Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 155:620 (Oct 98) p. 479
By the Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary
Lin M. Williams, Editor
Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. By Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996. 150 pp. $12.99.
Grenz is professor of theology and ethics at Carey/Regent College, Vancouver, and Olson is professor of theology at Bethel College, St. Paul. Their shared aspiration is “a revival of sound theological interest and reflection among God’s people,” lest evangelicalism fall into mere “folk religion” (p. 10). The work serves as a popular apologetic for the importance of and proper methodology for doing theology. With almost no footnotes or bibliography, chapters are peppered with illustrations, most of all from Olson’s favorite Peanuts cartoons.
The authors begin by making the common case that everyone is a theologian of sorts (chap. 1) but that not all theologies are equal (chap. 2). The work defines “Christian theology” as that which reflects on and articulates “the God-centered life and beliefs that Christians share as followers of Jesus Christ, and it is done in order that God may be glorified in all Christians are and do” (p. 49). Thus good theology “pleases God” (p. 47)—a perspective often forgotten—and leads directly to praxis. Chapter 4, “Defending Theology,” responds to four common complaints, described as “the Killjoy Objection, the Divisiveness Charge, the Speculation Accusation and the Stalemate Indictment” (pp. 55-67).
Chapters 5–8 define the process that leads to the goal of a critical and constructive theology. A critical theology is one that has examined Christian affirmations against heterodox beliefs (apostasy), and then has nuanced those affirmations as dogma (what “seems essential to the gospel”), doctrine (“important but not essential”), or opinion (“interesting but relatively unimportant to the faith of the church”) (p. 73). A constructive theology brings unifying structure to the diversity of biblical teaching and then relates that structure to contemporary culture. The authors argue that, whereas liberalism reduced all theology to opinion, fundamentalism elevated all theology to dogma. The more reasonable pathway, they suggest, is reflected in the mediating models of Barthian-Brunnerian neoorthodoxy, neoevangelicalism, and the eschatological theologies of Moltmann and Pannenberg.
For many readers the difficult section of the work will be chapter 7, “Constructing Theology in Context,” which purports to clarify how theology should be done. Having asserted that valid theology must be “truly scriptural, completely Christian and totally relevant” (p. 108), the authors ask, “Should we start with ...
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