A Critical Analysis of the Theological Method of F. Leron Shults
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ABSTRACT A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE THEOLOGICAL METHOD OF F. LERON SHULTS Joshua Philip Boswell, Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012 Chair: Dr. Stephen J. Wellum This dissertation evaluates the theological method of F. LeRon Shults. Shults's attempt to develop theology in light of the postmodernism milieu is a legitimate and necessary enterprise for evangelical theologians. His emphasis on interdisciplinary dialogue may open opportunities to engage the secular academy. Despite his laudable motivation and the beneficial features of his project, it fails on at least two counts: biblical fidelity and internal consistency. Chapter 1 sets the cultural/theological context for Shults's project and briefly describes his proposed theological method. In his method the philosophical turn to relationality is a key theme. He proposes four sources for theological method--Scripture, tradition, philosophy, and culture--claiming that Scripture is the primary source. Shults's theology, however, is inconsistent with his proposal. He allows philosophy rather than Scripture to play the determinative role in his theological method. Chapters 2 and 3 describe Shults's theology. Chapter 2 describes Shults's use of Scripture in his theological method as well as his use of tradition. I show that both sources are used as secondary supports to Shults's use of philosophy. Chapter 3 describes the place of philosophy in Shults's theological method. He allows the philosophical turn to relationality to drive his theological project. For Shults, philosophy judges and forms the content of theology. Chapters 4 and 5 evaluate Shults's use of the four sources mentioned above, arguing that Shults affords too little authority to Scripture and too much authority to philosophy. Chapter 4 shows that, despite the authoritative place of Scripture in evangelical theology and the Bible's self-attestation to its authority, Shults does not give Scripture enough authority in his project. Chapter 5 shows that Shults allows philosophy and science to hold more authority than they warrant. Philosophy, for Shults, determines the limits of exegesis and theology. In his program, theology must conform to the philosophical turn to relationality and contemporary science rather than have philosophy and science stand under the evaluative judgment of the biblical text. In short, Shults's theology is unbiblical and inconsistent.