Based on his view of religion as a linguistic community, George Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine calls Christians to pay heed to the integration of the Christian faith and secular scientific resources for the benefit of Christian ecumenical relations. In order to accomplish this task, Lindbeck wants to defend and propose a middle way to understand doctrine, its function, and nature. For him, the current state of affairs is very negative in terms of how people perceive Christian doctrines and dogmas.
Lindbeck argues that doctrine should be understood as a linguistic system with its symbols and rules. With this suggestion, both the orthodox theologian who emphasizes propositions and the liberal theologian who emphasizes experience would be able to share a common ground to understand Christian doctrine in better and new ways. This synthetical model, according to Lindbeck, would open the door for a more solid ecumenical work in theology.
Lindbeck further develops his main argument by arguing that religion is not only a linguistic community properly speaking, but also a framework which shapes people’s lives and their thinking. And as a such, its task concerns not only the individual but the whole community. With this, the content of doctrines is moved out from propositional truths or religious experience, and is moved in to the community as a whole where the regulative principle can be applied. That is, since doctrine will be understood as a linguistic system or language, the rules of the community will play the role of regulator.
Lindbeck offers the case of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Christian Orthodoxy regarding their irreconcilable views about the doctrine of infallibility. While the propositional approach and the experience approach will never agree under these terms, his linguistic approach will find commonalities for a common understanding despite this new approach is not able to fix the problem.
Lindbeck’s new approach is undeniable useful in these postmodern times where religious and political disagreements prevent Christians to listen to the other charitably and where social stability is at stake. This offers a platform to find ‘points of contact’ or common aspects between individuals or groups. Despite its strengths, the potential negative reception from the different Christian circles could be an issue, especially to the strong critiques found in the book. I think a more neutral tone must be a solution to this.