One of the first books I read when I was finding my feet on the terrain of historical theology was John MacQuarrie's Twentieth Century Religious Thought. It was an SCM Limp Study Edition and cost £4.95. I read it through and discovered that Christian theology is exciting, bracing and enlarging when written by someone who is well informed, fair minded, alert to contemporary philosophical and theological trends, and able to distinguish between genuine game-changing trends and those wayward currents of thought that are fashionable but prove theologically unpromising.
Further reading included direct engagement with major theologians like Barth, Brunner (does anyone still read Brunner), Bultmann, Bonhoeffer (so much now available in the translated works), Pannenberg, Kung, Moltmann (seminal in my own thinking), Tillich, Jungel, moving on to Guttierez, Boff, Lash, and MacQuarrie (himself now part of the story) and later still Torrance, Jenson, Hauerwas.
The next survey of modern theology survey I read was 20th Century Theology. God and the World in a Transitional Age, by Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson. This book helped me join together and see connections between modernity, Christian theology, cultural and philosophical moves and movements, providing a helpful map of modern theology. This book is now 20 years old, and I still refer to it.
That brings me to two new books waiting to be read and near the top of the have to read soon pile. Mapping Modern Theology. A Thematic and Historical Introduction is a collection of essays on the main topics of Christian theology, in which the main theological loci such as atonement, creation, providence, pneumatology, eschatology are explored through the lens of theological writing rooted in the soil of modernity, roughly the last two hundred years. Edited by Kelly Kapic and Bruce McCormack this is a substantial anf innovative book and I look forward to reading it as an orientation to the contemporary debates.
Just arrived is The Journey of Modern Theology. From Reconstruction to Deconstruction, by Roger Olson. This book began as a revision of the Grenz Olson volume mentioned above. But for very good reasons it has become a much enlarged book in its own right and while incoporating material from the earlier version, it is a very different book. Seven hundred pages now replaces the 400 pages of the earlier book.
The usual suspects are included from Kant, Hagel and Schleiermacher onwards but the entire structure of the book is reworked under the framework of the subtitle, as each chapter explores the way theological assumptions, approaches and constructiuons have changed and adapted or resisted under the pressures of modernity.
Placed alongside the indispensable (I dont use that word often) edition of David Ford and rachel Muers, Modern Theologians (Blackwell Great Theologians series) these books provide a very rich harvest of reflection and constructive critique of contemporary Christian theology in the West and North. By the way, Ford's volume was significantly changed for the third edition, and I have kept my original second edition because they are two very different books! Olson concedes that his Western Northern bias is a significant limitation, but recognises that a very different work is required, and perhaps in several volumes, if someone is to make a serious attempt at a project which would engage with global Christianity and its diverse styles and contexts of theological traditions, without privileging one over the other. Indeed something of such a project is currently underway by Veli-Matti Karkkainen, of which I will say much more in a later post. For now, I wanted to flag up to those who might be interested some of the good tour guides for modern theology. Over the next while I'll do occasional bulletins from the desk and let you know what's what. y