"Coherent, Inclusive, Dialogical, Hospitable": Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen's Constructive Theological Method

By MacDougall, Scott | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2017 | Go to article overview

"Coherent, Inclusive, Dialogical, Hospitable": Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen's Constructive Theological Method


MacDougall, Scott, Anglican Theological Review


Christ and Reconciliation. By Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen. A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World, vol. 1. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2013. xiv + 453 pp. $40.00 (paper).

Trinity and Revelation. By Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen. A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World, vol. 2. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2014. xii + 472 pp. $40.00 (paper).

Creation and Humanity. By Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen. A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World, vol. 3. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2015. xix + 554 pp. $40.00 (paper).

Spirit and Salvation. By Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen. A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World, vol. 4. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2016. xvii + 498 pp. $40.00 (paper).

These four books are the first four volumes of a new five-volume systematic theology by the prolific theologian Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen. Kärkkäinen has been a professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, since 2000, and also has an appointment as docent of ecumenics at the University of Helsinki in his native Finland.

Christ and Reconciliation (volume 1) examines the person (part 1: "Christ") and work (part 2: "Reconciliation") of Jesus Christ, treating along the way such topics as the significance of Jesus' earthly life; evolving conceptions of messiahship; the question of Christ's preexistence; the relationship of Logos Christologies and Spirit Christologies; views of atonement and reconciliation; and their connection to Christian mission. Trinity and Revelation (volume 2) weaves together an approach to the doctrines of God, the Trinity, and revelation by developing theologies of "Triune Revelation" (part 1) and the "Triune God" (part 2), addressing such theological questions as the relationship of revelation, history, and promise; the authority of scripture, tradition, and community; natural theology; and approaches to speaking properly of God, including whether to enumerate divine attributes, within a framework that maintains Gods relationality, communality, and hospitality as Trinity.

Creation and Humanity (volume 3) explores the world as God's creation (part 1: "Creation") and the human person as having a special role within it (part 2: "Humanity"), developing perspectives on such crucial matters as the importance of taking the sciences seriously in formulating doctrines of both creation and theological anthropology; cosmological and evolutionaiy perspectives as resources for theology; divine providence; the question of suffering and flourishing of life in general and of human life in particular; the uniqueness of the human person as created in imago Dei; and the nature of human nature. Unlike far too many systematic theologies, Spirit and Salvation (volume 4) articulates a helpful and robust pneumatology (part 1: "Spirit") and connects it directly to soteriology (part 2: "Salvation"), taking up such topics along the way as the deep connections between pneumatology and the doctrine of the triune God and between pneumatology and the doctrine of creation; the discernment of spirits at various levels (personal, social, political, cosmic); the character of salvation as experienced as gift and transformation; the question of justification; and the role salvation plays in effecting two related groups of phenomena: "healing, restoration, and empowerment" and "reconciliation, liberation, and peacebuilding."

It will be more than clear from reviewing just this partial list of the topics treated thus far in Kärkkäinen's systematics that space here will not permit a detailed look at the content of it. What can and ought to be accomplished is a closer look at his theological method. While Kärkkäinen advances more than a few important theological conversations by offering fresh perspectives on old problems (some of which are pointed out below), a case could be made that the most important contribution that his massive effort makes resides in his overall approach to the theological task. …

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