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Theology: The Basics [Paperback]

Alister E. McGrath
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 13, 2011 0470656751 978-0470656754 3
Completely updated and expanded, this third edition from one of the world's leading theologians introduces students to key theological issues, contextualizing them within the bible and the works of seminal theologians. 

  • Introduces readers to key theological issues such as God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, faith, creation, salvation, atonement, religious history, and heaven
  • Thoroughly updated, with the addition of a new chapter on the Holy Spirit
  • Now includes images and more pedagogical features to engage the reader
  • Each chapter offers an overview of an important theme, presents relevant biblical passages, and summarizes the contribution of a major theologian
  • Expands the range of theological positions discussed within the book, especially those of contemporary and feminist theologians
  • Maintains the user-friendly structure of the previous edition, with the Apostle's Creed as a framework
  • Concludes with suggestions on how readers can take their study further
  • Can be used alongside the new edition of Theology: The Basic Readings for a complete overview of the field

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Brief Description
An authoritative exploration of the history of Christian theology from the Patristic period to present-day developments.
An ideal introduction to the history, sources & methods, and key figures of Christian thought.
An engaging introduction to core topics of Christianity discussing them in relation to the Bible and key theologians.
This classic text introduces the central ideas and developments of the European Reformations to readers of history and theology.

Why Study Theology? Insights from author Alister E. McGrath
Author Alister E. McGrath

There are a number of reasons why it’s both important and enriching to study theology and here I have listed what I think are three of the most important.

Firstly, studying theology is about making sense of some of the great debates and themes of history. It is impossible to study the religious art of the Middle Ages, the great literature of the Renaissance, the history of the sixteenth century, or the novels of J. R. R. Tolkien without knowing something about theology. To study theology is to pass through a gateway which offers an enhanced vision of human thought and history. It’s like a lens that helps bring things into focus.

Secondly, theology enables us to see things through the eyes of others, so that we can gain fresh perspectives on some of the great questions of faith. One of the leading themes of C. S. Lewis’s late work An Experiment in Criticism (1961) is that reading literature enables us to see with the eyes of others, deepening and sometimes challenging our own ideas. To read Augustine, Athanasius, Thomas Aquinas or Karl Barth is to have our eyes opened to other ways of seeing things. We may not agree with them, but their insights help us forge and enrich our own approaches.

Thirdly, studying theology brings new depth and vitality to faith. When the novelist Evelyn Waugh discovered Christianity in 1930, he spoke of beginning the “delicious process of exploring it limitlessly.” Theology is about mapping the landscape of faith, discovering its landmarks, appreciating its inner logic, and experiencing its beauty and richness.

The Triumph of Saint Thomas Aquinas, painting by Benozzo de Gozzoli, ca. 1420-97, tempera. Musee de Louvre, paris. The Art Archive / Musee de Louvre, Paris/Gianni Dagli Otti
William Blake's Ancient of Days, 1794, relief etching with watercolor, 23.3 x 16.8 cm. British Museum, London. AKG Images/Erich Lessing
C.S. Lewis. Getty Images


"This is an excellent and extremely helpful introduction to Christian theology. Believers of all familiarity with theology will find McGrath's explanations helpful and clarifying. This would be an excellent text for a sunday school or church bible study. I would even include this as a text for an introductory course in theology." (Jacob Sweeney's Blog, 16 December 2011)

"McGrath’s approach is creedal and biblical. The chapters are lucid, engaging, and thought-provoking in so far as they serve as gateways into a complex (if not at times convoluted) field of study.” (Religious Studies Review)

“The publisher's blurb reports that the first edition was 'an international best seller' …It deserves this success. Students need such a clearly presented, sure-footed account of the theological basics.” (Theological Book Review)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 3 edition (September 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470656751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470656754
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alister E. McGrath is a historian, biochemist, and Christian theologian born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A longtime professor at Oxford University, he now holds the chair in theology, ministry, and education at the University of London. He is the author of several books on theology and history, including Christianity's Dangerous Idea, In the Beginning, and The Twilight of Atheism. He lives in Oxford, England, and lectures regularly in the United States.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Theology for everyone... September 27, 2004
Alister McGrath is an author I rely upon frequently for helping to teach theology. He has a broad-based, ecumenical approach useful and accessible to Catholics and Protestants; firmly grounded in the long history of Christendom and intellectual developments arising out of the early church forward, there is much that Orthodox Christians would also find interesting and helpful. His works on Christian spirituality, historical theology, and his excellent one-volume introduction to theology are constant references of mine.

This particular volume, produced by Blackwell (one of my favourite presses, particularly for theological works), is meant to serve as both an introduction and survey of the basic themes of Christian theology. McGrath takes the Apostles' Creed, one of the creeds of the early church that most every Christian agrees upon as a statement of some authority, as the overall framework for this text. In his introduction, McGrath explains the different methods of studying theology (highlighting particular theologians, or tracing the history), and some of the disadvantages of working with those methods. He explains the basis of following the Apostles' Creed to highlight ideas, which in turn draws in discussion of particular theologians and theological schools, denominational differences as applicable, and the major source elements of scripture, tradition, and reason.

