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Confessing God: Essays In Christian Dogmatics II [Paperback]

By John Webster (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   232
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.52" Width: 5.6" Height: 0.73"
Weight:   0.77 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2005
Publisher   T. & T. Clark Publishers
ISBN  0567083772  
EAN  9780567083777  


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Item Description...
Overview
Continuing the project of 'Word and Church', this new collection gathers studies in three areas.

Webster firstly produces studies on the nature of Christian theology and its relation to Scripture and the confessions of the church. He also produces an account of the theological style of the French Dominican theologian Yves Congar.

In the second part we find studies on dogmatic topics, one on the theology of the person of Christ, and three on the attributes of God: omnipresence, holiness and love, and veracity.

Thirdly and finally Webster studies issues in the doctrine of the church and of Christian practice: an account of the nature of the church in terms of visibility and invisibility; a study of the meaning of Christian hope; and a reflection on gospel freedom.

Taken together, the essays are worked examples of 'theological theology', that is, Christian theology which takes its rise in the Christian confession of the gospel which it seeks to hear, celebrate and commend.

Publishers Description
A second volume of essays on the nature of theology and themes in Christian doctrine, including Christology, the attributes of God, the doctrine of the church and the Christian life. Confessing God contains essays that are worked examples of 'theological theology' - Christian theology which takes its rise in the Christian confession of the gospel which it seeks to hear, celebrate and commend. Continuing the project of Word and Church, this new collection gathers studies in three areas. Webster firstly produces studies on the nature of Christian theology and its relation to Scripture and the confessions of the church. He also produces an account of the theological style of the French Dominican theologian Yves Congar. In the second part we find studies on dogmatic topics, one on the theology of the person of Christ, and three on the attributes of God: omnipresence, holiness and love, and veracity. Thirdly and finally Webster studies issues in the doctrine of the church and of Christian practice: an account of the nature of the church in terms of visibility and invisibility; a study of the meaning of Christian hope; and a reflection on gospel freedom.

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More About John Webster

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! John Webster is Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Aberdeen. His published work includes a number of books on the theology of Karl Barth, on the nature and interpretation of Scripture, and on Christian dogmatics, including Confessing God. He edited The Oxford Handbook to Systematic Theology, and is an editor of The International Journal of Systematic Theology. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

John Webster has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Cambridge Companions to Religion
  2. Current Issues in Theology
  3. Oxford Handbooks


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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Theology > General   [4167  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Catechisms   [378  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General   [8607  similar products]



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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An Excellent Collection of Dogmatic Essays  Dec 30, 2005
John Webster is known best for his scholarly work on Karl Barth, including Barth's Doctrine of Reconciliation, Barth's Moral Theology, and (most recently) Barth's Earlier Theology. However, ever since his collection Word and Church appeared in 2002, followed by Holiness and Holy Scripture in 2003, Webster has been coming into his own as a dogmatic theologian worthy of other people's scholarly attention. His latest collection of essays is no exception, and should solidify Webster's reputation as one of the foremost theologians in the world today. For those who follow Webster's work, this book's appearance is especially exciting. It was scheduled for release in August of 2005, but was delayed for unknown reasons.

A word is in order about the contents of the book. Almost all of the early descriptions of the book made reference to the fact that Confessing God would include an article about the ressourcement theologian Yves Congar. For those who were looking forward to this essay, you should drop one star from this review. The essay is not included, for reasons which are not entirely clear. If this is a serious letdown for anyone, the article by Webster on Congar is entitled "Purity and Plenitude: Evangelical Reflections on Congar's _Tradition and Traditions_" and it can be found in the International Journal of Systematic Theology 7:4 (vol:issue) which appeared in October 2005. I suspect that the delay of this essay collection is partly due to questions about what would finally be included. The contents of the book in its final form are tightly organized and form a coherent and consistent whole; an essay about Congar would simply feel out of place.

The essays (and the subheadings) included in the collection are as follows:

Theology
1. Theological Theology
2. On the Clarity of Holy Scripture
3. Confession and Confessions

Dogmatics
4. The Immensity and Ubiquity of God
5. The Holiness and Love of God
6. Prolegomena to Christology: Four Theses

Church and Christian Life
7. On Evangelical Ecclesiology
8. Hope
9. Evangelical Freedom

Those who are avid readers of Webster's work will probably recognize at least a few, if not most, of these essays. In fact, all but two are published elsewhere; those two being "The Immensity and Ubiquity of God" and "Prolegomena to Christology." A couple of the essays stretch back before Word and Church, and one wonders whether Webster honestly was waiting for another book in which to publish them or whether he simply needed to fill some space in this collection. Either way, Confessing God is a great book, and unless someone already owns all of the essays in some other form, it is well worth the cost. This is my final verdict on the book, however if anyone is interested in hearing more about the actual theological content, read further.

Webster's most important contribution to contemporary theology is to keep Karl Barth's theological legacy alive and well in our 21st century context. But that is an oversimplification. Webster does not merely repeat Barth; he interprets what Barth discovered in relation to new issues and challenges. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the pivotal two-part essay "On Evangelical Ecclesiology," which is published in another book of essays entitled The Community of the Word: Toward an Evangelical Ecclesiology, edited by Mark Husbands and Daniel Treier, both of whom were professors of mine at Wheaton College (and hosted the conference at which Webster's paper was presented). I will reflect on this one essay as a way of introducing Webster's theology as a whole.

