A Journey through Christian Theology: With Texts from the First to the Twenty-First Century

A Journey through Christian Theology: With Texts from the First to the Twenty-First Century

A Journey through Christian Theology: With Texts from the First to the Twenty-First Century

A Journey through Christian Theology: With Texts from the First to the Twenty-First Century

Excerpt

The great two-thousand-year arc of Christian thought stands as a monumental intellectual achievement. Its core ideas have been massively influential on Western and indeed planetary history. Engaging the minds and hearts of dozens of generations, Christian theology has also articulated some of the deepest questions about and conflicts in human existence.

Yet for the novice, theology can be daunting. Its specialized terminology, its heavy use of philosophical concepts, and its sometimes arcane distinctions often fog the live religious questions tackled by Christianity’s most illustrious thinkers.

This book issues a hearty invitation to the novice theologian and offers trusty companionship for the journey. We invite the reader to follow along the Christian intellectual quest and to probe some of life’s most important questions as they have been posed in the radically different social settings of a two-thousand-year history. To enable the trek, we have created this people-friendly reader, a nonthreatening, sometimes humorous entrance into central texts of Christian theology.

Here we hope you the reader can get some sense of what all the fuss has been about and what has engaged and provoked the chief thinkers in Christian history. Here you will meet the heroes of Christian thought, along with more controversial figures. Fiere you can experience the thwack and thud of competing theological views—without getting burned at the stake! Most of all, we hope you can gain some sense of the excitement of theology as it addresses perennial concerns and questions that, from the time of Jesus to now, have sparked intellectual creativity and passion, stern invective, and important popular religious movements.

Only a small fraction of theologians can be presented in this format, and the excerpts can only hint at the range and power of their work. Moreover, the selections reflect the largely sexist practice of prior generations of translators and, we fear, of theologians in their noninclusivity. Still, along with the introductions to each period and person, reflections on their main arguments, and study questions, these brief but substantive excerpts should offer some sense of the context, substance, and import of the thinkers. Though spanning twenty centuries, the classic texts we have chosen address five interlocking questions and tensions:

Christology: what is the significance of Jesus? How can one understand his
person and work?

Ecclesiology: how does the community of gathered Christians handle ques
tions of power, purpose, and relationship to governmental authority?

Faith and reason: what is a responsible and credible way to reflect on Chris
tian commitment and the host of intellectual problems it raises? How can
Christian faith be reconciled with the critical intellectual spirit?

Religious experience: the strong mystical element in Christian experience
surfaces in each period. How does this fascinating and unpredictable
contemplative strand comport with theology—and with action for social
justice?

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