Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Why Are We Here? Everyday Questions and the Christian Life

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Why Are We Here? Everyday Questions and the Christian Life

Article excerpt

Why Are We Here? Everyday Questions and the Christian Life. Edited by Ronald F. Thiemann and William C. Placher. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1998. viii + 166 pp. $15.00 (paper).

This important collection of essays seeks to draw out the connections between theological reflection and the questions of faith that matter most to all kinds of people. It emerges from the ongoing conversations of several theologians and graduates of Yale, but it is written for a wide and non-specialized audience. William C. Placher states in the Introduction that this book is for "seekers, for pilgrims still intellectually journeying in matters of faith," including those "found both inside and outside Christian churches" (p. 4).

The variety and importance of the essay topics can be illustrated in terms of several selections. Kathryn Tanner's essay "Why Are We Here?" provides the title for this volume, and urges that the meaning of life not be overidentified with role performance. She notes that our relationship with God is not about "being hired to perform a job" (p. 13). The meaning of our lives exceeds our productivity and God is also the God of times that seem barren and desolate (p. 15). If we do not have that perspective, then our own meaning may be reduced to mere utility and function. In this light, she asks, "What is an old woman worth, without husband or family to attend to? What is an unemployed life worth, one that makes no economic contribution to the wealth of the nation?" (p. 13).

In the essay "Why Are We So Indifferent About Our Spiritual Lives?" David Dawson states that to be spiritually indifferent is "not to care one way or another about our own lives, but instead to care about everything else" (p. 23). He warns that our children, students, or close family members "provide a litmus test for whether we are centered persons in our own right who no longer look to others to satisfy our needs, and whose needs are no longer defined by the regard of those outside us" (p. 35). Thomas F. Tracy states in "Why Do the Innocent Suffer?" that it is more important to focus on what God does to overcome evil rather than trying to figure out in every case why God permits evil (p. …

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