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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great theologians by a great writer, 5 April 2011
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This review is from: On Giants' Shoulders (Paperback)
This book is a companion to Reeves's 'Breeze of the Centuries' (2010), being a continuation of his introduction of 'great theologians', beginning with Martin Luther in the sixteenth century and ending with Karl Barth in the mid twentieth century. Like his earlier book, it is written with warmth, clarity, and insight. Reeves covers six 'great theologians': Luther, Calvin, Owen, Edwards, Schleiermacher, and Barth. Each chapter is readable in one sitting with a cup of coffee, and is prefaced by a brief sketch of the man's life, and closes with suggestions for further reading.

The key strength of the book is its insight. Not only will Reeves explain and clarify things for the reader, but he will tell us why something is significant, or point out what someone didn't say (which may be more significant than what they did say). Yet for all that the author is a trained theologian, he writes as someone eager to help others understand: at heart, he is a teacher. Like the best teachers, he has an aim for us, and it is to get us reading the theologians for ourselves. I personally am not convinced that this is realistic. When he says that the 24 volumes of the Works of John Owen are 'most accessible', you wonder whether he sometimes forgets his reader. Yet the best teachers, it should be said, inspire others by their enthusiasm, and Reeves has this aplenty, and it is contagious. Perhaps he might do well to write a short course, perhaps for small groups and individuals, that looks at snippets of these theologians' works.

Of the six theologians he reviews it is far from clear why he chooses to write about John Owen. It's not clear that Owen was read by those who came after him (ie. Edwards, Schleiermacher, and Barth), and since Reeves admits there were other worthy contenders he left out because of constraints on space, one wonders why he didn't include someone else instead. Even Owen's life is dealt with far more briefly than the others. If his concern was to have an English theologian, why not Rowan WIlliams? He would seem an obvious choice, and one especially helpful to contemporary readers sizing up the issues facing the church (especially the Anglicans) today.

Reeves is a charitable writer. A conservative evangelical, he begs the reader to take Schleiermacher (a founder of liberal theology) seriously. This reviewer is tempted to be far less charitable to IVP, who have not provided an index. One hopes that a volume will appear which combines 'Breeze of the Centuries' and 'On Giants Shoulders' (and with room maybe for a couple more entries, including perhaps a female theologian?), and that it will have an index. Reeves writes with authority - you have to *really* know your stuff to write with such clarity - yet with no index it is unlikely his work will find a home in university libraries, where it is so desperately needed.
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On Giants' Shoulders
On Giants' Shoulders by Michael Reeves (Paperback - 21 Jan 2011)
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