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Systematic Theology Volume 1: Volume 1

Systematic Theology Volume 1: Volume 1 [Kindle Edition]

James Wm. Jr. McClendon , James William, Jr. McClendon

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Product Description

When it first appeared in 1986, James McClendon's Ethics laid claim to two compelling theological ideas: first, that a highly distinctive theological perspective characterizes the inheritors of the sixteenth century's radical reformation. At the heart of this perspective is what McClendon calls the baptist vision, a way of understanding the gospel that emphasizes the church's distinction from the world, and its continuity with the church of the New Testament. Second, that because of its emphasis on the centrality of discipleship, this radical reformation outlook insists that theology's first task is to discover and explore the shape of the church's common life as the body of Christ; hence McClendon's novel decision to begin the task of writing a systematic theology with a volume on ethics.

Since its first publication, Ethics has been followed by Doctrine (1994), and Witness (2000). The completion of the overall work has brought into sharper focus many of the theological and ethical issues and concerns central to the baptist tradition. In this revised edition of Ethics, McClendon infuses his claim for the priority of ethics within the theological task with a new urgency, born of the fuller, more complete definition of the baptist vision that Doctrine and Witness have made possible. Ethics is central, he reminds us, because biblical faith rests on a set of distinctive practices that arise from our placement within a larger Christian story. In his revisions McClendon offers a more complete explanation of how the interaction of faithful practices and gospel story give rise to a way of life that is distinctively Christian.

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 961 KB
  • Print Length: 397 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0687090873
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press; 2nd edition (1 Sep 2002)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AVWH4N8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #831,512 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A LANDMARK WORK IN THEOLOGICAL ETHICS 30 Jan 2000
By Ian Packer - Published on
McClendon's three-volume theology, representing a large scale revisioning of systematics, is now complete - Ethics (1986), Doctrine (1994) and Witness (2001) - exemplifying an approach that gives priority to the ecclesial community rather than the academy: not theology 'made popular' but rather self-consciously rooted in the practices of the Christian community. The most conspicuous evidence of this is the way that McClendon chose to begin his systematic theology: with ethics! ... rather than 'prolegomena', followed by 'doctrine', then 'ethics'. 'Prolegomena' usually discusses questions of method and typically in terms of philosophical justification for the subsequent theological project. Doctrine provides systematic presentation of Christian teaching often in quasi-scientific format and categories. Ethics, however, as Ron Sider says, is "often left until last and then left out" (42)!

McClendon does not challenge the threefold description of the theological task but sees them representing three levels of entry (kinds of "probing") into theology. He recognises

"that we begin by finding the shape of the common life in the body of Christ, which is for Christians partly a matter of self discovery, as Gregory learned from Origen. That is ethics. We continue with the investigation of the common and public teaching that sanctions and supports that common life by displaying its doctrinal height and breadth and depth. That is doctrine. And we end by discovering those apologetic and speculative positions that such life and such teaching call forth. That is philosophical theology or apologetics." (45)

McClendon finds himself in the company of 'postmoderns', and so not concerned with 'first principles' or to 'start from scratch' but rather exemplifying John Yoder's alternatives to "methodologism"; namely "walk and word", ie to begin "where we are" in the midst of the story of God in Israel, Jesus and the Christian community as witnessed in Scripture. But it is almost to 'damn with faint praise' to label McClendon 'postmodern' since his earlier 'philosophical' work, _Understanding Religious Convictions_ (co-author James Smith), was in many respects ahead of its time. As he and Smith comment in their updated edition (_Convictions_), "we believe, not that we are catching up with the times, but that the times have at long last caught up with us." McClendon draws upon this earlier work, understanding theology as a "science of convictions" involving the "discovery, understanding, and transformation of the convictions of a convictional community, including the discovery and critical revision of their relation to one another and to whatever else there is." (23) This 'generic' definition admits not only forms of monotheism and polytheism but also 'atheistic' theologies and the "theoretics" of 'communities' such as Marxists. It also opens up the possibility of a new form of conversation with 'secular' interlocutors, and avoids both subjectivist and objectivist problems by locating itself within the lived experience of actual communities.

