Too Much for One Blog
An Introduction to Christian Theology by Alister E. McGrath is a comprehensive reference on Christian theology. This resource takes you from theological arguments like the challenge and controversies of Gnosticism facing the early church to the tension that lies between a secular philosophy and Christian theology. The material is divided into three major sections: historical development of Christian theology, methodology and formation of Christian Theology, and major doctrinal issues of Christian theology.
This book is, as the author puts it is: “long, because it is comprehensive…it aims to be a one-stop freestanding reference book, which will cover all the material that you are likely to need to know about.” With this stated, it would be very difficult to summarize a book of this breadth and depth in a single blog. It would be too much for just one blog. Therefore I will focus my analysis on my favorite part: history (first four chapters and chapter 17).
It is amazing to me how we as Christians can all read the same book and worship the same Jesus and find so many differences. The debates or “controversies” do salt and pepper church history. During the Patristic period the debate over the emphasis on the divinity of Christ (Alexandrian School) verses the humanity of Christ (Antiochene). During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance it was difference of educational emphasis between the Francicans (renouncement of wealth for prayer and poverty) and the Dominicans (embraced education and intellectual life). During the Reformation period the most notable is Luther’s departure from the Catholic Church producing the Protestant Church. The Modern period has been marked by personal ideologies such as Marxism (religion is only a response of real world), Darwinism (evolutionary humanity), and Postmodernism (pluralistic truth based on relative thinking) in the face of traditional “chapter and verse” Christianity. Out of Postmodernism has come the biggest divide in multi Protestant denominations and non-denominations, as well the arguable weakening of the Catholic Church.
In all the differences, debates, and controversies there are people and sides who are right and others who are wrong. Some are clear departures from Christian Theology, such as the pluralistic thinking of our day in which all roads lead to God. This is clearly in violation of what Jesus stated in John 14:6 (I am the way, the truth, and the life). There are some that are less clearly defined, such as the tension between the Catholic and Protestant Church. Each believes they have a “corner market” on salvation, as though you must be Catholic or Protestant in order to receive salvation through faith in Jesus. But, according to Romans 10:9-10, we are saved by confession of the mouth and belief of the heart. It is not contingent upon being “Catholic” or “Protestant”. Lastly there are some differences that are not “either or” choices, but rather are “both and”. Such is the case with various “schools” of thought on education found in the Middle ages. I don’t believe that poverty is any more “holy” or pure than academic excellence for a higher calling or purpose. Or during the Patristic period both the divinity AND the humanity of Christ is equally important. Without the humanity, we do not have a high priest that is touched with our sinful nature. And without the divinity of Jesus, we have a “good person” but not a perfect sacrificial lamb. In order for Jesus to be humanity’s savior, he must be both man and God. There is no need to choose one over the other, but rather embrace both.
As I stated in the title, there is more information than one blog can cover. I enjoyed this book for its content and as a reference piece. However, I was only able to scratch the surface in my blog.
9 responses to “Too Much for One Blog”
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I really enjoyed this book but you are correct in your title, to much for a single blog. I did find interesting this statement: “It is amazing to me how we as Christians can all read the same book and worship the same Jesus and find so many differences.” That is one of the things that stood out to me. In my blog I put it this way: how can men and women view the same thing or issue so differently and yet still be a part of the same conversation. I think that is one of the things that makes life so interesting. Resolving those difference I believe is one of the difficult and challenging things of leadership in this generation. How do you help people who see things so differently in your church come to grips with it and into relationship with each other? Great post
I try to accomplish understanding primarily through preaching. I try to do the following: 1. make it as simple as possible. 2. try to attach concept to a object or illustration. 3. connect concept to a narrative.
Thanks Aaron C,
Yes, it is amazing how we as Christians can all read the same book and worship the same Jesus and find so many differences that will create controversies, but if you take a closer look, at how many religions? Isn’t there only one God? Why didn’t God say the same thing to everyone? How do I know which religion is right? Perhaps God does speak the same truth to people all around the world. The question is, when God speaks, what do people hear?
On Sunday morning, as the pastor you preach/teach and we can take two members as example, who can listen to the same sermon and come away with very different meanings. We hear what we need to hear in order to face our own particular challenges. People of different times and cultures hear God differently, according to their own cultural and spiritual conditions. It’s not that God is different for different people. God is eternally the same. It’s that we humans are different from one another, and we each see God in our own way. God gives every person and every culture what’s needed to know and love God, and to love and serve their fellow human beings. So why are there many controversies and debates, example, “divinity of Christ (Alexandrian School) versus the humanity of Christ (Antiochene)”. Is it not man’s view or human perspectives that causes debates?
Great blog, with some nuggets to ponder over! Thanks Rose Maria
I totally agree with you that it is man’s doing. it is man that causes the debate. I do believe with Paul, that this side of eternity we know “in part”. I believe when we get to heaven, we will all be surprised about minors that we majored on.
As a reference book, what relevance or significance if any do you think the content of this book has for lay Christians who occupy the pews? Does this level of contemplation on the mysteries of the Bible and surveying Christian doctrinal beliefs have the potential of enhancing the person’s spiritual walk? Or will it create confusion and raise doubts? Or will its effect have a neutral impact?
I think this book is excellent for almost any post high school learner. Because, I think the material is laid out easily and understandably – it’s chronological for the most part. I think the ideas and conflicts are concisely stated. I think it gives a great primary understanding of theology over the last 2000 years in less than 500 pages (4years a page.)
Good insight! An apt response.
Nice summary and analysis man. Way too much for one blog. One thing you say is that our contemporary situation has weakened the church both Protestant and Catholic. It made me think of how popular the current Pope is. It seems like everyone is talking about him, Christians (protestant and catholic) and nonchristians. I think it will be interesting to see what happens to the Catholic and Protestant churches as the result of his popularity.
I view the book as a “reference” also. I wouldn’t think that one would go to this book to develop theology but to possibly expose different thoughts on theology.
How would you compare him to Erickson or Hart?