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Review Essay, Keeping the Balance

Apart from keeping their true goal in view, theological students must also contend with “a bewildering array of disciplines, apparently bearing little or no connection with each other”. Cameron reminds us that it is now a “century or more that has passed since the rise of the ‘critical’ view of Scripture, and the failure of confidence in Scripture as the rule of all thought about God, has witnessed the fragmentation of Christian theology”. Whilst theology ought to be a scientific discipline—”scientific in the sense that it is controlled by its object, and ever open to justification and correction by comparison with that object”, unfortunately, a lot of what passes for theology nowadays can have no more claim on our faith than poetry! However, looking on the bright side, “most of the usual theological disciplines have their origins in days when matters were different”. The evangelical student still stands to benefit from studying Greek and Hebrew and the other cognate languages, engaging in detailed study of the Old and New Testament and digesting historical discoveries, whatever their teachers may or may not believe. With all the wealth of knowledge, the “discipline of biblical theology” may then come into play to build up a picture of each book, each Testament, the Bible as a whole, and to formulate dogmatic or systematic theology, corrected and informed by ecclesiastical and historical theology, culminating in practical theology, applying God’s revelation to the individual and to the church. Evangelical students, amidst all the confusion of modern theology, need to keep their focus on developing their knowledge of God.

Faith and certainty, Stephen Williams (58pgs)

Outline provided by the author:

Preface 80
Introduction 84
Terminology 85
The biblical picture 87
The resurrection of Jesus 92
The existence of God 99
Approaching Jesus 105
Forgiveness and sin 107
Conditions of understanding 109
Scepticism 117
   Is scepticism warranted? 118
   Does religion have the resources to respond to scepticism? 121
The logic of Christology 125
Conclusion 129
Appendix: The problem of suffering 130
Notes 134
Guide to further reading 135

The fourth essay, entitled Faith and certainty, is by far the most complex and substantial contribution to the collection. It will not be possible to do more than sketch its basic outline here and give an overview of some of the arguments. Choosing to write “about the logic of certain aspects of believing and the logic of claims to certainty”, Stephen Williams acknowledges from the start that he is attempting to cover a large subject in a small space. I am not entirely sure he succeeds as far as clarity and simplicity are concerned. Faith and certainty seems to contain a great many “wheels within wheels”, and it is rather difficult—at least, on a first or even a second read—to ensure one has properly understood all the parts in relation to the whole. The essay’s preface, however; when used as an index during reading and as a final summary at the end, helps the reader draw the main bits of the discussion together.

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Category: In Depth, Spring 2006

About the Author: W. Simpson, PhD (University of St. Andrews, Scotland), is a physicist and writer with an interest in theology, currently engaged in scientific research in the middle-east.

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