The Rediscovery of God and the Recovery of Systematic Theology: Questions for East Asian Contexts

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Ateneo de Manila University


The topic of our conference is “systematic theology” in an East Asian context, and this very topic moves us to a fundamental question. In the face of multiple and complex contextual challenges that so much Asian theology has already addressed, as well as important and ground-breaking documents by the South Asian Bishops Conference in recent years, why turn to systematic theology again? What do we expect systematic theology as such to say to, much less do about the challenges arising from this East Asian context—or any other context, for that matter? After all, systematic theology concerns God, and more precisely the ways in which we can understand how God is revealed and encountered. It takes us into Christology and pneumatology, into anthropology and grace, and into ecclesiology and eschatology. Why specify systematic theology, as opposed to fundamental theology, biblical theology, moral theology, or ethics? Why, indeed, not turn to economics, agronomics, political economy, sociobiology, environmental biology, and other regional sciences? Are we asking too much ofsystematic theology in expecting it to be responsive to a vast East Asian context that involves so many parts, so many challenges? Do we risk reducing theology to a rhetorical construct if it only serves to justify a particular program of pastoral action? The topic forces us to look at the nature ofsystematic theology itself, for it is something other than an adaptation of non-theological projects, or the construction of a quasi-theological scaffolding from various elements of faith and the human sciences in order to build a pastoral program.