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Essentials of Christian Theology Paperback – October 31, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; 1 edition (October 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664223958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664223953
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A stellar cast of scholars...Students and teachers will be using this volume for a long time. -- S. Mark Heim, Samuel Abbot Professor of Christian Theology, Andover Newton Theological School

A uniquely helpful resource. Placher's introduction to the history and language of each doctrine, and his summary statements,are invaluable. -- Shirley Guthrie, Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary

I strongly recommend this as a text for theology classes in seminaries, colleges and universities, and congregations. -- Lois Malcolm, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary

About the Author

William C. Placher was Charles D. and Elizabeth S. LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He was the author or editor of a number of books including A History of Christian Theology, Jesus the Savior, and Essentials of Christian Theology, all published by WJK.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 10 customer reviews
The great thing about the book is that it is not set up in an "us" versus "them" way.
Tedd Steele
Moreover, unlike some counterpoint books that leave the reader bewildered, each section here is unified by Placher's excellent introductions.
Randal Rauser
When this book came out last year, I recognised it at once as a very valuable resource, both for classroom use and for congregational study.
FrKurt Messick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
William Placher is a well-known theologian, a good writer and a great teacher, recognised as such by the American Academy of Religion a few years ago. When this book came out last year, I recognised it at once as a very valuable resource, both for classroom use and for congregational study. The book can be used as a good introduction to the key issues in theology, a companion volume for systematic theology classes, a worthwhile text for contemporary issues in theology, and a good pro-and-con collection on significant topics. As such, it should serve as a textbook in many settings.
Many of the names incorporated into this volume are significant figures in theology. I am pleased to have met several of them; I had heard of almost all of them before getting this text, which speaks to the prominence of the contributors.
There are nine primary issues addressed in the text, each with two essays developing the topic from different (although not always directly opposing) viewpoints. Each addresses aspects of what Placher identifies in the first chapter as the five factors in context of theology in North American today -- issues of modernity, post-modernity, ecumenism, pluralism, and the Barthian challenge. Placher describes the Barthian challenge as the idea that 'Christianity should never compromise its principles to fit the culture around it.' Placher defines ecumenism and pluralism for the context of this book, but modernity and post-modernity always present a challenge in definition.
Placher acknowledges that the nine primary topics are fairly standard; not all theological topics are covered here (such is often impossible in one-volume texts).
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Tom Hinkle on August 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a seminary student who read this book over the summer, not for a class, but just to keep up my theological "chops," I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone wanting to explore different facets of theology from a multitude of viewpoints. The best use of this book is to read the introductions and the essays, and note the authors and issues of interest for future exploration. Because of the diversity of viewpoints, nobody will be in agreement with every theologian in this book. But all of them will make you think. Most of the authors (not all) operate from the traditional trinitarian framework at least as a launching pad, so much of this material at least speaks the same language as the knowledgable reader.

In my opinion, the most interesting theologians represented were John Cobb, the process theologian, whose writings I might investigate further, and Serene Jones, who does theology that makes sense to the averate person in the pew (actually, there are several who do that). My least favorites were Clark Williamson, a stereotypical liberal on a soapbox, and Sallie McFague, who gets too close to pantheism for my comfort (actually, she would be known as a "panentheist"). It was encouraging to me to read some very thoughtful evangelicals as well, including Stanley Grenz and Richard Mouw.

Bottom line: if you want to get past Calvin, Luther, and that ilk and see where the action is in theology TODAY, this is a great place to start.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Randal Rauser on June 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
I teach at a conservative evangelical seminary and used this as a supplementary text to the mainstay (Millard Erickson). I must say that Placher has done a fantastic job of choosing a stellar lineup of essayists from a broad spectrum of opinion. Moreover, unlike some counterpoint books that leave the reader bewildered, each section here is unified by Placher's excellent introductions. The opinions expressed range from progressive evangelical to mainline liberal, and while there are definitely some places where my students were irritated (e.g. a defense of homosexual practice) or simply mystified (Cobb's process theology), their overall impression was positive. They recognized how much their horizons had been broadened, and that is the mark of an excellent introduction.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Tedd Steele on August 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
If you are beginning a journey in Christian theology, this book is for you. Dr. Placher has put together a collection of essays by 18 distinguished scholars. Nine important issues are discussed. Each section begins with a helpful introduction by Dr. Placher which serves to frame the discussion. Then two authors with different perspectives present their thoughts on the topic. At the end of each chapter are questions for discussion and a list of additional resources.

This book could serve as an excellent launching pad for further research in any of these areas. The great thing about the book is that it is not set up in an "us" versus "them" way. The authors don't set themselves up on the opposite sides of issues. Rather, each presents his or her own views in a non-confrontational way. By reading two perspectives on an issue, more of the nuance of the topic shows through. This is a wonderful resource.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey Whitlock on November 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Placher's volume is helpful to the first-time reader of Christian theology, but it is also engaging to a more seasoned audience. His introduction ("Why Bother with Theology?") not only stands as a useful argument on its own--it also sets an appropriate tone for the rest of the book.

Each chapter focuses on a specific issue of Christian doctrine (e.g. trinity, atonement, church). Placher begins every chapter with a brief but cogent summary of the history of the topic, including some of the historical theological perspectives that have shaped how we think about the topic today.

The chapters continue with brief essays from prominent contemporary theologians--two per chapter--presenting their perspectives. They represent the diversity in contemporary theological scholarship, ranging from the liberal to the conservative, the systematic to the scriptural, and including liberation and feminist theologies.

It is a great first-time read, and it is also something that should then be kept on the shelf for future reference. It may be rather expensive, but it is worth every penny.
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