Modern attitudes in systematic theology

Michel Barnes is one of a few patristic scholars who is working to rehabilitate Augustine from of the nasty things that theologians have been saying about Augustine’s trinitarian theology. In the context of an article discussing where these nasty things have come from, he made an interesting comment about modern systematic theology in general which I thought was worth posting:

Like turn-of-the-century historians, contemporary systematicians seem to be distinguished by the confidence with which they will deploy such grand, architectonic narrative forms. This confidence springs, I think, from two attitudes. First, the confidence reflects a positive sense of all the new things that we have learned as moderns through the mechanism of “paradigm shifts”; not the least of what we have learned is the existence of such paradigms themselves. Secondly, the confidence to speak in architectonic narrative forms reflects a general sense that details matter less than perspective, that historical facts are only epiphenomena of an architectonic paradigm or hermeneutic, so that sufficient knowledge of “facts” can be acquired solely through the practice of a hermeneutical or an ideological critique in itself, since any “fact” can itself be reduced to an expression or the symptom of a hermeneutic or ideology. One can imagine that either or both of these attitudes would make historical judgments or characterizations more tentative and rare, but I think it is fair to conclude that this has not been the case. [Michel RenĂ© Barnes, “Augustine in Contemporary Trinitarian Theology,” Theological Studies 56 (1995): 241.]