Hans W. Frei (1922-88) was one of the most important American theologians of his generation. This book makes available the work in which he was engaged during the last decade of his life. Based on his 1983 Shaffer Lectures at Yale University and his 1987 Cadbury Lectures at the University of Birmingham, it presents Frei's reflections on issues and options in contemporary Christian theology, especially on the relation of theology to biblical interpretation and on the place of theology as an academic tradition. In this book, Frei proposes classifying theologians according to whether they see Christian theology primarily as an academic discipline or as an internal activity of Christian communities. He describes five variations of these views. The first, represented by Immanuel Kant and Gordon Kaufman, regards theology as a philosophical discipline within the academy. The second, represented by theologians as diverse as Wolfhart Pannenberg, David Tracy, and Carl Henry, correlates specifically Christian cultural structures of meaning with general ones. The third type, represented by Friedrich Schleiermacher and Paul Tillich, occupies the middle of the spectrum. The fourth type, represented by Karl Barth, emphasizes the internal descriptive task of theology but remains open to ad hoc correlations with concerns of the wider culture. The fifth, which includes D.Z. Phillips and other Wittgensteinian fideists, opts for pure self description, though this group defends its position with philosophical arguments that, oddly enough, connect it with the other end of the spectrum. Frei argues in favor of the third and fourth options. In his view, theologians like Schleiermacher, and even more,Barth--although often seen as polar opposites--enable theology to remain most faithful to the priority of the ecumenically attested literal sense in biblical interpretation.
Hans W. Frei was the foremost historian of modern biblical hermeneutics. He spent the majority of his career teaching at Yale Divinity School, where he authored The Identity of Jesus Christ and The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative, numerous essays, and a vast collection of unpublished works, which have since been published posthumously: Types of Christian Theology and Theology and Narrative.
William C. Placher was Charles D. and Elizabeth S. LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He was the author or editor of a number of books including A History of Christian Theology, Jesus the Savior, and Essentials of Christian Theology, all published by WJK.
George Hunsinger is associate professor of Theology at Bangor Theological Seminary (Maine). He holds an M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Yale University. His broad experience as a lecturer includes presenting, in Geneva, Switzerland, "The Church's Mission in the Nuclear Age," a paper commissioned by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.