Webster's two keynote speeches, now collected in a single essay, are an attempt, first, to define what an evangelical ecclesiology should look like, and second, to defend Barth's ecclesiology from those who critique it as inherently negative regarding human activity and community. Webster accomplishes this in dialogue with "communion ecclesiology," represented primarily by de Lubac. Along the way he also interacts with Robert Jenson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (on the church's visibility), and John Calvin. Webster begins his ecclesiology with the perfection of God, which flows from his conviction that "a doctrine of the church is only as good as the doctrine of God which underlies it." By beginning with God's perfection, Webster wants to ensure that evangelical theology asserts the "completeness of the divine work. Like God's life, God's acts are self-derived and therefore self-directed and self-fulfilling" (157). In the theological reflections which follow, Webster defines the church as the visible community that attests to the invisible, complete and unique divine work of the triune God as a "creature of the word."

Webster repeatedly returns to some common themes in most of his writings, which place him squarely in a path that goes back first to Eberhard Jüngel (a few of whose works are available in English in large part because of Webster's efforts), then to Karl Barth, and finally back to Martin Luther and John Calvin. Webster also shares a lot in common with the late Colin Gunton (particularly in regard to the doctrine of the Trinity), and Gunton himself is a product of reading and studying Barth. Like Karl Barth, Webster argues for the freedom of God as the one who stands over against sinful humanity, who is utterly unique and cannot be possessed or controlled or encompassed by anything created. God as the Creator stands over the creation as the Lord, the giver of life, the One who alone is truly gracious and loving. In all of the major events in the drama of God's relation to the world, God "acts alone." Thus, in his essay on ecclesiology, Webster writes: "At the heart of [the church's] polity is an event and presence which cannot be assimilated, of which the community is no extension, and in which it may not participate. That event and presence is the perfect being and work of the community's Lord, the Holy One in its midst" (169).

Webster clearly follows Jüngel's (Lutheran) theology in many respects by arguing for the primacy of God's reconciling work in Christ above all else. Webster, like Barth and Jüngel and the magisterial Reformers, begins not with some abstract understanding of God (conceived in metaphysical terms, for example), but with the unique person and work of Jesus Christ. In other words, though he does not speak of this as much as Jüngel, Webster begins his theology with the doctrine of reconciliation, i.e., the doctrine of justification by faith. Because he begins with justification, Webster argues against understanding the God-human relation in terms of participation, which has its roots in the idea of a union with Christ. Instead, he replaces a view of the church as a participatory community with the concept of fellowship, in which God and humanity are ontologically separate entities who are brought into fellowship through the Spirit by the reconciling work of the Son.

Webster, it should be noted, does not order his dogmatic work around the one principle of justification, as Jüngel does. Webster follows Barth more closely by focusing on the theme of the perfection of God: God's work is complete in itself, and the Christian is one who responds to this work. With this theme as the ordering principle, Webster discusses a number of other dogmatic topics, both in this collection of essays and in his other constructive works. In an e-mail he sent to me, Webster recommended that I read the works of Augustine, Thomas, and Calvin, and this broad theological focus is reflected in his own writings, in which he takes up into theological consideration a wide range of divine attributes and doctrinal concerns. Webster does not abandon classical attributes like God's ubiquity and immensity, but instead takes over this ancient tradition by recasting these doctrines in light of a rigorous Christology. He writes: "The Word becomes flesh and dwells among creatures; thereby he appropriates to himself creaturely conditions, including spatiality. Yet no less than in the act of creation, the act of incarnation is an act of divine self-movement, a becoming or condescension which does not entail the abandonment or restriction of God's immensity" (96). Webster is keen to give the ancient theological traditions new life, rather than allow certain doctrines to be lost in the sea of irrelevance. He does this by focusing, as Barth did in the Church Dogmatics, all of theology around the gospel of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. In doing this, Webster is decidedly evangelical. He elevates the incarnate Word as the origin of theology and the church.

In conclusion, Webster contends in almost all of his writings that Christian theology must assert the qualitative difference between Creator and creature. God and humanity are defined in terms reminiscent of the early Barth, though he goes beyond this. Webster has no intention of losing the relationality between God and creature, but he contends that the concept of "relation" has become somewhat of a panacea. One might say that this is Webster's role in contemporary theology: to rigorously examine fundamental doctrines about God, humanity, and the church in order to prevent theology from lapsing into clichés and easy solutions. Webster is not against relationality-the influence of Jüngel would prevent this-but Webster is never content with a theology that does not critically explore each doctrinal area, even one as seemingly positive as relationality. This consistently critical perspective bears similarities to Jüngel's own polemical stance which refuses to compromise in areas of theological importance (cf. Webster's introduction to Jüngel's recent work _Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith_). Webster may agree with many facets of contemporary theological programs, including communion ecclesiology; but if anything threatens to obscure the uniqueness and alien character of God's reconciling work in Christ, he will not fail to present a strong theological critique. (Hence, Webster's disdain for Radical Orthodoxy, which lacks any coherent Christology.) Those who disagree with Webster's emphasis on the qualitative difference between God and humanity and the prior, unique work of Jesus Christ will no doubt find most of his writings suspect.
 

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