"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Theology in History, Theology of History, or History of Theology?

It has been said that too much of what passes for theology today, especially among those dealing in patristics, is in fact just history or intellectual geneology: God is an afterthought or, in some cases, an embarrassment to be set aside while we look for the "hidden" world of Christians, or what they "really" believed, only to be found in the "gnostic gospels," etc. What is really sought is to show how, say, Gregory of Nyssa influenced Aquinas and Palamas, and how those two, through a convoluted development, ultimately played a role in shaping the intellectual worldview of, say, a Florovsky or a Bulgakov or a Barth.

A recently released book appears to buck this trend, trying to keep history and theology together: Frances Young, God's Presence: A Contemporary Recapitulation of Early Christianity (Cambridge UP, 2013), 472pp. 

About this book we are told:
In 2011, Frances Young delivered the Bampton Lectures in Oxford to great acclaim. She offered a systematic theology with contemporary coherence, by engaging in conversation with the fathers of the church - those who laid down the parameters of Christian theology and enshrined key concepts in the creeds - and exploring how their teachings can be applied today, despite the differences in our intellectual and ecclesial environments. This book results from a thorough rewriting of those lectures in which Young explores the key topics of Christian doctrine in a way that is neither simply dogmatic nor simply historical. She addresses the congruence of head and heart, through academic and spiritual engagement with God's gracious accommodation to human limitations. Christianity and biblical interpretation are discussed in depth, and the book covers key topics including Creation, anthropology, Christology, soteriology, spirituality, ecclesiology and Mariology, making it invaluable to those studying historical and constructive theology.
Young, as you may recall, is the author of the recently updated and acclaimed handbook From Nicaea to Chalcedon: A Guide to the Literature and Its Background, which helps put much of the conciliar and patristic literature in the fourth and fifth centuries into a helpful and wide-ranging context.

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