The Apostles' Creed itself is rather short and basic - each line of the creed focuses upon one aspect of the faith, and McGrath uses these lines as the topics for the chapters. Elaborating on these basic themes, McGrath pulls in discussion and references from biblical texts and images, major theologians from past and present, and general trends in history.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Theology: The Basics February 25, 2005
Something I have kept in the back of my mind for awhile now is to be on the alert for a short book delineating Christianity in its broadest categories. For me, the utility of such a book - were it to exist - would consist in having something to give to friends and acquaintances from different religious backgrounds, who are interested in what Christianity is generally about. Without wanting to sound melodramatic, let me say that Dr. Alister McGrath's book, _Theology: The Basics_, has filled that gap and freed up some memory in the back of my mind.

_Theology: The Basics_ is arranged very simply around an ancient Christian formula known as the Apostles' Creed. What McGrath discusses, whether faith, God, creation, Jesus, salvation, the Church, or heaven, is found in germ form at least in the Apostles' Creed.

As a scholar of historical theology, McGrath manifests a depth of understanding for Christian thought and its development over the centuries with each subject he treats. Frequent mention is made of such thinkers as Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, etc. Some readers will find helpful the selected Christian texts, which are placed at the end of each chapter, accompanied by a few questions for further reflection. This feature makes _Theology: The Basics_ amenable for discussion groups.

From the perspective of someone, who might like to distribute a copy of this book to non-Christians, let me offer three reasons in support of this gesture: Firstly, _Theology: The Basics_ is a clear presentation of Christianity with the selected subjects dealt with in a mature fashion. Secondly, McGrath showcases an ecumenical spirit citing from Protestant and Roman Catholic sources alike, though perhaps the majority of citations come from the former.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Introduction April 17, 2009
I hold a doctorate in practical theology and have read widely over the years. I needed a "primer" to use in an introductory theology class for laypersons. Having been familiar with Professor McGrath's larger volumes, I thought this volume might be worth a look. It was worth much more!

McGrath manages to cover the highlights of a 2,000-year subject, striking a balance between brevity and depth. He calls the work a "taster"--intimating that those who get just a taste of theology in this manner may want to go on to a more sumptuous feast. The beauty of the book may also be a source of frustration for some: I found myself wanting to have more depth just when the discussion got interesting. But, in the interest of covering the subject, McGrath chooses to move along.

There is a companion volume, Theology: The Basic Readings, which is helpful, but not necessary. McGrath includes a striking number of quotes from "source material"--i.e., the words of the original authors/thinkers such as Anselm, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and a number of contemporary writers.

Again, for an introduction to the subject, you could hardly do better; if you are looking for an in-depth study, try McGrath's longer works.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Theology: The Basics May 9, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I used this book for one of the courses in my Masters program and have used it many times since then as a resource. I have used it for myself as well as to answer questions for our RCIA group. I have recommended this book to fellow team members at our parish.
McGrath's use of the Apostle's Creed as the model for the progression of the chapters fits in well with learning about God and our beliefs. I also liked cross referencing with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Class text
This is the text book for an introductory theology class. If one takes the attitude that, I am here to learn, the book works well.
Published 9 days ago by Dick
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Introduction!
This book covers the foundations in a great manner! Would highly recommend for any Christian theology student or interested layperson.
Published 3 months ago by D. Shollenberger
4.0 out of 5 stars A great beginning
Having started formation for Holy Orders, I chose this book to begin to have a better knowledge of theological teachings. Read more
Published 7 months ago by James Kelliher
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written book
The book is well written and articulates the material in a clear and easy to understand manner. However I didn't use it much in my course work.
Published 8 months ago by JBailey89
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Man A Theologian? Absolutely!
Possibly the greatest treasure of the Catholic Church is its two millennia of reflection and study of Revelation and the Mystery of God, namely theology, the "sacred science. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Thomas J. Burns
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect
exactly what i wanted and needed for school. great price for the book and came new just like described. Thanks!
Published 10 months ago by Nicole
5.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to Christian Theology
This a great introduction to Christian theology. But be warned this is a serious book. It goes into the historical sources of Christian Theology and its Biblical roots. Read more
Published 14 months ago by DrDeep
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Information
It is an excellent resource to have. Its information is written in a subjective and concise manner, an excellent educational tool.
Published 17 months ago by Maritza Belardo DeCosta
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Theological background information
The book arrived before it was due which was really nice because I ordered the book kinda last minute and needed it at the beginning of my class for an assignment. Read more
Published on February 2, 2012 by skyskier20
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Introductory Texts Available
St. Anselm is well known for his explanation of theology: "faith seeking understanding". For generations the church understood that theology was essential for godly living. Read more
Published on December 16, 2011 by Jacob Sweeney
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