Fifteen leading theologians wrote essays on fifteen selected modern theological topics for Mapping Modern Theology. These theologians are compelled to encompass major topics discussed under the span of modern theology. Readers drawn to this kind of book often expect to find an accurate roadmap with sufficient details to navigate through important places. The direct lineage of mapping theology has been continuous in the last twenty years from books such as 20th-Century Theology (S. Grenz, 1993), A Map of Twentieth Century Theology (C. Braaten, 1995), Fortress Introduction to Contemporary Theology (L. Miller, 1998), and The Modern Theologians (D. Ford, 2005).
However, without being selective drawing a modern theology map remains insuperable. In effect, in Mapping philosophical-theological perspectives discuss modern theology by focusing on historical developments of major topics in systematic theology such as the Trinity (essay written by Fred Sanders), biblical hermeneutics (Daniel Treier), anthropology (Kelly Kapic), Christology (Bruce McCormack), atonement (Kevin Vanhoozer), providence (John Webster), soteriology (Richard Lints), Christian ethics (Brian Brock) and eschatology (Michael Horton). The subtitle indicates that their method is thematic and historical: it is an interwoven and dialectical approach to modern theology through the history of interaction between brilliant minds struggling to break into a new era called modernity.
The modern theologians were mainly interested in "the nature of God and his relation to the world," and they demarcated modernity from the Reformation, the center of which was the doctrine of justification (4). Several philosopher-theologians are constantly discussed throughout Mapping and this makes its thematic-historical approach to modern theology dialectical. Barth seems to be portrayed as a leading theologian of modernity (15, 80ff, 138ff, 142, 169ff, 194, 269f, 355), followed by Schleiermacher (31, 72, 157ff, 265f, 329), Hegel (11, 75f, 160f, 192ff), Moltmann (25f, 193f, 366f, 387f), Kant, Bultmann, Pannenberg, Rahner, Tillic, and C. F. H. Henry mentioned almost as the last figure of modernity.
Barth's major contribution of "Christological concentration" (15) began the dialogue of modern theology, reviving the doctrine of the Trinity (41). As Sanders said in "The Trinity," talking about the Trinity in the 1970s and afterward became utterly different (21). Such a Christocentric discussion of the Trinity ameliorated Pannenberg's radical assertion that until the coming of God's kingdom "God does not exist" (27). Epistemological inquiries began on the basis of human experience. Kant's existential thought thus influenced modernity (51ff). Readers may appreciate the thematic approach of Mapping, especially when chapters build on top of discussions of previous chapters. Thus, the exaltation of human experience by Kant and Schleiermacher echoed even in areas of hermeneutics (chapter 4); Treier rightly observed that one of the characteristics of modern theology was found in the opposition between Scripture and tradition (68). Barth challenged liberals drifting from the authority of Scripture (80ff). Henry's battle for the inerrancy of Scripture intermediated the discussion of new hermeneutics (85ff). Then the discussion of new hermeneutics led to another discussion for understanding both the creation account (chapter 5) and anthropology (chapter 6).
Chapter seven deals with the person of Christ. McCormack illustrates the whole spectrum of mainstream Christology influenced by Hegel and Schleiermacher to Barth then post-Barthian theologians such as Pannenberg, Moltmann, and von Balthasar (171f). Vanhoozer's pregnant chapter on the atonement surveys more modern theologians than any other chapter. Followed by Webster's chapter on providence and Telford Work on pneumatology dealing with more controversial aspects in modern theology. In chapter eleven, Lints shows how contents of theological discussions have changed in the modern period, and how much of this change should affect soteriology, man's salvation, Christian evangelism, the social gospel, and other social movements (271ff).
Consequently, diverse and evangelical perspective on the discussion of man's salvation leads to the rest of the book: "Ethics" (chapter 12), "Practical theology" (13), "Ecclesiology" (14), "Eschatology" (15). Toward the end of Mapping readers gain a clear picture on modern theology and how modern theology changed the Church and believers. Familiar names such as Richard Niebuhr and Reinhold Niebuhr become the subject of the main discussion (303ff). A discussion of ethics shows Yoder's influence (312ff). In "practical theology," interesting ties are enumerated such as between Schleiermacher and postmodernism, theology and sociology, theology and psychology (329ff). The remaining chapters trace how these ties catalyzed postmodern theology. According to Kärkkäinen and Horton, diverse foci are developed, yet their characteristics remain undetermined.
Explaining major contributors and their effects for modern theology is an ambitious task but Mapping brings worthy contributions. Some parts of the book may provoke disagreement; however, its interwoven approach to draw a modern theological map still deserves consideration. Readers will appreciate the contributors providing interesting yet coherent understandings about modern theology. Mapping Modern Theology should be a joyful addition to a pastor-scholar's library.