Thursday, April 21, 2011

Learning from history

Each week I go out for breakfast with my son and discuss a chapter of a book we are reading together. We just started Theology: The Basics, by Alister McGrath, which I had read earlier with my daughter.
The first chapter gives a nice discussion of some basic issues one must face in theological discourse.
How and to what extent one engages with historical perspectives?
[McGrath divides history into the eras: apostolic, patristic, medieval, reformation, and modern]
How does one interact with the Bible, with tradition, and with reason?
Dialogue with other disciplines and philosophies present both opportunities and risks for theology.

Creeds provide a valuable summary which is a good launching point for an overview of theology. McGrath centres the book around the Apostle's Creed. Each chapter also contains a short text by a prominent theologian from Anselm to Barth to Calvin to Luther to Wesley to Tillich.

One thing I think is particularly important and valuable about the book is that it is a good point to start appreciating the significance of history. Over the past two thousand years there have been many very thoughtful, eloquent, and godly people who have wrestled with theological questions. I believe most of the issues are not that different today. With humility we can learn a lot from them, for better or for poorer.

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