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Reforming The Doctrine Of God [Paperback]

By F. LeRon Shults (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   326
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.04" Width: 6.02" Height: 0.88"
Weight:   1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2005
Publisher   WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING CO.
ISBN  0802829880  
EAN  9780802829887  


Availability  0 units.


Item Description...
Overview
To an increasing number of people these days, the announcement of God as a timeless immaterial substance, a single subject who is the predetermining cause of all things, does not sound like good news. Concerned that such problematic understandings of God continue to govern current debates, F. LeRon Shults explores the emerging theological revival of such themes as the Trinity and eschatology. Linking traditional attributes of God with contemporary philosophy, his book culminates with a reformed doctrine of God that revolves around themes of God's omniscient faithfulness, omnipotent love, and omnipresent hope. Evangelical in conviction while engaged with a variety of Christian traditions, Shults navigates a faithful way between dismissing the biblical tradition and fossilizing it in early modern categories. Reforming the Doctrine of God marks an astute and much-needed reconstruction of Christian theology for our day.

Publishers Description
To an increasing number of people these days, the announcement of God as a timeless immaterial substance, a single subject who is the predetermining cause of all things, does not sound like good news. Concerned that such problematic understandings of God continue to govern current debates, F. LeRon Shults explores the emerging theological revival of such themes as the Trinity and eschatology. Linking traditional attributes of God with contemporary philosophy, his book culminates with a reformed doctrine of God that revolves around themes of God's omniscient faithfulness, omnipotent love, and omnipresent hope. Evangelical in conviction while engaged with a variety of Christian traditions, Shults navigates a faithful way between dismissing the biblical tradition and fossilizing it in early modern categories. Reforming the Doctrine of God marks an astute and much-needed reconstruction of Christian theology for our day.

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More About F. LeRon Shults

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! F. LeRon Shults (Ph.D., Princeton University; Ph.D., Walden University) is professor of theology at Agder University in Kristiansand, Norway, and the author of several books, including Reforming the Doctrine of God and Reforming Theological Anthropology.
Steven J. Sandage (Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University), a licensed psychologist, is the Albert and Jessie Danielsen Professor of Pastoral Psychology and Theology at Boston University and director of the Danielsen Research Center at the Danielsen Institute. He coauthored To Forgive Is Human.
Shults and Sandage are the coauthors of The Faces of Forgiveness, winner of the Narramore Award from the Christian Association for Psychological Studies.

F. LeRon Shults currently resides in St. Paul, in the state of Minnesota. F. LeRon Shults has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Agder, Norway.

F. LeRon Shults has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Guides to Theology


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Product Categories
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2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Eschatology   [1030  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An incredibly engaging book from this rising star  Aug 3, 2006
Bearing a profound learning in the intimidatingly vast history of both philosophical and theological thought, F. LeRon Shults has produced a magnificent work that continually provides insight into the history of the Christian understanding of God, its failings and antinomies, and potential trajectories for "reforming," and as such overcoming, traditional methods.

I say "overcoming traditional method" as opposed to really "overcoming traditional doctrine" for two reasons: 1.) Throughout the book it becomes increasingly clear that the major contribution of Shults is not necessarily his conclusions quae conclusions, but in the methodologies he employs to reach them (though I by no means wish to decry his actual theological conclusions which are exceedingly profound, if not wholly adequately developed) and 2.) "overcoming doctrine" would imply too readily that Shults is some type of post-modern (or later-modern) seperatist who has little to no wish to maintain ties to "traditional" understandings of the doctrines of God, which he has sometimes been (wrongly) accused of in other areas(especially a particular this site reviewer commenting on one of Shults' other books "Reforming Theological Anthropology").

