What happens when a reader lacks the vocabulary or intellect to comprehend a ‘deep revelation’ of our opinionated approach to theology? How much context should be included to avoid distorting the truth? Who has the best biblical approach?
What philosophies influence theology today? This I will answer:
- Pragmatism – results dictates the value of truth
- Existentialism – prioritize existence over essence
- Analytics – using logics and functions which often reject theological language as meaningless
- Deconstruction – the reader establishes the meaning over the writer
There is a mutual belief among my peers (doctoral candidates) and some scholars like Grenz/Olsen that everyone is a theologian but not everyone has good theology. As we prepare for a dialogue with McGrath’s writing, let us take an excerpt from his book Historical Theology so we can understand his philosophy. “If there is only one God, and if that God happens to be the ‘God of the Christians’ (to borrow a phrase from the third-century writer Tertullian), then the nature and scope of theology is relatively well defined: theology is reflection upon the God whom Christians worship and adore.” McGrath continued to show that the word “theology” is not biblical in itself but occasionally in the patristic period, it referred to some aspects of Christian beliefs.
It is important that we form a Christian perspective when reading Christian Theology: An Introduction because that is the author’s intent. There are many books written on the subject of theology but McGrath writes to explain theology, rather than force feeding his conviction. In most of his books, he wrote with the assumption that the readers knew nothing about theology and he continues that thought in this book. He also wants to be clear that he writes about Christian Theology and not theology. He states that this book “does not seek to tell its readers what to believe, but rather aims to explain to them what has been believed, in order to equip them to make up their minds for themselves.” He wants you to put everything in your mouth but swallow what you choose. That is a bad analogy and an even worse picture but that is how a student feels…FULL.
I was reminded of Sarah Pink’s book Doing Visual Ethnography because McGrath also points out that there is no specific order in which to engage this book (unless you are teaching yourself). I am not a fan of disorderly reading but McGrath gave me an option unlike Pink…I digress. McGrath’s writing is “theologically neutral; it does not advocate denominational agenda.”
Don’t expect to read this book and become a world scholar because the author is only trying to give options by answering the question: What is the process of doing theology?
- Collecting and unifying biblical materials
- Ask “What is the meaning” – definitions on key terms throughout the book
- Assess historical information – the first four chapters provides historicity
- Understand the cultural perspective of the researched information
- Consider the apologetic element – throughout the book
- Identify themes – last ten chapters
- Consider scholarly sources – throughout the book
It is impossible to state everything that the writer provides but he provides great content and context if you are a student of theology or someone who wants everything in one book. This is a great book to have in your library, especially when working with students or young Christians. We spend a great deal of time teaching from denominational bias so this book provides a great reflection to challenge denominational biases, who misinterpret the foundational meaning of Christian Theology: reflection on God (not the denomination).
 Alister E. McGrath. Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian, Second Edition. p. 1