Thursday, February 18, 2010

In Store Now - The Great Theologians

In light of Tuesday's post I thought it would be appropriate to feature this new book from Gerald McDermott. The Great Theologians: A Brief Guide came in this week and from what I’ve read already it is an excellent book. It is a great introduction to some of the theologians of the past. McDermott covers eleven theologians. His choice of these eleven is, he admits, a subjective one. But he says he believes these eleven “have had the most influence on the history of Christian thought.” (13) He also acknowledges that the influence has not always been a good one. He notes that Schleiermacher “caused multitudes to question orthodoxy” but he included him because his “influence has been enormous.” (14) He does say if this book does well he may write another one devoted to some of the figures he has omitted.

The format of the book is a simple one. He begins with a brief biographical sketch. Then he offers some of that theologian’s main themes of that person’s thinking. He then zeros in on one of those themes that is distinctive to that thinker and examines it in some detail. He ends with highlighting several lessons that we can learn from the theologian. He also provides a short selection from the theologian’s writings (roughly 200 – 400 words) and a list of books for further reading. There are also questions at the end of each chapter for reflection and discussion.  This would make an excellent small group study. 

I thoroughly agree with him when he writes:
“Ignoring the great and godly minds of the church—who have been ruminating on God for thousands of years—when we have them at our fingertips through books and even the Internet seems to be a kind of arrogance and presumption. It ignores the biblical reminder that there is wisdom in ‘the multitude of counselors’ (Prov. 11:14 KJV).” (12)
Just for fun I thought I would give you a little quiz from some of the autobiographical details McDermott provides to see if you could guess who they might be. I admit I wouldn't have gotten very many.  Okay, probably none at all.  Answers are at the bottom of the post.  Have fun!

1) His parents were so set against him becoming a Dominican that they hired a prostitute to “blacken his reputation.” He chased her away with a burning brand from a fire.

2) His enemies spread rumors saying he dabbled in magic and accused him of killing a bishop and then cutting off the murdered bishop’s hand for use in special magical rites.

3) This theologian had such a great desire to be a martyr his mother had to hide his clothes in order to prevent him from appearing in public.

4) He loved to relax in a garden and “in defiance of the devil” delighted in flowers, especially roses, as God’s gift.

5) He said that wine is not only “very healthy” but is given to us to make us “merry.” He owned the largest wine cellar in his city.

6) Speaking of wine, this theologian knew enough about different wines that he could prescribe particular varieties to his children when they were sick. He also liked brandy, rum and he and his family were crazy about chocolate.

7) This theologian told the church it did not need to believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth or the second coming of Christ.

The book is a paperback from IVP Academic with 214 pages and sells for $20.00.  Go here for a short Q&A with the author. 



Answers:  1) Thomas Aquinas; 2) Athanasius; 3) Origen; 4) Martin Luther; 5) John Calvin; 6) Jonathan Edwards; 7) Schleiermacher.

1 comment:

Paul said...

That explains it all! No wonder I love Edwards and Calvin! Their theology was taken captive by the heavenly likes of vino and theobroma cacao!!

Now, where's that Zinfandel I like so much with my Godiva?