The late Colin Gunton was instrumental in reasserting traditional Christian theology against the apparent triumph of modern "scientific" criticism. According to the Guardian's obituary, Gunton had " a vision of classical Christian theology as a credible intellectual disciplines which, far from needing to accommodate itself to modern fashions of thought, provided the resources needed to criticise them." This volume represents that vision.
Modernism succeeded in part because the pretensions of the Christian church at the time of the Enlightenment made it an easy target for iconoclasm. In exploiting this institutional weakness monotheism was replaced by pantheism which suited the emergent secular age but collapsed with the cultural crises arising from the two world wars, the imposition of Communism on Eastern Europe and the faithfulness and intransigence of believers. Into this vacuum stepped Karl Barth who developed a systematic theology which Gunton himself described as, "a great and liberating testimony to the grace and goodness of the God of the Bible".
This collection of essays discusses in depth a variety of specific doctrinal issues, especially that of the Trinity, both in substance and historical development. Questions of creation, redemption and eschatology are all examined as examples of God's plan for the world, from beginning to end. The contributors are from a variety of Christian traditions which in itself provides testament to the reuniting of doctrine fractured by past divisions.
This is not an easy volume for non theologians to understand. However, a number of themes are apparent. The notion that Christianity provides a "God of the Gaps" in an attempt to fill in "scientific" knowledge is a false one. God encompasses everything. Secondly, the Christian message is thoroughly grounded in the person, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christianity is not then but now and relating it to the modern world does not require a dilution of fundamental doctrinal truths. This means actively engaging with Biblical critics and understanding the relationships with other cultures including those of religious and non religious belief.
Whether it will have an impact on materialists is doubtful, or for that matter on those for whom doctrine is subservient to practice and belief. However, for any serious student of traditional Christian theology in the early part of the twenty first century, it will serve as an excellent reference work and will be read and studied again and again.
on 21 January 2002
Each chapter deals with a seperate issue and the book is clear and easy to read. It is a must-have for any theology student learing about Christian doctrine. It tells you something about the history of the debates, the modern status of the debates, important thinkers for each debate, and so on. It is not a comprehensive textbook but a very useful, clear, concise supplement to other reading on Christian Doctrine.