- Paperback: 457 pages
- Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; 2 edition (June 14, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 080282787X
- ISBN-13: 978-0802827876
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology Paperback – June 14, 2004
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Praise for the first edition:
"One of the best of the new systematic theologies to be published."
-- Religious Studies Review
"Migliore's goal is to present theology in language that can be readily grasped by the theological beginner. Hurrah!"
-- Theology Today
"This is theology with a sure and sharp pastoral touch. . . . An ideal primer in doctrine for students."
-- The Expository Times
"A provocative reinterpretation of Christian theology. Migliore's focus on the new community offers positive insights for theological reflection."
-- Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
"An admirable success. . . . Migliore hits just the right intermediate range to fill a real need and make his book serviceable for years to come."
About the Author
Daniel L. Migliore is Charles Hodge Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.
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Top Customer Reviews
If it were possible, I would give the book 4 1/2 stars, as I just finished reviewing Placher's 'Elements of Christian Theology', giving it 4 stars; but, as an introduction, Migliore's book is superior for being most of the things Placher's book is not.
Migliore has coherence, a uniform approach to all his subjects, befitting a work done by a single author. This is the second class in which I have used Migliore as a text (along with Placher) in a seminary. The first was in a 'Continuing Education' class which may have been roughly comparable to a Freshman undergraduate class in college. For that class, it seemed just right, except that the instructor did not pay a lot of attention to the material in the text. In the graduate level 'Introduction to Theology' class, the book pops up again. Here, the book seems just a bit out of its depth. When I am at the graduate level, I am far happier reading doctrines in their original statements, by Augustine, Athanaius, Tertullian, Basil, Abelard, Luther, Schleiermacher, and Barth. It is telling that on several subjects we did,in fact read Luther and Barth as our primary sources.
There are two things, however, that Migliore does very, very well. The first is reflected in his title. Anyone who tries to live by the words in the Bible, unpolished by any interpretation, is soon lost in a swamp of seeming inconsistancies. Half the time, Jesus sounds like a Catholic, and half the time he sounds like a Lutheran, and another half the time he sounds likd a Methodist. So which is it? Another example of something in the need for theological understanding is the pastoral approach to 'abused' women and children. There are opinions that the doctrine that suffering is 'good for you' has been used as an excuse to hold off on rescuing victems of such abuse from their situation, or for punishing those who perpetrate that violence. When we are speaking of 1st and 2nd century martyrs, there may have been an element of truth there, but not in modern cities, social policies, and sensibilities. Once upon a time, there may have been circumstances which gave proper voice to doctrines. Those situations may have passed. Migliore is successful in showing the pursuit of theological doctrine is a journey, not a skyscraper.
The second major contribution to the study is when Migliore, in his introduction, says that 'Theological reflection must play an important role in the life of the church because the church must be self-critical.' Theology is NOT the same as coming up with good liturgies or hymns or 'contemporary worship' services or ways to help the needy. Theology answers the why questions of Christian praxis and is thereby the handmaiden of Christian ethics. Christians don't do things SIMPLY because the Bible told them so. That course leads to trouble. Even faith needs critical reflection.
My final reason for witholding the last star from the review is that I have not yet had the chance to read Alister McGrath's introductory text on Theology, which is often considered the gold standard. I will be back after I get that under my belt.
Migliore's dialogues at the back of the book are a hoot, unless you are a fan of Rudolph Bultmann. The glossary is great, but it should not give you the impression that it is in any way a complete list of important terms. It is a handy tool while you are using the book.
This vision is undergirded by the notion that one of the central themes within theology is that faith and inquiry are inseparable. This is a noble idea and a task that certainly yields greater wisdom, comprehension and insight. However, in the process of inquiry and in the process of locating theology in a contemporary context, Migliore frequently invites modernity to persuade theology and seldom allows theology to persuade modernity. What the reader is left with isn’t Biblical theology at all but a watered-down version of Biblical truth filled with subjectivity and tailored to accommodate safe passage of the modern theologian who finds some areas of faith difficult to hold on to in the 21st century.
Resultantly, Faith Seeking Understanding ends up reading more like faith seeking compromise or faith seeking pluralism.
It must be mentioned that what this book does very well is introduce the reader to the wide range of people, thoughts and ideas that make up the contemporary theological landscape. If for nothing else you will step away from the book with a firm understanding of what the theological field looks like and what different voices are saying.
To elaborate on what I said in the first paragraph, consider that Migliore argues against the infallibility of the Bible. He writes that this stance “obscures the true basis of Christian confidence” (pg. 48) and alternatively puts forth the claim that the Bible has its true power as a witness and guide to Christ. While the latter statement is an often-overlooked point in the community of strict Biblicists, the former refutation gives individuals license to work from their own faculties in formulating personalized theologies. This dynamic becomes evident throughout the rest of the text as the author sometimes references the Bible to support his theological assertions but relies more heavily on human authors and other theologians to further his arguments. The problem of subjectivity becomes quickly evident and gives unsuspecting readers the subversive liberty they may desire to mold God in their own image.
Then, of course, there are simply instances where Migliore makes claims that are direct contradictions to faith and the Bible. On page 115 he writes, “There is nothing inherently inconsistent in holding both to evolutionary theory and to faith in God the creator.” Truth can only be true as a function of its mutual exclusivity. Clearly, the author has never read books such as Genesis One by Dr. Hugh Ross, who uses scientific evidence to demonstrate that everything is inherently inconsistent in holding both to evolutionary theory and creationism.
I read Faith Seeking Understanding as required by a graduate level seminary course and would not recommend it as a theology textbook. I can recommend it to someone in academia or church leadership as an introduction to divergent theological interpretations, but not as a primary source for the study of God.