After Method (Paper)

Queer Grace, Conceptual Design, and the Possibility of Theology

  • 9780664268190
  • 6 x 9
  • 50.00
  • Paper
  • 0664268196
  • 10/16/2023
  • 7-10 days processing
$ 40.00


After Method assumes the impossibility of doing theology right–and moves beyond it. Organized as a conversation in two voices—with systematic-theological commitments represented by Karl Barth and constructive-theological commitments represented by Marcella Althaus-Reid—this book calls the redemptive potential of any methodological program into question. Indeed, the search for a full and complete theological account of reality has only further fragmented theological discourse. Thus, Hanna Reichel argues that method cannot “save” us—but that does not mean that we cannot do better. After Method harnesses the best insights systematic and constructive theologies have to offer in their mutual critique and gestures toward a “better” theology.

Utilizing architectural metaphor, Reichel pulls from systematic and constructive approaches to develop an understanding of theological work as conceptual design, responsibly ordering and structuring given materials for a purpose. This necessitates a more realistic adaptation to reality for theology, expanding its standards to encompass the experiences and perceptions of people and speaking the truth available to it. The honesty, humility, and solidarity generated through the failure of method liberates theology to a more playful and tentative cruising of different approaches and redirects its attention to “misfits” and outsiders. Equally demanding and self-relativizing, the resultant ethos is better able to do justice to the reality of the world and the reality of God than doctrinal orthodoxy or methodological orthopraxy.

Product Excerpts and Related Resources


"Hanna Reichel has written the best book on theological method in a generation. With rigor, creativity, and compassion, Reichel makes an often-dull topic exciting, even effervescent. This book accomplishes the seemingly impossible: it makes Barthians want to read queer theology, and it makes queer theologians want to read Barth." - Vincent Lloyd, Professor, Villanova University

"Method will not save theology. It can’t even save itself. But Hanna Reichel's brilliant book invites us to a better theology on the other side of methodological absolutes. Through careful attention to Marcella Althaus-Reid and Karl Barth, After Method diagnoses, undoes, and transcends some of the deepest divisions in the field of theology today. Reichel’s book is not just a preface to theology; it is a major theological event in itself." - Ted A. Smith, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Divinity, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

"Lucid and elegant, After Method clears and creates a much-needed space for creative play in contemporary theology. Reichel deploys conceptual design theory as a potential solution for all the ways theologians have (wrongly!) believed method can save us (or, at least, save our discipline). This approach is not to give theologians another supposedly stable method to copy but, rather, to invite us into a stance of epistemological humility. After Method liberates theology toward the methodological promiscuity it so desperately needs and liberates us poly-methodologists toward the forms of playful accountability we so desperately desire. Reichel’s work will be cited by any genuinely innovative theological project for years to come!" - Natalie Wigg-Stevenson, Associate Professor of Contextual Education and Theology, Emmanuel College, Toronto School of Theology

"At a time of disciplinary ferment and self-scrutiny in theology, Reichel raises a series of searching questions about its purposes, practitioners, audiences, and effects. In challenging familiar curricular distinctions, they gesture toward a more integrated and pragmatic approach that seeks to serve the church more effectively. Replete with insights, this creative study deserves widespread attention." - David Fergusson, Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge

"Few, if any, in the academy today are equipped to engage the range of theological and theoretical interlocutors as Reichel has in this book. With great clarity and wisdom, After Method forges a groundbreaking path. Conversant in Reformed, Lutheran, queer, and Latin American liberation theologies, Reichel offers both an insightful introduction to methodological differences across a range of theological perspectives and a stunning exposure of their similar commitments and pitfalls. After Method further develops a new theological discourse and vocabulary where queer ideas and lives are not fringe exceptions but are brought to bear on the most powerful and formative proposals in Christian faith. We need this book!" - Lisa D. Powell, Professor, St. Ambrose University

"Reichel’s After Method offers a breathtakingly virtuosic programmatic orientation for theology today to attend courageously to the reality of God. This is constructive theology at its best, infused with deep systematic theological commitments to the Protestant doctrine of justification and deftly deploying queer theory to discover grace outside the fixed walls of organized existence. With fierce clarity Reichel challenges theologians to practice theology with an open-minded honesty and expansive vision for an ‘otherwise’ in our challenging times." - Christine Helmer, Peter B. Ritzma Professor of the Humanities, Northwestern University

