Friday, October 21, 2005

Book Review: The Mosaic of Christian Belief

There is no doubt whatsoever that the history of Christianity has been full of in-fighting over doctrine. In just about every area of theology you can think of there have been disagreements over what the Bible teaches and what Christians should believe. Roger Olson tackles this diversity head-on with his book, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity. His aim is to affirm a both/and rather than an either/or approach to Christian belief. The author has selected 15 key theological themes and surveyed the diversity of belief for each one. In doing so, his aim is to identify a 'consensus of teaching that is both unitive and able to incorporate a faithful diversity when not forced into the molds of either-or alternatives.' (Dust jacket) It is a fascinating read and an excellent introduction to Christian belief in all its variety. There will, of course, be disagreement on whether or not Olson has achieved his task. But even if not, there is enormous value in being reminded that Christianity has always had, within its borders, an enormous richness of thought. The best Christianity is one where Christians are united in their diversity and where genuine dialogue takes place between those who disagree with each other. It is essential for every Christian to realise that one's own form of Christianity is not the final word. If Olson's book helps Christians to appreciate the vast 'contours of Christian faith' then it will be worth reading. Quote '... early Christian thinkers and church fathers wrestled with questions about humanity's nature and condition in their own pluralistic Greek and Roman culture. Many different views of humanity swirled around them, and they had to develop a rough consensus of Christian belief over against some of those views, especially when they infiltrated the churches. Are human beings pawns of the gods or godlets themselves? The Gnostics posed the most serious challenge to apostolic Christianity by promoting belief in humanity's (or some humans') inner divinity. In the face of such ancient and modern challenges Christians have developed out of the materials of divine revelation a rough consensus about human nature and existence. That consensus has seldom, if ever, taken on the status of dogma -- essential belief -- in the same way as the Christian consensus about Jesus Christ and the Trinity. Few creeds or formal confessional statements of Christian churches include detailed expressions of what must be believed about the subject. And yet, a careful reading of the church fathers, medieval Christian thinkers, Protestant Reformers and modern Christians reveals an amazing common ground of belief that distinguishes Christianity from all secular and pagan philosophies.' (p. 200) Subject: Doctrinal Theology

No comments:

Post a Comment