The debate over finding a proper foundation produced two answers. First, the bedrock foundation could only be a religious experience. While personal in nature, they believed that it was universal. Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher, often called the leading nineteenth-century theologian of the Protestant church, first voiced this approach to theology. He maintained that “the essence of religion is an awareness of absolute dependence or the experience of God consciousness.” [ref]Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke. Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context. 33).[/ref]
Others of a more conservative bend sought to find a different foundation. As a second answer, they concluded that this invulnerable foundation lay in an error-free Bible, which they viewed as the storehouse for all divine revelation. This led to sayings such as the one by Charles Hodge, a Princeton theologian, that the Bible is “free from all error, whether of doctrine, fact, or precept.” [ref]Beyond Foundationalism., 34.[/ref]
The second answer bolstered the process of propositional thinking and teaching in the form of systematic theology. Systematic theology took the fragmented view to a larger scale presenting themes without context instead of stories, by thinking it was teaching what the Bible says on any given topic where the “adept theologian claimed that he was only restating in a more systematic form what scripture itself says.” [ref]Beyond Foundationalism., 34.[/ref]
Hodge suggested that just as a natural scientist uncovered the facts pertaining to the natural world, so the theologian brought to light the theological facts found in Scripture by drawing theological propositions from the text and compiling these various facts. With such a foundation, conservative theologians were confident that they could deduce from Scripture the great truths about God or any other category and deliver an objective view of these beliefs. [ref]Beyond Foundationalism., 34-34.[/ref]
Just as the legacy of Schleiermacher dominated the liberal project to the present, the foundationalism of Hodge and other nineteenth-century conservatives sets the tone for what would become the theological paradigm of Evangelical theology through most of the twentieth-century. This “compendium of truth” that can be unlocked through scientific induction came to be the character of American fundamentalism and can be seen in Wayne Grudem’s definition of systematic theology as the attempt to determine what the whole Bible teaches about any given topic. Grudem says, “Systematic theology is any study that answers the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic.” [ref]Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine 21. This definition of systematic theology was taken from Professor John Frame under whom Grudem studied at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia.[/ref]
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