Shults' main thesis of the book, which is implicit throughout his other works as well, is that Theologians never (contra Barth) produce doctrine based on strict biblicism (i.e. by ignoring extra-biblical sciences), but more universaly drawn from contemporary aspects of philosophy and science to help them articulate their Biblical worldview. Even the more "biblically" oriented interpreters refer to concepts such as "man," or "world" or "time" (in this case "God") which are not systematically developed in the bible, and as such there is a demand of the theological consciousness for an explicit concentration to explain and interpret all reality in light of the biblical witness for the sake of its own self-coherence: Christianity claims to know the One God, and so the one basic "fact" of all reality, hence Christianity is either a universal discipline (involving dialogues with science and philosophy and sociology and psychology) or a "ghetto-ized" delusion.

Jumping off from there, Shults launches into traditional methods and understandings of past theological enterprises, their philosophical and theological underpinnings, and the antinomies that arise because of these decisions. In particular Shults calls attention to traditional problems by focusing on three intertwined categories that continually come up throughout the tradition: God as Immaterial Substance, God as a Single Subject, and God as the First Cause. These three categories, and the examination of the history of their thought and difficulties, comprise the first four chapters of Shults' book.

Shults proposes that these categories are not faithful to the biblical witness, and create insuperable difficulties. For example, thinking of God as immaterial substance often leads to a transcendance/immanence dialectical pull that often results in the truncation of one for the other. Or, again, God as a single Subject creates the polarity of what Shults calls the "Voluntarist/Intellectualist" ideals, which have a tendency to base all discussions of God's "knowledge" or "will" based on faculty psychology of a single subject. Hence we see the Calvinist/Arminianist solutions on this spectru,: Does God know everything because He wills it, or does He will a certain world because He knew it in advance?" Or "God as First Cause", for example, has had incredible problems, especially with the rise of Newtonian mechanistic science, of explaining creaturely free will over against what appears to be the logical conclusion of an absolute mechanistic determinism.

Rather than the detailed and intricate arguments that so often debate Prdestination vs Free will, or God's foreknowledge of future events, etc... within this spectrum of assumptions (that is, assuming God as Immaterial Substance, Single Subject, and First Cause) SHults sees that there is evidence, both in the bible and in traditional philosophy/theology, to reject the spectrum itself and create a new one. Hence, Shults creates three "new" categories: God as truly Infinite, God as Trinity, and an "eschatological ontology" which claims that, in a very real sense, God's power is the power from the future, rather than the mechanical push of past-oriented causation (obviously I can do no justice to the philosophy and theology here, so read the book if you are intrigued). The next three chapters trace these three new categories throughout Patristic, Medievil, Reformation, and Contemporary (read: 20th century) theologies. In particular, Shults continually (though briefly)dialogues with three Reformed Theologians (Karl Barth, Colin Gunton, and Jurgen Moltmann) three Lutheran theologians (Robert Jenson, Eberhard Jungel, and Wolfhart Pannenberg), the profound Catholic thinker Karl Rahner, the Orhodox theologian John Zizioulas, and a small variety of Liberation and Feminist theologians (though this comprises the smallest portion of the dialogues).

Finally, after elaborating how these three categories come to play in other's theologies, the last three chapters are devoted to a large reworking of the Predestination vs- Free will arrangement and all that includes, by an intensely nuanced biblical discussion of the evidences, guided by the new three categories. The result is simply astounding (though I wont spoil it by revealing his conclusions here).

But, like all things produced by mankind, this is not a perfect book. My complaints are few and small, but I shall mention them anyway: I earlier remarked that this book's most valuable contribution is its discussion and methodology, rather than its specific conclusions. Again, I don't want to reduce the profundity of Shults' conclusions, nonetheless there were certain things left unexplained, even by his broad analyses. Namely, how do we explain certain passages, like God's pre-decision of Esau and Jacob that Jacob God would Love and Esau he would "hate"? Shults analyses is profound, but it would have been strengthed by more concrete examples of the traditional problems. It may in fact be obviouse, and so Shults opted out of this "theological hand-holding" but I was left with many questions of actual application of his new categories to certain biblical problems.

