on 11 November 2003
This is an excellent companion volume to Alister McGrath's 'Introduction to Christian Theology'. The many and varied theological excerpts in the Reader are arranged under the same headings that he uses in his 'Introduction to Christian Theology'. The two books are thus easy to use alongside one another and 'The Christian Theology Reader' helps to flesh out what McGrath writes in his 'Introduction to Christian Theology' with historical examples from across the centuries.
I have certainly found the book helpful in getting a flavour of various theologians of many different persuasions and eras, from the early church fathers through to the present day. The length of passages quoted varies from a few sentences to a few pages and they are arranged in chronological order under each heading. McGrath also writes a brief introduction to each excerpt, which helps to orient the reader before the passage itself is actually read.
Finally , I should note that it is quite possible to use and benefit from the 'The Christian Theology Reader' without also having McGrath's 'Introduction to Christian Theology'. I would certainly recommend both books, but they can each be read on their own terms or used for reference without recourse to the other volume.
on 15 February 2006
This book was just what I was looking for. I wanted a good summary of Christian theology for the last two thousand years, so that I could make up my own mind about various questions. I didn't want anyone to feed me answers, but I did want someone to set out the options, and let me read representatives of each position. And this is exactly what this book did. McGrath provides more than three hundred extracts from leading Christian writers from all traditions, arranged under ten broad topical headings "God", "Christ", "Salvation", and so on. In every case, he provides a brilliant introduction to the reading, followed by comment. By the end of this, I felt as if I was some kind of genius. I had actually understood what this was all about! This is a great, great book if you are studying theology for yourself. It was recommended to me by a friend who used it at college, and she said it was even better when used with taught courses.
"The Christian Theology Reader" is a helpful collection of excerpts of theological writings from throughout the Christian era. Organized into ten topics, it enables the reader to seed differing perspectives ranging from the interplay between philosophy and theology through to the Last Things. Reading from cover to cover provides the reader with an overview of much of Theological thought.
I found this book to be interesting in that it brings to the page writings that I have heard spoken of but have rarely actually seen. On the question of the proof of the existence of God we are able to read the explanations of St. Anselm, and Guanilo' response thereto, along with later proofs such as those by St. Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes and Blaise Pascal. By reading the works of saints and scholars about whom I knew little more than their names I was able get some sense of why they were important and to what issues. The ability to compare and contrast conflicting opinions helps the reader to better understand each point of view.
The list of "Conciliar, Creedal and Confessional Material" and the "Glossary of Theological Terms" at the end help to put the selections into context. My one complaint about this book is that it rarely identifies the denominations of the authors, thereby making it more difficult to determine the authority to be attributed to each. Checking the "Details of Theologians" in the back would have eliminated much of the uncertainty. I recommend that the reader consult it as he goes along, rather than reading it in turn at the end, as I did. Having read it through I plan to keep it as a reference for when I want to revisit a particular question or the work of a particular scholar.
on 10 June 2014
This is an excellent piece of scholarly work that places at the finger tips snapshots of the development of Christian theology. The excellent index locates the theme required and the thoughts of the theologian, thinker, philosopher with ease. McGrath's comments are succinct, sensible, balanced and thought provoking. This is no "this is what you must believe' manual, but rather a gold mine that will challenge, motivate thoughtful consideration and, at times, annoy and irritate when one's pet theories are openly challenged by the great thinkers of the distant, not so distant and recent past. The only negative, for me, is that this volume is not available in hard cover.