Toward a Mormon Systematic Theology: Essay on Wrestling the Angel by Terryl L. Givens | BYU Studies

Toward a Mormon Systematic Theology: Essay on Wrestling the Angel by Terryl L. Givens

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Toward a Mormon Systematic Theology: Essay on Wrestling the Angel by Terryl L. Givens

Author Stephen H. Webb,

Can Mormon theology be made systematic? That question presupposes, of course, that it is not systematic already, and this is where the skeptics of system building have an advantage. If Mormon theology appears to be a bit protracted, improvised, and even makeshift if not positively byzantine, then forcing it into a schematic form might be inappropriate. Organizing Mormon thought might even be a violent act, like cramming a lot of priceless pieces of glass art into a small, unpadded box for shipping. Under such conditions, how could any theologian guarantee that breakage won't occur?

Fortunately, ideas are not so fragile, and theology is not so immediately consequential. Every significant idea has built-in logical consequences, but it can take centuries for academic theology to have much impact on everyday religious beliefs and practices. Even the systematic theology of Thomas Aquinas, of which it can be said that nothing more theologically systematic can ever be thought, took centuries to become the standard teaching of the Catholic Church. I doubt if any church will ever have another Aquinas; the social conditions for such magisterial summation will never be so finely tuned.