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A broad, academic overview of Christian theology
on 31 July 2005
Ford takes theology to be very broad in scope, academically occupying the overlap of comparative religion and philosophy, but in its broader role informing and being informed by every other discipline. It is the search for wisdom, in the context of a religious commitment. Ford's particular commitment is Christian, and he believes that theology cannot usefully be approached in a secular, neutral way. One must enter into a relationship with the divine, in his case with the Christian trinity, in order to properly explore theological questions. So this is not an introduction to the philosophy or psychology of religion, but an insider's view of a modern Christian theologian at work.
It is a rather cerebral view. You will seek in vain for the words 'mysticism' or 'grace' in the index, and on page 118 he says 'Buddhists might speak of Nirvana, a term with no Christian parallel.' Really? What of religious ecstasy, as described by Thomas A Kempis and others? What of 'a state of Grace'? Are such concepts uncomfortable to modern theologians?
There is also a lack of specificity. Questions are asked, issues raised, scope drawn (in very general terms) but it is left to the reader to explore possible answers. Arguably, that is all a short introduction like this can do.
Ford writes well. The proof reading was not perfect -- there is a spectacular typo on page 88 in which the words 'African wood carving' intrude themselves into a sentence about Jesus, for no reason other than they belong in the caption to the illustration on the facing page. Talking of illustrations, these VSI books do not always make effective use of very limited space. Thus we have a picture of London's Millennium Dome introducing the theme of theology in the next millennium.
Despite these reservations, this book remains a good introduction to the current state of Christian theology.