Pragmatic Historicism

A Theology for the Twenty-first Century

By Sheila Greeve Davaney

Subjects: Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791446942, 223 pages, September 2000
Hardcover : 9780791446935, 223 pages, September 2000

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Table of contents



1. Histories and Contexts

Preliminary Remarks
Pluralistic Modernity
Directions in and Challenges to Twentieth-Century Theology
Emergent Historicism
Current Historicist Theological Options

2. Theological Roads Not Taken

Preliminary Remarks
George Lindbeck and Postliberalism
David Tracy and Revisionist Theology
Toward Pragmatic Historicism

3. Historicism and Human Worldviews

Assumptions and Theories
Conversation Partners
Cosmological and Anthropological Presuppositions
Concluding Comments

4. Theology in a Historicist Perspective
Preliminary Comments
Historicist Theology as Imaginative Construction
Historicist Theology as Metaphorical Elaboration
Toward a More Consistent Historicism
A Pragmatic Historicism

5. Philosophical Fellow Travelers: Rorty, Stout, and West

Philosophical Pragmatism
Richard Rorty
Jeffrey Stout
Cornel West

6. Conclusion: Beyond Luck and Weapons

The Move to Normative Judgments
Revisiting the Relation of Past and Present
Procedural Pragmatism: Reentering the Public Arena
In the Face of Multiple Voices
The Content of Pragmatic Norms
Tragedy and Hope




Presents a new option in theology, "pragmatic historicism" which emerges out of the historicist assumptions of recent Western thought and resists both confessionalism and universalism.


Sheila Greeve Davaney develops a bold new option in theology and religious reflection—pragmatic historicism—which emerges out of the historicist assumptions of human situatedness, particularity, and plurality that have come to characterize Western thought. The major theological attempts by postliberal and revisionist theology to incorporate these insights have failed to contend fully with the historicist challenge; Davaney's pragmatic historicism more clearly repudiates essentialism, universalism, and confessionalism. The theology that emerges is constructive and critical, resisting all forms of confessionalism without resorting to new forms of universalism. In its academic mode, it is interpreted not in opposition to religious studies, but as one subdiscipline within the study of religion whose major concerns are the identification, analysis, and critical reconstruction of religious ideas. As such it is a form of cultural analysis and criticism. The work includes a detailed exploration of the thought of philosophical pragmatists Richard Rorty, Cornel West, and Jeffrey Stout, and theologians Sallie McFague, John B. Cobb Jr., Gordon Kaufman, Delwin Brown, and William Dean, among others.

Sheila Greeve Davaney is Professor of Theology at Iliff School of Theology. She has published many works, including most recently Horizons in Feminist Theology: Identity, Tradition, and Norms.


"By not going down the road of either postliberal or revisionist thinking, Davaney's theology emerges as an exciting new way of doing theology: a theology that seriously confronts theological pluralism, and a theology that transcends the extremes of foundationalism and relativist forms of nonfoundationalism." — J. Wentzel van Huyssteen, author of The Shaping of Rationality: Toward Interdisciplinarity in Theology and Science

"Davaney has done an impressive job in providing a clear and comprehensive overview of major currents in contemporary theology, and situating the alternatives against the backdrop of broader intellectual developments. She goes beyond depicting the contemporary theological scene to make a case for the identification of an emerging trajectory—pragmatic historicism—that deserves recognition and nurturing." — Linell E. Cady, author of Religion, Theology, and American Public Life