Theology as Improvisation

A Study in the Musical Nature of Theological Thinking

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In Theology as Improvisation, Nathan Crawford reimagines the possibilities for how theology thinks God within a postmodern world. He argues that theology is improvisation by analyzing the nature of attunement within theological thinking and how this opens certain possibilities for theology. He does so by engaging a number of thinkers, including Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, David Tracy, and Saint Augustine. He navigates the nature of thinking God in a postmodern world by using these thinkers to offer critiques of onto-theological thinking and totalizing systems while also following their embrace of the fragment and focus upon the nature of thinking as attunement. The result is a unique way of approaching theological thinking in our contemporary context.

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Nathan Crawford, Ph.D. (2011), Loyola University Chicago, ministers in the United Methodist Church. He taught at Wesley Seminary, Indiana Wesleyan University, and Loyola University Chicago. He has published many articles and edited The Continuing Relevance of Wesleyan Theology (Pickwick 2011).
Nathan Crawford is attuned to contemporary philosophical and theological trends and invites reconsideration of the theological task according to the improvisational character discernible in historical and contemporary exemplars. Even those uncomfortable with the theological open-endedness nurtured by his proposal can counter-argue their case only by attunement to and improvisational engagement with the rhythms, movements, and cadences of this excellent first book.
Amos Yong, J. Rodman Williams Professor of Theology, Regent University, Virginia Beach, USA

Acknowledgments ... vii

Introduction: How are We Playing? ... 1
A. An Incomplete Account of Thinking God in the Christian Tradition ... 5
B. The Problem ... 10
C. My Argument (or, a Modestly Proposed Solution) ... 26
D. A Brief Excursus—Orienting Terms ... 28

Chapter 1: Heidegger and the Question of Thinking ... 39
A. Pursuing the Path of Thinking ... 41
B. “Step Back” – Opening the Path to Being ... 45
C. Thinking as Attunement ... 50
D. Conclusion ... 62

Chapter 2: Derrida and Attunement: Playing in a Deconstructive Mode ... 65
A. Deconstruction as Attunement ... 41
B. Hospitality as Attunement ... 76
C. Risking Interpretation—The Example of Translation ... 84
D. Concluding Remarks ... 90

Chapter 3: Finding the Groove: Attunement as a Musical Way of Thinking ... 93
A. The Centrality of Listening for Attunement in Music ... 97
B. The Place of Attunement in Improvisation ... 101
C. Improvisation as Transformation: Breaking the Musical Form ... 114
D. Conclusion... 120

Chapter 4: Attunement and Theology: Resonations with David Tacy ... 123
A. Theology as Conversation: The Problem of Totality and the Task of Theology ... 124
B. Naming God: The Turn to Form through the Fragment ... 136
C. The Gathering: Rethinking the “System” of Theology ... 147
D. Excursus: An Ethics of Resistance ... 151
E. Conclusion ... 157

Chapter 5: The Theological Example: Augustine’s Unstructuring of Theological Form ... 159
A. The Basis of Theology: De Musica and the Basis of Theology ... 162
B. Finding the Groove: Rhetoric as Form in De Doctrina Christiana ... 169
C. Improvising Freely: The Form of the Confessions ... 178
D. Concluding Remarks ... 191

Conclusion: Well, Sort of ... 193
A. Relating the Parts to the Whole ... 194
B. Emphases for Theology ... 198

Bibliography ... 207
Index ... 231
All interested in postmodernism, hermeneutics, and deconstruction within theology. As well, the text has implications for religious studies and philosophy of religion.