Jesus and the Quest for Meaning: Entering Theology

Jesus and the Quest for Meaning: Entering Theology

Jesus and the Quest for Meaning: Entering Theology

Jesus and the Quest for Meaning: Entering Theology


A new approach to introducing theology

As God's self-communication to humans, Jesus is the key to the human search for meaning, argues Thomas West. He therefore introduces the practice of theology through Christology. From the question of personal meaning and self-constitution and their relationship to transcendent meaning and value, he proceeds to discuss the figure and import of Jesus and then the ethical imperative engendered through encounter with him.

Fresh and clear, West's book is an invitation to grapple with one's religious commitments, especially in light of recent insights in biblical studies and Continental, feminist, and liberation theologies.

This new text will prove an engaging and effective introduction to theological thinking for both undergraduates and Christian adults.


I wrote this book with four groups of readers in mind. First, I had in mind the students who register for one of my theology classes at the College of St. Catherine, a Catholic liberal arts college for women in St. Paul, Minnesota. Most of them are taking the class in order to fulfill the theology requirement. About 40 percent of them have Catholicism as their religious upbringing, though relatively few have gone to Catholic elementary or secondary school. Another 30 percent were raised in one of the mainline Protestant churches, with Lutherans the largest group. Fifteen percent have little or no background in any religion, and this percentage is on the increase. The remaining 10 to 15 percent are divided among evangelical Christians and recent immigrants from largely non-Christian cultures. I have to teach the course as if no one had any formal theological background. I can assume that many in the class will distrust organized religion but feel a deep spiritual longing. If I am to write a book that a class like this can use, I had better make it readable, nontechnical, ecumenical, and personal.

Second, I had in mind the students who register for our graduate courses. We offer a master’s degree in theology with the option of a concentration in spirituality. The great majority of our eighty or so graduate students choose to do the concentration. Most are between thirty and fifty-five years of age, and although we admit men to the graduate program, over 85 percent of the students are women. Very few come into the program having majored in theology or religion as undergraduates. Their formal theological learning is minimal, and they come from a variety of denominational backgrounds. A book for them must be readable, ecumenical, and personal. Yet because they are graduate students, they will want to go deeper, and for them I have provided a quite formidable set of . . .

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