Theology: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introduction S.)
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ISBN/ASIN : 0192853848
Manufacturer : Oxford Paperbacks|
Release data : 24 February, 2000
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A broad, academic overview of Christian theology
Ford takes theology to be very broad in scope, academically occupying the overlap of comparative religion and philosophy, but in its broader role informing and being informed by every other discipline. It is the search for wisdom, in the context of a religious commitment. Ford's particular commitment is Christian, and he believes that theology cannot usefully be approached in a secular, neutral way. One must enter into a relationship with the divine, in his case with the Christian trinity, in order to properly explore theological questions. So this is not an introduction to the philosophy or psychology of religion, but an insider's view of a modern Christian theologian at work.
It is a rather cerebral view. You will seek in vain for the words 'mysticism' or 'grace' in the index, and on page 118 he says 'Buddhists might speak of Nirvana, a term with no Christian parallel.' Really? What of religious ecstasy, as described by Thomas A Kempis and others? What of 'a state of Grace'? Are such concepts uncomfortable to modern theologians?
There is also a lack of specificity. Questions are asked, issues raised, scope drawn (in very general terms) but it is left to the reader to explore possible answers. Arguably, that is all a short introduction like this can do.
Ford writes well. The proof reading was not perfect -- there is a spectacular typo on page 88 in which the words 'African wood carving' intrude themselves into a sentence about Jesus, for no reason other than they belong in the caption to the illustration on the facing page. Talking of illustrations, these VSI books do not always make effective use of very limited space. Thus we have a picture of London's Millennium Dome introducing the theme of theology in the next millennium.
Despite these reservations, this book remains a good introduction to the current state of Christian theology.
Theology: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introduction
ok, but if I'd seen it in a shop I'd probably not have bothered with it
Theology on the quick...
Part of a series by Oxford University Press, this book, 'Theology: A Very Short Introduction', by David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, follows the same format as other texts in the Very Short Introduction series -- it has fewer than 200 pages, is well indexed, has a useful listing of further readings, accessible and enjoyable narrative, and captures the essence in a very short space the major points of its topic. There are probably nearing 100 volumes in this Very Short Introduction series (making it, ironically, not a Very Short series), but among those that I have read, this text stands out as being one of the more interesting to me.
There are ten chapters grouped according to three major sections: Describing the Field of Theology; Theological Explorations; and Skills, Disciplines and Methods. In the first section, Ford sets the stage by looking at the state of religious and academic institutions generally, before proceeding on to looking at the particular disciplines of religious studies and theology, which contrary to much popular thinking, are not the same thing at all. Ford looks specifically at postmodernism, Karl Rahner, Hans Frei's five types of theology, and general philosophical ideas at play in theological study.
In the section on Theological Explorations, for most this is where the heart of the matter lies. Various key components of systematic theological thinking are explored - the doctrine of God, the idea of ethics and morality (particularly as it has to do with worship and God), the problem of evil, basic Christological issues, and the idea of salvation. Ford does not confine his text to one particular view, but gives a sampling of different ideas, and highlights difficulties and strengths of each view.
The final primary section is one that often comes first in many theology texts of this sort - a discourse on method (with apologies to Descartes). Ford looks a bit at the history of the theological enterprise and how others have 'done' theology in the past. He then looks at key tools such as experience, knowledge and wisdom as shapers of theology. tools such as experience, knowledge and wisdom as shapers of theology. He uses Lonergan's three-level description method for epistemology as an example, and then turns to a nine-fold approach to appropriate knowing of God.
The last chapter looks at issues continuing for theology into the third millennium. Theology as a Christian enterprise is 2000 years old, and shows no signs of slowing, although theology in the future will be a very different creature and construct from theology in the past, all the while it must acknowledge its grounding in the events and the methods of the past.
Like other books in this Very Short series, there are some useful illustrations and suggestions for further reading, should the Very Short introduction not prove sufficient (and for many, this sample will leave the reader wanting more). I cannot speak too highly of this series.