In my more cynical moments I end up thinking that there are two unwritten rules for academic research:
- You can only have an idea if someone else has already written it down (the requirement for a citation for every second word!)
- You can only find support for your ideas from a prescribed corpus of works (those the academics like)
I know it isn't really quite like that, but it feels like it sometimes.
Today a book landed with a satisfying thud on my doormat, the purposes of which are anything but my research. The 'good' thing is that it ticks the academic box so even if it says things that non-academics have already said (or, more properly that I read elsewhere first) at least it can now be appropriated for my own arguments.
Daniel L Migliore Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdman, 2004 2nd Edition, is as its title suggests a basic systematics, dogmatics or doctrine reference (which you call it depends on where you went to school!). In the preface to the first edition the author writes:
The sole novelty in the presentation of topics is the inclusion of three imaginary dialogues of representative theologians and theological positions of the twentieth century. The dialogue form is, I think, not only pedagogically appealing, but often captures the vitality of theological inquiry and th eopen-endedness of theological discussions much better than more conventional expositions.
This model, albeit not expressed so clearly as Theologian A and Theologian B in discussion is not so far from what McLaren attempts in some of his popular writings, and is precisley the model used by the 17th century (English) Baptists, albeit that in each of these their protagonists and antagonists are pure constructs. Of course Migliore's 'real theologians' are just as much constructs (his representation of a view of their views) but because of who and what they represent automatically (or at least more readily) acceptable in the academy.
So what? So I think Migliore is offering me a suitable academic peg upon which to hang my hunch about a possible means of making material more accessible and accessed. And I feel that he is just one more writer recognising that this approach has potential, so he fits into my 'you too' category, at least in this one regard.