Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 04:1 (Spring 2000)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Theology After Liberalism, Blackwell Readings in Modern Theology. Ed. John Webster and George P. Schner, Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000.

The shift from modernism to postmodernism that has been underway in western culture is having an impact not only upon evangelicals and fundamentalists but upon liberals as well. It has been disheartening to Bible-believing Christians to see the move to an open view of God and a denial of the realities of hell that is taking place within evangelical circles. Such unexpected doctrinal declension in conservative circles is part of a larger mindset that has been labeled, for lack of a better word, postconservative. What true conservatives might find surprising is that there is a mirror movement on the liberal side of the ledger that can be called postliberal.

Blackwell Publishers, in the book Theology After Liberalism, has done a service to those who are trying to exegete the present cultural landscape and make sense of the diverse discussions going on in the name of Christian theology. Contributors to the book come from several traditions, both Protestant and Catholic. The book is divided into five sections: an introduction, a discussion of specific doctrines, an exploration of methodology, some example criticisms of post-liberal theology, and a conclusion.

The introduction provides two articles by the two general editors of the work. George Schner discusses possible metaphors for theology that have been used mostly in liberal circles. A more helpful chapter and one of the best in the book is written by John Webster (“Theology After Liberalism?”), who reviews the problem of identifying and defining the loosely knit movement which is being called postliberal. This chapter is especially helpful for pastors who seek an overview of issues and who do not want to get bogged down in detailed theological discussions of this kind. Webster acknowledges that the word postmodern is the next best word to describe the movement, but that all terms are somewhat inadequate. In the end, he decides that postliberal is probably the best label.

Webster concludes that postliberalism can be described as a movement that emphasizes doctrine over critical methodologies. As such it does not seek to divorce itself from past heritage (including modernism and classical liberalism). However, it does not want to use present culture as the necessary starting point for present versions of theology. One particular example of how this is seen is the growing emphasis on ecclesiology as opposed to anthropology.

While this may cause unrest among the higher critics and more modernistic liberals, as Webster s...

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