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A Short Systematic Theology [Paperback]

By Paul F. M. Zahl (Author)
Our Price $ 13.18  
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Item Number 143319  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   118
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6" Height: 0.33"
Weight:   0.39 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2000
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802847293  
EAN  9780802847294  

Availability  62 units.
Availability accurate as of May 22, 2017 11:10.
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Item Description...
A user-friendly summary of the essentials of Christian belief. This short systematic theology is a refreshing alternative to works on Christian doctrine that are too large or demanding for personal or group study. Paul Zahl offers a concentrated summary of the whole Christian faith in three concise, biblically correct chapters at once serious and popular, scholarly and contemporary. Arranged around twenty-five theses that cover the core Christian beliefs, the book clearly explains the person and nature of Jesus Christ, the meaning of the atonement, and the life that results from Christian freedom. Encompassing a great wealth of knowledge in a user-friendly, easy-to-follow format, A Short Systematic Theology is one of the best resources available for church, group, and personal study.

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More About Paul F. M. Zahl

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Paul F.M. Zahl lives in Florida with his wife Mary. He is the author of several books, including "Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life" (2007), and the voice of "PZ's Podcast"

Paul F. M. Zahl currently resides in the state of Alabama.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General   [8607  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Against Nicea  Jul 8, 2006
Unassumingly titled "A Short Systematic Theology", the main lines of Paul Zahl's theology are contained in this book. The format of the book is that of 25 individual theses that are spread over the course of 3 chapters, the first two of which are concerned with Jesus and that last of which is subtitled "Libertas christiana" (Christian liberty). Central to Zahl's worldview is that "Christians live ... in the presence of [Christ's] absence" (35). Rather than now sitting "at the right hand of the Father" after the ascension (which most Christians proclaim in the Nicene Creed every Sunday), Zahl insists that after the Resurrection Jesus can be located absolutely nowhere. He sees a paradox here, which he calls "the Expanding Christ": Jesus is nowhere in particular, thus everywhere in general. Zahl begins with a novel Christology: a Christology of absolute and utter absence.

Because Christ is absent, He cannot be said to be in Sacraments or in the Scriptures; to claim otherwise is akin to black magic such as voodoo (26). Christ is also absent from icons (which Zahl oddly asserts has an "importance in relation to high culture" (31)), the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the eschaton. Drawing upon Immanuel Kant's essay "What is Enlightenment?", Zahl writes that "the sense of loss the characterizes the Christian life when it is not propped up by objective mediators of the absolute has a distinctive courage to it" (36). Ultimately, then, Christ can only be said to be present in acts of love and Christian ethical living is predicated upon freedom from believing in "God with us" here and now.

The presence of Christ is entirely unverifiable from an empirical standpoint; on this both Paul Zahl and historic orthodoxy agree. Whereas the former would claim that this empirical unverifiability is a reason to repudiate the presence of Christ, the latter would claim that it is a mystery only apprehended by faith. Zahl does believe, however, that original sin is empirically verifiable, such that it is the "one fitting and universal description for every human being without exception" (16). Approvingly citing the Jansenist heretic Philippe Nicole's dictum that "the world as a whole is place of torture" (68), Zahl writes that the heart of Christianity is the claim that "Christ died for our sins" (this thesis is repeated but explained differently four times). It is this death - and not the resurrection - that creates the doctrine of Incarnation and the Trinity.

Zahl has no kind words for the Trinity, which is "a complicated and notoriously abstruse and enigmatic concept" (71). "Negative reactions to Trinitarianism both within and outside the church are easy to understand ... not just because of the illogicity of the three-in-one conception, but also because because of its metaphysical abstraction, which seems to exist at a level detached from all direct human experience" (72). Ultimately, the Trinity makes sense because Christians live "in the light of the absence in the world of Christ's presence" because the Holy Spirit is "the perceived stand-in for the God of faith". However, at our death, the Holy Spirit will also end (72). Given such a repudiation of the Trinity, it is unsurprising that Zahl ignores Christian history and claims that the most basic of Christian beliefs in God are "too speculative to motivate mission and too distant to provide immediate hope and comfort to the hopeless and the comfortless" (73). This type of anti-Trinitarian thinking ultimately means that God is "passible" (74) - that is, he changes - even though the Church has historically taught that God is eternal and unchanging as the prophets of the Bible always claimed.

The summit of Zahl's theology is what he calls "Christian liberty" - a phrase he takes from the writings of Martin Luther. In many ways, Zahl shows himself to be indebted to certain views of Luther's (while also repudiating Luther's adherence to the Creeds and the Sacraments). Theology must be free to criticize itself, and it does this by abandoning all dogmatic assumptions, believing nothing that cannot be "proven from the extant sources" (perhaps he is unaware the scholars are notoriously incapable of agreeing on anything?), and never losing sight of the atonement (79 - 80). This self-criticism means that theology can never be recieved but must be [re]constructed anew for each person (84), which leads to the total "demythologization" of Christianity.

One must wonder what this kind of book is really able to give the Church or the world. Not only does it undercut the Creeds, the Sacraments and the Scriptures, but posits that at its heart Christianity is the product of sorrow - the sorrow we feel at Christ's absence - and that this sorrow is to be our motivating force for ethical acts of love. By banishing time and continuity in the Church to the level of "mythology", it seems that in the end Zahl stands at the edge of an almost Gnostic longing for a complete abandonment of the created order because any and all fruit of redemption *now* would obviate his understanding of the Christian life as a life lived in presence of Christ's absence. If indeed Christ is entirely absent, if the Holy Spirit is only a "stand-in", if the historical embodiment called the Church is mere mythology, why be a Christian?

This book holds at its heart a tragic misconception concerning the nature of God: that He can and does change. I prefer the God of the Prophets, "of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", of classical Trinitarian orthodoxy (which has produced quite a lot of mission work and brought quite a lot of hope and comfort to billions of people). I prefer the God who is spoken of as "love" and as "steadfast" in the pages of Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers and who is worshipped as such in the hymns of all ages. This is the God who redeems in time, who carries time and does not let it or any of the rest of Creation become a Gnostic farce. This is not the God of Paul Zahl's "Short Systematic Theology" but, instead, "God with us": present in Jesus, present now in the Sacraments and in the Scriptures, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in the promise of the eschaton.
Short, compact, concise, direct...  Apr 30, 2002
Zahl's work stood out from the beginning because of how he begins this theological treatise-- with Christology. For him, Christ is the center of God's revelation to us, the crux of our faith, the epicenter from which our thoughts and beliefs about God should expand. It sounds like a no-brainer, that we would discuss Christianity from the standpoint of Christology. Yet most theological works start with Scripture, Natural Theology... Or the question of whether or not there is a God and what leads us to believe there is... I like this approach better-- not only does it make sense (Why didn't I think of this before and write the book? I'm thinking... or, Why didn't someone else...?), but it is Biblical-- as Christ is the epicenter of the Scriptures. Short enough to be read in one sitting, you will probably want to take each of the 25 theses alone, so that you can think through (and savor) the ramifications of each.
Succinct reading, very helpful  Oct 31, 2000
This book does an outstanding job of breaking down and yet integrating Protestant theology so that it is understandable by anyone.

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