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20th-Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age Paperback – November 25, 1993

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Clear and even-handed. . . . Conservative readers will find this a challenging introduction to the theological discussion, but they will be heartened by its judgments. Liberal readers will contest some of its assumptions, but they will respect its full engagement with alternatives." (Religious Studies Review)

"An outstanding introduction: its explanations are lucid and its coverage is comprehensive." (FRANCIS SCHÜSSLER FIORENZA, Harvard Divinity School)

From the Back Cover

'This book tells the complex story of modern theology in a critically discerning way--no small feat itself. Second it provides a useful key for interpreting these developments through the biblical dialectic of God's transcendence and immanence--a terrific idea in my view. Third, it demonstrates that evangelical theology is at last coming of age--thank God. No other book offers three benefits of this magnitude at this or any other price.' Clark H. Pinnock McMaster Divinity College
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 393 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (November 25, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830815252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830815258
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you are seriously interested in understanding the current theological diversity within Christianity and how it came to be, then this book is for you. Grenz and Olson diligently present the major theological ideas that have shaped theological discourse for the past one hundred years. The book provides a detailed survey of the ideas put forth by the great theologians of the past century and the movements that they founded: Neo-Orthodoxy, Existential Theology, Secular Theology, Process Theology, Liberation Movements, Neo-Catholicism, and American Evangelicalism. The "critical evaluations" of various theologians often reflect the authors' personal biases, but on the whole, this book is a very fair presentation of the many ways in which Christianity has attempted to speak to the modern world.
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Format: Paperback
This book is the ideal first port of call for any with an interest in contemporary theology. Grenz and Olson place the last century's theological ponderings in their historical context, highlighting the relationships between the leading theologians of the century, and helpfully locating their theologies on a spectrum between the poles of God's immanence or transcendence. All this is skillfully done, woven into a text which includes accurate exposition and even-handed criticism. There is also a good deal of biographical detail which adds colour and (in places) even romance to the subject!
The book begins with an illuminating discussion of the Enlightenment and the problems it threw up for theology. The birth of comtemporary theology is then charted through the work of Schleiermacher in the nineteenth century, to a tried and trusted (?) canon of modern figures, ranging from dogmaticians such as Barth and Tillich, through liberation and feminist theologians, to more 'post-modern' types in the section on Narrative Theology. Very comprehensive for a relatively slim volume. I was engrossed throughout, and my passion for modern theology was kindled by this excellent book.
Of course, any book such as this has to be selective in its material, and some major figures are either ommited or glossed over. There is a considerable Protestant bias with only two Catholic theologians being considered (Rahner and Kung) and not a word about Eastern Orthodox theology, which is becoming a fashionable study in theological circles. By way of other Catholics, both Von Balthasar and Schillebeecks would have been worthy of inclusion.
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Format: Paperback
I have just used this book as the set text for the 'contemporary theology' module of a theology degree, and I found it an excellent introduction to the basics of recent theological thought. It is certainly accessible for the average undergraduate, and is more easy-going than, say, David Ford's heavy volume 'Modern Theologians'. Although the writers are evangelicals, they generally treat those of other stock fairly even-handedly, and they cover all the main points and never fail to offer poignant criticisms. It becomes a little pedantic at times, particularly some of the obligatory words of praise offered to some of the more objectionable theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann. Such flattery seems rather insincere. There are also one or two points that could have been explained a bit more clearly, instead of being glossed over. On the whole though I couldn't recommend a better intro to contemporary theology. Incidentally, if you are reading modern theologians for the first time, I recommend Wolfhart Pannenberg and Karl Rahner. They were the ones who most impressed me, anyhow, and I think they both brought out important elements of the gospel.
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Format: Paperback
If anyone studies Historical Theology, then this is a good place to start for the 20th Century. I must admit from the start that I agree with very little which 20th Century Theologians espouse (I am a confessional, Reformed Protestant who adheres to the Westminster Confession), but that does not stop me from enjoying things written by them and about them.
Grenz and Olson write from a sympathetic, yet critical standpoint. Their main analysis is over the transcendance/immanence tension throughout the history of Christian Philosophy. The 20th century theologians are a reaction to the classical liberalism of the 19th century, but in my opinion, they do not go far enough. The theologians they survey that I enjoy the most are Karl Barth, Karl Rahner and Wolfhart Pannenberg. The ones I dislike the most are Jurgen Moltmann, Paul Tillich and Hans Kung.
I also enjoyed reading about Narrative Theology, too, because I think some of it is similar to Reformed Biblical Theology (see Geerhardus Vos, Herman Ridderbos or Richard Gaffin for an example). Reformed Biblical Theology places its emphasis on the outwork of the Redemptive and the Christotelic nature of scripture, much as Narrative Theology places its emphasis on the developing story or narrative of scripture.
The big issue I have with 20th century theology is its doctrine of God. The big theological move is more toward a panentheism, rather than the distinct creator/creature distinction. They see God's transcendance/immanence in temporal rather than spatial categories. This has led to the questioning and denial of the Immutability, Impassibility and Foreknowledge of God. The logical conclusion, in my mind, is process theology, which holds that God is Di-Polar. His pole of being is finite but his pole of becomming is infinite.
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