Essentials of Christian Community: Essays for Daniel W Hardy. Edited by David F. Ford and Dennis L. Stamps. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996. 380 pp. $59.95 (cloth).
Essentials of Christian Community is not an easy book to review for the simple reason that it tries to accomplish a number of things under one cover. On one level, it is indeed a collection of essays that, as the title suggests seeks to highlight the essentials of Christian community. On another, it presents to the general public the life and thought of a theologian who has made an enormous contribution to the life of the churches in England and America but who has made this contribution as much through his "behind the scenes" encouragement of the theological enterprise as through his writings. Finally, it provides Prof. Hardy an opportunity to display his own theological commitments in dialogue with the students and colleagues who have contributed to this volume.
The editors display what they hold to be "the essentials of Christian community" by means of the various subdivisions of the volume. Thus, they organize the collected essays under the following headings: "Worship," "Faith and Love," "Scripture," "The Church as Institution," "Christian Formation," and "Hope." The essays in a collection of this sort are apt to vary widely in quality, but in this case, the quality of the essays is uniformly high. Some stand out. Jeremy Begbie's essay in the worship section on the relation between theology and music is both original and important. Stephen Pickard's on the significance of the doctrine of the Trinity in the section entitled "Faith and Love" is remarkably suggestive for the importance of the doctrine in the life of the church. Peter Sedgwick's article on Anglican polity provides a superb apologia for the relation between the Church of England and the society of which it is so much a part. Francis Young's article on Christian formation in the first four centuries charts a way ahead for the contemporary church as it seeks to form a new generation of believers in circumstances where its more recent methods seem remarkably ineffective.
The essays that Ford and Stamps have collected in this volume cover an extraordinary range of topics. Stanley Hauerwas offers a fine treatment of the relation between worship and the teaching of Christian ethics, Stephen Sykes presents a timely discussion of the relation between "Orthodoxy" and "Liberalism," and James Dunn provides a helpful treatment of the various ways in which the Bible functions in the life of the church. These are but a few of the topics covered under the headings listed above. What the reader misses, however, is a discussion by the editors of the particular ordering they have chosen for the essays they present. Why are these the essentials of Christian community and why are they presented in this particular order? …