"This book is pathbreaking. Reichel is indeed after method—in many ways. Convinced that method cannot save, as many mistakenly believe, there remains the hope that it can still deliver valuable affordances. The book’s argument is therefore designed—intentionally, skillfully, artfully, playfully, care-fully, craftily, logically, insightfully, authoritatively—as a conceptual guide on such a way to do better theology. It shows ways to do theology that will be less violent, less complicit in falsehood, and less arrogant and self-assured than much of what we know and do. It offers an intriguing invitation to come along on this way of doing theology—to journey together with others, often strange and unexpected faces, including outsiders; to experience the surprise of recognizing much that seem so familiar yet now suddenly new and exhilarating once more, like law turned into life, swords into plowshares; to become sensitive to false promises of trails in the forest leading nowhere or worse, to destruction; to richly receive that alien grace that awakens hope for what may become possible and provides reorientation in the dense forest. For those of us doing theology—whether in church, academy, or public life—this guide on how to get along—and how not to get along!—will offer much discernment and delight on our shared journey. Many readers may feel strangely reassured, comforted, and at home—yet also somehow subverted, even shocked, and strangely surprised with every twist and every turn: the route was clearly designed with that in mind and for that purpose. This book is simply trailblazing—in so many ways." - Dirk J. Smit, Rimmer and Ruth de Vries Professor of Reformed Theology and Public Life, Princeton Theological Seminary

"In this rich, energetic, and wide-ranging account, Reichel argues for a thoroughgoing reconception of theological method. Reichel calls for diverse and creative queer destabilization rather than theological attempts to maintain control and focus on one’s own righteousness. Weaving together constructive and systematic approaches and calling on theology to try not to save itself via methodological immaculacy, Reichel remains committed to an irreducible grounding in the reality of God and the world, and hope for chastened yet expectant futures." - Susannah Cornwall, Professor of Constructive Theologies, Director of The Exeter Centre for Ethics and Practical Theology, University of Exeter

"Reichel is assuredly not the only one who is restless and longing for a different kind of theology, and in grappling with and pursuing that longing—in cruising that longing—they have given a great gift to the rest of us. Rejecting the terms of the methodological conflict between systematic and constructive theologies, Reichel promiscuously engages both, proposing a messy, indecent (queer) reorientation. After Method offers, dare I say, a better (approach to) theology—precisely as it promises nothing of the sort." - Brandy Daniels, Assistant Professor of Theology,, Co-Director of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, University of Portland

"What if critical reflection on theological method, on the possibility of theological knowledge, offered something more than a cleared throat, a sharpened knife, or a soul in despair? What if, indirectly, almost accidentally, it yielded real theological substance—hints of sin and grace, shadowy images of Christ and salvation, a stammering witness to the eschatological itinerance of a Christian life? What if these methodological reflections unmasked the sinful folly of every theology that tries to redeem itself, epistemologically speaking, by whatever method? And what would a theology look like that resisted the temptation to save itself, that broke free of the standard options—systematic or constructive, dogmatic or liberationist, truth-tracking or justice-seeking—by making each contend with each? Funded by a resolute theological realism and an antipositivist account of truth and value, could this nonconforming theology bear witness to God’s queer grace? Reichel poses these questions and many more in this brilliant, important, provocative book." - John R. Bowlin, Robert L. Stuart Professor of Philosophy and Christian Ethics, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Weaving between and together systematic and constructive theologies, Karl Barth and Marcella Althaus-Reid, the dogmatic and the liberationist, Reichel casts an exciting vision for what is possible when theologians are freed from their enthrallment to method. Where methodological dogmatism has reinforced divisions within theology and estranged theologians from the God they want to describe, Reichel’s ‘desoteriologized’ understanding of method draws on design theory to help theologians find a way back to describing our messy reality and the God who exceeds all attempts at naming. After Method is energizing and challenging in the best way." - Natalie Carnes, Professor of Theology, Baylor University

"Reichel’s work brims with creativity and provocation, asking readers to consider again the design, use, and affordances of Christian doctrine. By insisting that theologians attend carefully to the ethos of the development and deployment of doctrine, this study invites us all to do better by both our subject matter—the God of the gospel—and all those who matter to our God." - Philip G. Ziegler, Professor in Christian Dogmatics, University of Aberdeen

"After Method is many things at once: an impassioned rejection of the tired binary of 'systematic' and 'constructive' theology; an extended love letter to a deliciously odd theological couple; a guide for traversing the landscape of Christian thought without becoming lost in methodological cul-de-sacs. Even more, After Method is an erudite, humane, and imaginative example to us all. Reichel showcases a mode of reflection wherein responsiveness to context, attention to the grace of revelation, and the imperative of liberation are no longer treated as competing goods but entangled obligations—or, better, opportunities—whose negotiation can foster the emergence of 'better theology.'" —Paul Dafydd Jones, Professor, University of Virginia

"Reichel's book will be of keen interest to anyone concerned with theology as a discipline, but moreover, it would benefit anyone looking for a thoughtful and interesting use of Karl Barth and Marcella Atlas-Reid, among many others from both systematic and constructive theology." -Stephen D. Morrison, author & theologian

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