” is concerned. It is worth noting here that the book assumes a general working knowledge of many of these important thinkers.
One question which it seems to me Raschke did not adequately deal with is the question of whether “new” theology is a good thing. As many have said in various ways, “new theology” tends to be heresy. There’s a reason that the historic church made confessions and creeds–in order to establish boundaries for orthodoxy. Thus, some may argue there is a danger to trying to make a truly new theology, for it may just be a rehashing of old errors, as so many modern heresies are. I didn’t see any specific place where Raschke dealt with this objection at length. I suspect his answer would be that yes, new theology in a sense is a dangerous endeavor, but when genuinely new challenges arise (i.e. globalization/globalism and how to make sense of Christianity in a somewhat universal fashion), it calls for new evaluations. Yes, there is truly nothing new under the sun in some sense, because what Raschke calls for is a critical look at existing theology and sources thereof so that we do not get too attached to cultural expressions of Christianity as just being orthodoxy. On these proposed responses, I believe Raschke to be correct. But he doesn’t make this or any other specific defense at length, so far as I can tell.
Critical Theology is a needed work that will get readers to look, well, critically at ideas they may have taken for granted before. It’s a deep work, despite its brevity.
+Brings critical theory to bear in theology
+Encourages further study
-At times may leave those unfamiliar with the topic befuddled
-Little defense of the notion of “new theology”
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
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