Reading Christian Theology in the Protestant TraditionI was deeply privileged to contribute to a hefty book on historical theology that has just released: Reading Christian Theology in the Protestant Tradition. This volume, edited by Kelly Kapic and Hans Madueme, both professors at Covenant College, aims to introduce readers to some of the key figures and works in the history of theology.

To give you a sense of the work’s purpose, Kelly Kapic says this:

We know that most people don’t have the time to read thousands and thousands of pages, and yet a student of Protestant theology must become familiar with key authors and their works. Without such study they simply cannot begin to understand the dynamics of this tradition—or, more accurately, traditions. Therefore, in this volume we have chosen fifty-eight works that represent a reasonable set of selections from the past 2,000 years. (5)

The work is divided into five parts: the early church, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Each part includes ten to twelve chapters that present notable works by key figures in church history. The book is enhanced by section introductions, primary source lists for each of the five periods, bibliographies for further research, and essay abstracts for every chapter—all features that help readers grasp the volume’s material and find avenues for digging deeper.

Mark Thompson of Moore Theological College gives this endorsement for the book:

Christian theology is a fellowship activity; we learn from those who have read the Bible both before us and alongside us. This introduction to some of the great texts of the Christian tradition is a welcome encouragement to do just that. It is a fascinating selection, one which does not rest content with the old favourites but introduces us to new writings and opinions. The past can challenge the preoccupations of the present, and reading these texts will undoubtedly stimulate us to look again, more carefully, at the word of God, so that we might both proclaim and embody the gospel faithfully in our own time.

W. Stephen Gunter, Douglas Sweeney, and I all contributed to the section on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In this part we treat not only theological treatises such as William Ames’s Marrow of Theology, Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Affections, and John Wesley’s Appeals to Men of Reason and Religion but also the Westminster Standards, William Paley’s Natural Theology, and Anne Bradstreet’s Poems—a nod to the diversity of sources that the editors have sought to include in the volume.

The other parts of the book treat a wide variety of works. Here is a taste of the types of primary sources that the volume explores:

  • Part 1: Irenaeus’s Against the Heresies, Origen’s On First Principles, and John Chrysostom’s On Wealth and Poverty
  • Part 2: Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care, Peter Lombard’s Sentences, and John Wycliffe’s On the Truth of Holy Scripture
  • Part 3: Martin Luther’s The Freedom of a Christian (see my discussion of this book on this blog here), Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer, and a selection of women writers from the sixteenth century, including Argula von Grumbach and Elisabeth Cruciger
  • Part 5: Søren Kierkegaard’s Practice in Christianity, Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, and Sallie McFague’s Models of God

Other contributors to Reading Christian Theology in the Protestant Tradition include Gerald Bray, Amy Brown Hughes, George Kalantzis, Kirsi I. Stjerna, and Wesley Vander Lugt. It really is a privilege to work along such a talented group of scholars, and a big shout out goes to Kapic and Madueme for their hard work in bringing the volume to fruition. I’ll give Kelly Kapic the final word:

We hope that our book is not an end, but a beginning, a beginning to a much longer conversation, or maybe better, to a much grander banquet. We aim to whet the reader’s appetite and provoke fruitful conversations. With that said, pull up a seat and begin to savor what is laid before you. Taste and see . . . (6)

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