McClendon describes Christian theology as "pluralistic" - embodied in different human contexts, facing various situations, framing itself in various ways in practice. It is also "historical" or narrative-based - (this being 'eclipsed', as Frei put it, in the modern era). Not only is the story of Scripture at theology's heart but the testimony of Christians and their communities. This narrative dimension rescues the 'experiential' from subjectivism and draws attention to dimensions in ethics such as character. Contra anti-intellectual strains of Christianity, McClendon affirms theology as "rational" - not having its own 'special' rationality disconnected from that outside but concerned with its connections to various 'disciplines' (social theory, philosophy, etc). It is also concerned with its 'internal' relations and creative transformation of inherited tradition. Theology is thereby eminently "self-involving" - as in McClendon's adherence to the "baptist vision": Not the denominational affilliation of Baptist but a specific family of ways of being Christian (eg some Baptists, but also Quakers, Churches of Christ, Mennonites, other descendants of the 'radical Reformation'), largely under-represented in theological conversation .

"By such a vision, I do not mean some end result of theoretical reflection, remote from the daily life of a rather plain people. Nor do I mean a detachable baptist Ideal - what baptists ought to be (but of course are not). Instead, by a vision I mean the guiding stimulus by which a ... combination of peoples... shape their life and thought...; ...the continually emerging theme and tonic structure of their common life. The vision is thus already present, waiting to be recognized and employed; it must not seem a stranger to those who share in baptist life or to their sympathetic observers. Yet once acknowledged for what it is, it should serve as the touchstone by which authentic baptist life is discovered and described, and also as the organizing principle around which a genuine baptist theology can take shape." (27-28)

McClendon also seeks to move away from any single theme as 'essence' for the 'baptist' vision such as biblicism or liberty or discipleship. Yet he does believe that the vision can be expressed in a hermeneutical motto that encompasses the other suggested themes: "the present Christian community as the primitive community and the eschatological community." (31) Scripture is the fundamental link between them.

The self-involving nature of theology is also shown by the addition of biographical chapters at the end of each of three sections to illustrate the themes treated or, better, to show the concrete situation from which the reflection arises. Chapters on Sarah and Jonathan Edwards, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Dorothy Day illustrate the three "strands" of Christian ethics respectively:

* 1. Sphere of the organic - body ethics

* 2. Sphere of the communal - social ethics

* 3. Sphere of the anastatic - resurrection ethics

Following the Wittgensteinian analogy, McClendon insists each of these strands must not be separated from the others - that it is only together that they form a rope. Only with all three does Christian ethics retain its integrity.

In the company of Yoder and Hauerwas, McClendon affirms the anabaptist rejection of the Constantinian arrangement, describing a politics of forgiveness and reconciliation centred in the disciple community and its "powerful practices" (eg Baptism; Lord's Supper).

A landmark book in theological ethics. Brilliant!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST HAVE for theologians! 10 Jun 2008
By Hedwig of NC - Published on
I first read this book at Duke Divinity School in the early 90s as a graduate student. To the point: it is simply brilliant. I've used it ever since (I now teach religion at the college level). Actually, I've gone through THREE copies of this book. It's a must have for anyone seriously interested in theology, ethics, narrative theology, or even Christian spirituality. The writing is acessable and timeless --- a perfect primer that draws upon the work of Duke's Stanley Hauerwas, but goes beyond it too. And don't be fooled by the fact that it was written by a Baptist. As the other reviewer said, this is groundbreaking theology. It draws upon other disciplines and denominations, and it extends across denominational lines. McClendon's understanding of Christian forgiveness is one of the clearest and most faithful understandings in print today. I can't say enough about the depth and significance of this work. Again, it is simply brilliant!
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and sound 4 Sep 2013
By Adam Grant - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Not for the beginning student, but an excellent treatment of ethics with an Anabaptist tint. Good for those seeking a thorough exploration of ethics.
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it. Read it. 19 Sep 2014
By R. Powers - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Love the book. Have bought it three times and lend it out. It doesn't always come back. It will give you something to think about.
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