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A Tribute to the Saints for All Saints Day!

The Periodic Table of Christian Theology!



The history of Christian theology can be a daunting, even forbidding field for the novice, who sees neither the need for nor pertinence of rummaging around dusty old texts. This people-friendly volume, a full-scale reader in the history of Christian theology, offers an easy, non-threatening, occasionally humorous yet quite thorough entry into Christianity's central texts from the Apostolic Fathers to Mary Daly.

It is also enlivened by dozens of cartoons by Rich Diesslin. Highly accessible introductions to five periods precede brief introductions to and texts from more than fifty key thinkers. The texts highlight perennial themes and questions in Christian tradition, especially the meaning and importance of Jesus, challenges to the institutional church, tensions of faith and reason, spirituality, and the Christian quest for social justice.

The new edition, 50% larger than the original, adding significant work from the Cappadocian Fathers and the Christological controversialists, the Franciscan tradition, the Radical and English reforms, and deeper coverage of twentieth-century theologians. With learning aids, research-paper suggestions and guide, and glossary.

Some Examples ...

The Reformation and Post-Reformation
(1500-1700 C.E.)

(the marginal characters are Adam and Eve who provide running commentary on each cartoon)

The Reformation years present almost endless variety. From a theoretical point of view this was a built in feature as the Reformation leaders advocated the right of private interpretation of scripture and the priesthood of all believers. The dissolution of the “Medieval Synthesis” is not due totally to the Reformation movement, however. Society was in flux. The face of Europe, Britain, and America was being transformed, albeit gradually, but also radically. The fact that the Reformation arose simultaneously in many widely scattered regions suggest that there was something in the air.

Speaking of reforming the church, the Reformers did not merely mean to initiate a crash program to clean up the mess. To be reformed meant not a state of attainment requiring no further self-criticism. Being reformed meant to be in the continual process of being reformed (reformata sed semper reformanda). All the reforming activity of this period and conceivably of every period, has an element of tentativeness about it. The task of reforming is a never ending process; it is never finished.

As the unified Medieval world began to break up at the beginning of the Reformation, churches and people were required to learn how to live with one another even as they disagreed on many matters of life and faith. That they did not succeed in every detail is hardly a surprise; that they did so well is an expression of the glory of the Reformation.

Martin Luther (1483-1546 C.E.)

Ordained to the priesthood in 1507 and a highly respected monk and teacher, Luther had no idea that ten years hence a modes proposal for theological discussion would explode into his own excommunication and the schism dividing Roman Catholicism and Protestant evangelicalism. The nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg in 1517 precipitated the long papal litigation against Luther, resulting in his repeated denunciation as a heretic, and marking at the same time on the calendar the birthday of the Protestant Reformation. It was Luther's good fortune to have his local political ruler, the Saxon Elector Frederick III, also known as “The Wise,” on his side. Consequently, he was physically protected against his enemies and allowed freedom to preach, to write, and to give leadership to the growing reform movement in Germany.

The life of Martin Luther was punctuated with continual controversy. Looking forward to a quiet life of scholarship and study, Luther was plunged against his will into an ecclesiastical and political whirlpool. Not since Augustine had a church theologian been forced by circumstances to address himself so directly, and often so polemically, to the divisive issues of the day. As with Augustine, with whom he has much in common, troubled events only served to spark a ceaseless, voluminous literary output. Like Thomas Aquinas, with whom he had so little in common, Luther fathered a theological tradition that is still normative for a large segment of the Christian community. More of a prophet than a systematic theologian, more at home in the world of scripture than in papal vestment, Luther has always been acknowledged by his admirers and his detractors as the foremost representative of the Protestant Reformation. Indeed his name is almost synonymous with the movement.

Luther's theology was as simple and straightforward as it was unsystematic and uncomplicated; it derived from personal anxiety about his own redemption, the impossibility of complete confession of sin, and a questioning of the validity of the Medieval sacramental system. He found little or no help for his religious dilemmas in the textbooks of the scholastic theologians. It was only when he retraced his steps back to Augustine, and by way of Augustine to Paul, and through Paul to the whole biblical tradition, that Martin Luther learned his first evangelical lesson about faith, righteousness, and justification.

John Calvin (1509-1564 C.E.)

The task of putting together the main doctrinal emphases of the Reformation into a structure of theology was a task that occupied a major portion of the life of John Calvin. As the Reformation took root and spread throughout Germany, France, and Switzerland, the next step beyond the prophetic utterances of Martin Luther was the step of organization. The times called for a systematizer who could clearly and persuasively structure ideas, theological issues, biblical exegesis, and all the potentially divisive matters relating to church government and administration. However, John Calvin was, in addition to all of this, an original thinker whose principal work on doctrinal theology is sufficient to be mentioned alongside of Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica.

When Calvin was about twenty-five, he experienced what he himself referred to as a sudden conversion. Essentially what he meant by this was that he turned from Roman Catholicism toward the Reformation way of thinking. A short time later, in 1536, he published the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion. (The Latin institutio means instruction.) This volume was only but a hint of the magnum opus that developed over the years until it reached its final edition in 1559. Calvin's work in this volume was modeled on the sequence of the Apostles' Creed as his way of indicating an allegiance to apostolic Christianity. However, Calvin took liberties with the ancient formula and inserted long, closely knit discussions on a variety of theological topics.

People are rarely neutral about John Calvin. His detractors see him as a stubborn, intolerant, coldly rational authority figure. On the other hand, his admirers, while not pretending that he is the most lovable person in the world, note his wide circle of friends and colleagues who looked to him for advice, and they point to his unflinching loyalty to the truth as he understood it in the Word of God, i.e. the Scriptures. Calvin was convinced from Scripture and from his own experience that God is sovereign in the process of salvation, that it is God in Christ who takes the initiative and that we have nothing in us whatever deserving of God's favor. It was because he was so sure of the divine glory that he could speak of total depravity and predestination.

This All Saints Day Tour is Sponsored by ...

A Journey Through Christain Theology

Augsburg Fortress Press
2nd Edition May 2010
ISBN: 9780800696979

2nd Edition Book Cover

Order yours from
Fortress Press!

And by The Journey Color Cartoons CD (click here)

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