13 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Should students of theology be averse to facts?,
This review is from: Christian Theology: An Introduction (Paperback)
"Christian Theology: An Introduction" is a well-known textbook by Prof. Alister McGrath of King's College, London. Its popularity during nearly 20 years can be attributed in part to its clarity of writing and presentation, its comprehensiveness, and its balance when presenting conflicting opinions within Christianity.
The principal market for a textbook of theology is seminaries and other religious institutions. For the intellectual and emotional comfort of both the author and the devout reader--and for potential readers to buy the book--a textbook of theology has to ignore or minimize negative aspects of the set of beliefs it expounds. But the effect of this is that one purpose of the book becomes to sustain a false view of history. McGrath's textbook treats at length the histories of the Christian religion, the Christian churches, and their major doctrines. So it is appropriate to inquire whether the theologian observes the standards of the historian. And the answer in general is "no." A few of many examples follow.
McGrath does not discuss how scholars have demonstrated that "The New Testament" was rewritten in many places (by altering, inserting, or deleting text) to harmonize previously discordant texts, to support sectarian doctrines, and to authorize doctrines developed after the original writing. Some of these changes are acknowledged in many modern editions of the work.
The essential specific doctrines of Christianity: the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Eucharist, the sacrificial and redemptive character of Jesus' death, and the Resurrection--all were proposed after Jesus' life, and all were disputed, sometimes for centuries. McGrath acknowledges the existence of dissent during the formative period of Christianity, but he gives only a fragmented view of how all the eventual orthodox ideas of the religion were not present from the outset but were developed over time. He does not disclose how personal, social, and political circumstances influenced these doctrines. These are facts that bear upon the credibility of Christian theology itself.
McGrath allows, "It seems to be a general rule of the development of Christian doctrine that development is occasioned by controversy." "The New Testament" demonstrates the disharmony of Jesus' followers at the beginning stages of the religion. Early on, one finds disputing sects expressing their disagreement in vituperative, insulting and hate-filled language. But throughout his book, when McGrath mentions past and present quarrels about theology, he gives no more than hints of how often they are intense, rancorous, divisive, and sometimes accompanied by violence. By minimizing the controversy and discord that existed in whatever matter he is presenting, he makes Christianity seem like a more convivial enterprise than it actually was--and is.
One of the four defining components of Christian theology listed by McGrath is how the ideas of the religion affect people's behavior. He discusses theology in relation to various social and political topics. But he leaves the reader in ignorance about the more important subjects of Christianity's justification of and connivance with despotic governments, its support of slavery, the Crusades, the Witch Hunts, and the Wars of Religion.
McGrath writes, "The ideas of 'orthodoxy' and 'heresy' are especially associated with the early church." This is incorrect. Beginning in the 12th century, the identification and elimination of suspected heretics became a principal activity of the Western Christian Church. An extensive organization, the Inquisition, was created for that purpose. A new legal system, with new principles that did not include justice, was devised to prosecute supposed heretics. McGrath does not mention this institution, which for centuries dominated the social, political, and intellectual life of much of Europe.
A person ignorant of Christianity would come away from reading "Christian Theology" with a highly distorted idea of the religion. Evidently this is the picture of themselves that Christians want to present to themselves. Should students of theology be averse to facts?
Christian Theology: An IntroductionChristian Theology: An IntroductionChristian Theology: An IntroductionThe Christian Theology Reader: AND Christian Theology, 4r.edChristian Theology: An IntroductionChristian Theology: An IntroductionChristian Theology: An Introduction
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Initial post: 22 Oct 2013 09:58:57 BDT
Mr. B. Shepherd says:
I'm not exactly sure that this review has come from anyone but a devout Atheist, who I wonder if he has actually read the book.
OK. In the first instance his review has the sounding of being genuine but on closer inspection one finds that he espouses the usual rubbish - i.e. the bible has been changed, the church is angry, aggressive & violent - look at the witch hunts, inquisitions etc, the doctrines are all false and believers must be ignorant of facts.
Right, having summarized that, if you look for any troll review online you'll hear the same drivel over and over again.
Christian Theology is a textbook designed for University Students studying and/or learning Systematic Theology. The entire point of it is to get an understanding of what the doctrines are, so that students can make up their own minds on which way they sway in terms of their credibility and rationality. McGrath (as a former student of his) - often goes out of his way to explain that Theology is like glasses one puts on to look at the world (a worldview) in order to make sense of things. This book is about that and not histories as the author of this review would appear to suggest it should be. If the reviewer wanted a history of Christianity could I recommend to him - Diarmaid MacCulloch's: A History of Christianity!
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