We just received this in this week. God in Dispute: "Conversations" among Great Christian Thinkers by Roger E. Olson is a new release from Baker Academic. I started skimming through some of the chapters and already know I'm going to like it. Olson combines a delightful blend of history, philosophy, theology and a great sense of humor.
The book is the product of the author's "imaginary dialogues" he used in various historical theology courses. Olson provides twenty-nine such dialogues. Each dialogue is preceded by a section which provides the setting of the conversation and then is followed by an analysis. Each chapter also offers a couple of books for further reading. I read the third chapter which is a dialogue between Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clement on the subject "Beliefs Necessary to Be a True Christian." There we find Tertullian charging Clement with "advocating a kind of Gnosticism" and offers his "rule of faith" as a guide for Christians to believe. Irenaeus responds with a creed of his own. Clement says "They're both okay, but I wonder if this whole dogma thing can be taken a little too far. I agree that real Christians must believe certain things, but what about those who are ignorant or who have come to believe the same thing in substance but outside the written or spoken Word? What about the philosophically minded Jew or pagan? Can such a person find Christ through nature?"
Sound familiar? This could easily be duplicated with current names like Mike Wittmer and Brian McClaren. I look forward to reading more like the dialogue between Cyril, Apollinaris and Nestorius on the divinity and humanity of Christ (chap 8) or Anselm and Abelard on faith, reason and the atonement (chap 10). Or how about Wesley and Edwards on salvation (chap 16). I did peak at the exchange between Rauschenbusch and Machen on true Christianity, the Bible, evolution, and doctrine (chap 20). Very interesting with an occasional punch like when Rauschenbusch asks Machen "Can you tell me about one doctrine that you judge I mistreated?" and Machen responds, "WELL, VIRTUALLY EVERY DOCTRINE." (205, Rauschenbausch is going deaf so Machen must shout to be heard. Hence, all caps.)
I have already detected Olson anticipating some of the possible knee jerk reactions in a book like this. He notes "keep in mind that is is an imaginary conversation; it did not take place nor would it have taken place exactly as it is written here." (on the dialogue between Celsus, Polycarp, Valentinus and Montanus, p. 17) Also, "Some scholarly readers of this imaginary conversation may object to its portrayal of Montanus." (18) I'm sure these sorts of comments will be repeated throughout the book. But so far it has been a fun read. I will do a more extensive review later. I also would like to think about doing a free give away on this so stay tuned.
The book is available now. It has 302 pages and sells for $24.99.