Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Book Review: Faithful Theology

Faithful Theology: An Introduction by Graham A. Cole. Edited by Oren R. Martin. 2020 [January] Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Last century A. W. Tozer wrote: What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. . . . The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. . . . Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.

Faithful Theology is the first book in a new series published by Crossway. This series is titled "Short Studies in Systematic Theology." In the preface to the series, they write, "While the specific focus will vary, each volume will (1) introduce the doctrine, (2) set it in context, (3) develop it from Scripture, (4) draw the various threads together, and (5) bring it to bear on the Christian life. It is our prayer, then, that this series will assist the church to delight in her triune God by thinking his thoughts—which he has graciously revealed in his written word, which testifies to his living Word, Jesus Christ—after him in the powerful working of his Spirit."

So what is this first book about? FAITHFUL THEOLOGY. Being faithful to the Word of God while doing Theology. Making sure that you are wisely and rightly handling the Word of God--interpreting it. It is important to not read into the text what you want it to say, but to let the Scriptures speak--let Scripture interpret Scripture. Cole is a bit more concise, "This book is about the method to use in doing faithful theology: faithful to God, faithful to God’s word."

This book is largely about the Bible, how to read it, study it, interpret it, apply it. It is also about how the Bible has been read, studied, interpreted, and applied in the past--through church doctrines, creeds, traditions.

He concludes, "God has spoken. The Bible is where the divine self-revelation is to be found. Theology is both reflection upon that self-revelation as the word of God and a response to it. Doing theology is a human activity that is always open to being reformed by the word of God. This is because Scripture, as the word of revelation, is the norm of norms. In any contest between authorities, Scripture is the final court of appeal. It is the touchstone of faith. Tradition, reason, and experience have their roles, but they are ruled norms that are ruled by Scripture. They are never to displace Scripture as the norm of norms. However, Scripture needs interpretation. On this score, the legacy of the Reformers of the sixteenth century remains immensely valuable. The analogy of faith provides excellent guidelines still for the interpreter, especially when nuanced with genre analysis. Theology is not done in a vacuum, however. We do our theology in fellowship with those of the past (e.g., Calvin) and the present (e.g., Kevin J. Vanhoozer). In other words, we do not read Scripture and do theology informed by Scripture as though no other Christians have ever lived, as though there were no witness of Christian thought and practice. Doing theology is a situated pursuit. We live outside Eden in the world of human brokenness. This is the truth in the postmodern perspective, but human imagination happily can give us a critical distance from ourselves, even despite our finiteness and fallenness."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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