Died: George Lindbeck, Father of Postliberal Theology

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Nature of Doc­trine author was a mis­sion­ary to post­moder­ni­ty.

Ecu­meni­cal the­olo­gian George Lind­beck, who helped define the postlib­er­al­ism move­ment that trans­formed 21st-cen­tu­ry Protes­tantism, died ear­li­er this month at age 94.

A Luther­an schol­ar who spent more than half his life on fac­ul­ty at Yale Divin­i­ty School, Lind­beck passed away on Jan­u­ary 8 in a Flori­da hos­pice. He spent his final years in assist­ed liv­ing after suf­fer­ing a brain aneurism in 2009.

Lindbecks influ­en­tial 1984 book, The Nature of Doc­trine: Reli­gion and The­ol­o­gy in a Postlib­er­al Age, estab­lished a the­ol­o­gy that reject­ed mod­ern lib­er­al Protes­tant think­ing that defined reli­gious truth by com­mon per­son­al expe­ri­ences, and instead pro­posed a cul­tur­al-lin­guis­tic approach that saw the creeds and prac­tices of faith com­mu­ni­ties as the basis for reli­gious under­stand­ing.

What­ev­er else postlib­er­al­ism is, it was meant to be an apolo­getic help to be a credal or mere Chris­t­ian in our age, wrote George Sum­n­er, bish­op of the Epis­co­pal Dio­cese of Dal­las. That is what George was and what he want­ed to pro­mote. Fur­ther­more, it was a deeply mis­sion­ary-influ­enced the­o­ry.

Raised in Chi­na and Korea as the son of Luther­an mis­sion­ar­ies, Lind­beck grew up to become what Sum­n­er called a mis­sion­ary to post­moder­ni­ty.

Lindbecks the­ol­o­gy, focused on belief and world­view for­ma­tion over ratio­nal argu­men­ta­tion or emo­tion­al expe­ri­ence, grew pop­u­lar among evan­gel­i­cals, as did work by his col­league and fel­low postlib­er­al the­olo­gian Hans Frei.

If the sort of research pro­gram rep­re­sent­ed by postlib­er­al­ism has a real future as a com­mu­nal enter­prise of the church, its more like­ly to be car­ried on by evan­gel­i­cals than any­one else, Lind­beck told a crowd of evan­gel­i­cal the­olo­gians

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