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The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction Hardcover – December 1, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Olson's book is an advised reading for all the students who desire a complete introduction to modern theology. Professors of theology and history of Christianity, as well as pastors and lay church leaders will appreciate this book as a good resource to facilitate the understanding of the recent changes in Christianity and theology in relation to modern and postmodern cultural context." (Roy E. Graf Maiorov, Journal of Asia Adventist Seminary, 16.2 (2013))

"This is an exceptional achievement-―the fruit of many years of diligent labor in the classroom and study. From Descartes to Hauerwas, and just about everyone in between, Roger Olson provides a travelogue that covers the many routes taken in the journey that is modern theology. Through learned and appealing descriptions of the landmarks along the way, Olson invites his readers to take up their own explorations of key theologians and movements. This is an engaging and readable survey, which will serve as an able guide for students of modern theology for many years to come." (David Lauber, associate professor of theology, Wheaton College)

"Having used for years and years 'Grenz and Olson' as a classroom resource, I am enthused about this rewrite which, indeed, is such a complete rewrite that it has made an already great text even better! What distinguishes this survey of contemporary theology from all others is not only Dr. Olson's insightful and balanced critique of views but also its integral narrative structure. Similar to its predecessor, this one is likely to become a standard resource for years to come." (Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, professor of theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, and docent of ecumenics, University of Helsinki)

"In this highly readable and stimulating volume, Roger Olson navigates the nuances and complexities of modern theology with the aplomb of a seasoned scholar and the sensibility of an expert guide. The result is the best narrative account of the subject available today. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a better introduction to the sweep of modern theology being written anytime soon." (John R. Franke, Yellowstone Theological Institute)

"Originally intended as a revision of 20th-Century Theology, The Journey of Modern Theology makes a unique and independent contribution to the study of modern theology. Olson has focused upon the diverse reactions to modernity. The book includes a more extensive treatment of nineteenth-century theology, and it engages in detail with contemporary postliberal, postmodern and deconstructive endeavors. The volume exhibits the passion of Olson's commitments and the clarity of his writing. Both make the volume extremely useful and helpful for beginning students. Olson is clear in his advocacy of orthodox and neoorthodox theological positions as he is in his criticism of liberal theories. He does so in a way that fosters and encourages a dialogue with diverse theological options." (Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, Stillman Professor for Roman Catholic Theological Studies, Harvard Divinity School)

"Olson's style is lucid, careful, and immensely readable. Whether as a story of theological history, a survey, or reference work, this book should serve far more than the intended audience as a heuristic tool for understanding and appropriating the challenges of modernity and our varying responses. For those not included in this work, Olson has set the standard by which to evaluate their theological appropriation of modernity. It is impossible not to learn from this book." (Wolfgang Vondey, Religious Studies Review, Vol. 41, No. 2, June 2015)

About the Author

Roger E. Olson (PhD, Rice University) is professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is the author of The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversityand The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology. He is also coauthor of 20th-Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age and Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God (both with Stanley J. Grenz), and of The Trinity (with Christopher A. Hall).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (December 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830840214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830840212
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #510,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Clint Walker VINE VOICE on November 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Roger Olson is a prolific writer and a passionate theologian. I have followed his work from his days at Bethel College and Seminary in St. Paul, MN, and have followed it with even more interest since he moved to Waco to teach at Truett Seminary at Baylor University.

I also long ago read 20th Century Theology. I had read it not in a seminary classroom, but as a pastor trying to make sense of where I was theologically, especially in relationship to some of the issues raised through postmodern philosophy and the emergent church movement (before it was called that). I loved the book, and its thesis of the development of modern theologies as a dialogue and dialectic between emphases on theology's understanding of the transcendence of God and the immanence of God made sense to me. It helped me become more grounded and able to articulate where I was in the context of modern theology and postmodern philosophy. 20th Century Theology was a game changer for me.

Now, in an update on the book's 20th anniversary, Olson has, in attempting to revise the old text, written a new text with the old text as the foundation. Instead of using a theological construct to tell what has happened in 19th, 20th and 21st century theologies, he has used a historical one in The Journey of Modern Theology . Since what is happening in both books is a historical theology of sorts, both organizational systems are appropriate. Olson's new construct makes the development of theology come across as a more relational and personal story of people and ideas in a historical context. Which is all well and good. But I think it misses the sense of wrestling with God that the text it has meant to revise had.
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Format: Hardcover
I think that the greatest value of Olson's magnum opus--for most people--will be to confirm the best reading of many of these theologians. Given the complexity of these thinkers, it helps to have confirmation that you are reading them correctly. If you have the opportunity to sample only some of their work, which is the case with most of us not teaching this material on a daily basis, you really need a compass to help with the larger corpus you don't have time to read. This book is a great compass. I waited patiently for this book for over a year after hearing from the author that he was working on it; after reading it, I can say that my patience has been well rewarded. The book performs that rare function that most books don't: It bridges the gap between general summaries and detailed treatments. That's really what most need, but few scholars achieve that goal. Writers either like to keep it general and simple for the lay reader, or they write a 700-page tome on one or a few theologians. Dr. Olson covers the middle of the academic spectrum, and that--I think--is the appeal of this fine work.

The book is also a great complement to the author's previous book, The Story of Christian Theology, adding additional depth to that part of the history of most interest to many of us today. So the book is most definitely a big cut above a survey--in fact, it's much more than that. If clarity, accuracy, and fairness are your highest academic values, as they are for me, Olson is the scholar for you. For me, the chapter on Horace Bushnell was worth the price of the book. This chapter and others have led me to read more of Bushnell and a few others whose contributions are either forgotten, unknown, or under appreciated. Highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Roger Olson does a nice job summarizing the changes to theological thinking over the last 2-3 centuries as it confronts Enlightenment and Modernity.
There is an underlying story to Roger's summary and is that God seems to disappear in most of the great thinkers as the confront the "acids of modernity". Roger Olson does a nice job of treating each theologian fairly. The book is lengthy but I believe worth reading.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book is written to grab you (gently) and introduce you to some of the most interesting people of the last four hundred years. Yes, most of them were philosophers and theologians, but they were people first and always people. Roger Olson knows these people, some personally, but mainly through careful, sympathetic reading of much of their work over a long career. The characters march across the pages almost as if the author is presenting his friends to us. He knows them well, and wants us to know them - not to always agree with them for that would be impossible, but to know them as people who had great ideas, to know what the heart of those ideas was and to know why these particular people had these particular ideas. And to know the human and intellectual context into which these ideas spoke.

In his two page note of required reading at the beginning, Dr. Olson says "This book's primary intended audience is not scholars of modern theology but students, pastors and interested laypeople....... The goal.... is to inform readers about the lives, careers, major ideas, legacies and possible problems of these thinkers." This lay person and lifelong student thinks that this mission has been admirably accomplished. All students of theology who love people and their ideas will get much from this volume.

They were all chosen for inclusion in this book because they made very significant contributions to Christian theology. Like today, they all worked in a time when how we ask and attempt to answer questions, and even the questions we think we should be asking, was in great ferment. In the century before the first and second world wars, many wanted, and thought they could find, sure answers to all questions.
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