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Alister McGrath: The Passionate Intellect

Christians, McGrath reminds, believe that sin is a problem in human nature. This explains how some people will use politics or religion or economics (or almost any other excuse) to commit atrocious acts against other human beings. This is true of individuals and governments as well as other groups and organizations. Sometimes it has been true of religions too, including Christianity. However, the vast majority of believers insist that this kind of behavior is a misuse of their religious faith. In any case, it is apparent that fanaticism generates violence by terrorist groups—not religion or politics per se.

The Passionate Intellect sees Christian theology as one of the most intellectually stimulating and exciting subjects of study. It is rich in resources for the life of faith and the ministry of the Church. As the title implies, it has the capacity to excite, inspire, and illuminate the human intellect, and to give it a new passion and focus. This book is an intellectual defense of the place of theology in the Christian life, and also a plea for Christians to take the life of the mind seriously. However, it is not a systematic treatise on theology or demonstration of apologetics. As with any collection of originally unrelated essays, lectures, presentations, and talks, there’s some noticeable disjointedness evident in The Passionate Intellect. However, the chapters are not unconnected and actually flow well enough. Endnotes and an Index are helpful aids.

McGrath skillfully translates his own deep learning into a delightfully accessible and enjoyable reading experience. The Passionate Intellect might be a great gift for a friend or relative struggling with his or her faith, especially if they are experiencing intellectual misgivings. Reading it as a former agnostic myself, I certainly experienced the soul-stirring thrill of a sharp, devout mind debunking the old familiar, dubious claims against Christianity’s intellectual coherence and credibility.

Reviewed by Tony Richie

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Category: Living the Faith, Pneuma Review, Spring 2012

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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