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.