Companion Encyclopedia of Theology

Companion Encyclopedia of Theology

Companion Encyclopedia of Theology

Companion Encyclopedia of Theology

Synopsis

In 48 separately-authored, self-contained articles by an international team of both Christian and Jewish theologians and practitioners, this Companion provides a thorough examination of the place of Christianity in the modern world.

Excerpt

Leslie Houlden and Peter Byrne

The aim of this Companion Encyclopedia is to provide as comprehensive a guide as possible to the present state of Christian theology in its Western academic manifestations and in the setting of the modern world. To understand the present, especially in the case of a long-standing phenomenon like Christianity, it is necessary to be aware of the past. So here there is much history as well as contemporary reflection and assessment.

The contributors are drawn from many different traditions of belief and thought, but all reflect broadly the assumptions and methods of the modern Western academy, and write as analysts rather than propagandists. No attempt has been made to seek or impose a single viewpoint, and readers will sometimes find themselves presented with different angles on the same material. Inevitably, too, some features of the scene will recur, most notably the eighteenth-century Enlightenment: readers will at least become convinced of the cruciality of this episode, greater, from a modern standpoint, in many ways than even the early period or the Reformation. At the same time, however far-reaching the developments or the applications which it undergoes, Christian theology never loses sight of the originating impulse given by Jesus of Nazareth. Behind and beneath all the ideas and all the books, it rests on the story that centres on him.

Modern Christian theology (and everything in this book is ‘modern’ in standpoint even when it examines writings and ideas of the distant past) is far from being a unified phenomenon. In the first place, there are significant differences of theological agenda, ethos, priority and content between the various Christian Churches, from the largest to the smallest; and, especially in the case of the great Churches, there are also significant internal differences, traceable both to history and to contemporary movements of thought and life. Thus, the Anglican Communion contains strong ‘Catholic’, ‘Protestant’ and ‘liberal’ elements, and the Roman Catholic Church includes both traditionalists and reformists.

Second, theology involves different styles and emphases according to the

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