On a more profound note, certain of SHults' categories themselves are left uncritiqued. For example, Shults', with many of his contemporaries, calls for a truly Infinite God (in the Hegelian sense): The Infinite that is merely the negation of the limits of the finite, or stands over against the finite, is itself only a false infinite and is itself finite by the opposition. The true infinite overcomes its own antithesis to the finite, and so is both transcendent and immanent to it. Now, I wholly accept this conclusion, but, for example, Ludwig Fuerbach critiqued Hegel's understanding of the True Infinite by saying that if, in this way, the subject/object distinction does not apply to God over against us, then God is not truly "other" than us. The conclusion then follows from this critique: if God is not Other than us, He is us, that is, we are God. Another example of a potential critique (though by no means a particularily detrimental one) is Shults' use of Cantorian set-theory as an example of the revolution in mathematics pointing towards the "true infinite." Now again, I think this is a brilliant example (how often do we theology-readers actually get to interact with mathematicians?) Yet, as far as an example, Cantor still seems to assume Platonic-realism of numbers for his theory to work (that is to say, that numbers actually refer to real, existing entities.) Now, obviously, Shults was only using Cantor as something of a heuristic device, but at the same time I was left feeling, with this particular example, that perhaps Cantor was presented as more philosophically "radical" than he may actually be. Now, these complaints can (and have) been addressed to certain extents, but not by Shults, who simply views these categories as "correct". I agree with him that they are good categories, but I would have appreciated more of a defense of Shults views, rather than merely naming them as savior over-against traditional categories. It may be, however, that this critique of mine (small though it is) is itself based on an overly "traditional" understanding of defense. Shults, in one sense, does defend these (and other) decisions in the sense of allowing their implications to unfold and explain Christian theology in an absolutely brilliant manner. If one were to liken it to an explanatory"hypothesis" in science, it may indeed be in this sense that one could say that Shults has "proven" his case, (even if only provisionally, which Shults himself would admit to be a key criterion against stagnation).



All in all however, this is a must read for anyone even vaguely interested in theology. While not necessarily an easy read, it is well worth any commitment given to it.
 
Very Stretching and Intriguing Theology  Mar 21, 2006
It's been awhile since I've read a book of this kind. F. LeRon Shults guides the reader through historical and contemporary philosophical and theological views or "trajectories" of the doctrine of God in his book Reforming the Doctrine of God (Eerdmans 2005).

I appreciated his (and others') critique of the immaterial substance, single subject (versus trinitarian being), first cause view of God. Shults points out that this characterization of God (single subject theism) created the reaction of a-theism.

Shults introduces us to Greek philosophers, early church fathers and Reformation and modern theologians who all grappled with God's Infinity, Trinity and Futurity. The "hardening" of God as single subject, immaterial substance and first cause led to antinomies because the biblical revelation of God could not fit those hardened categories.

LeRon Shults, while appreciating past thinkers, desires to create present "conceptional space" that allows for a vigorous evangelical rethinking of the doctrine of God. Shults thinking pulls in the Eastern Orthodox theologians, especially in discussion the perichoretic relationship of Father, Son and Spirit. Shults' discussion of intensive Infinity (and the Trinity) versus extensive Infinity is fascinating.

Part III "Reforming the Doctrine of God" is where Shults contributes his own creative reformative views of the theology of God. [Note: Shults discusses the "doctrine" of God or the "theological" expressions/statements about God. He is not presuming to say that he is reforming God. I say this because I think some on the evangelical right will critique Shults' creative discussion as an assault on the "assured results" of their evangelical views.]

Parts I and II are a presentation of the flow of theological thought through the historical development of God's Infinity, Trinitarian being and Futurity. It's heavy reading and I was stunned and thankful for the breadth and depth of Shults' scholarship and research. And, yes, at times I found myself saying, "What the heck is he talking about?!"

I'll end this review with this clear statement from Shults:

"The great theologians of each generation have realized that merely repeating particular formulations inherited from previous generations would serve only to preserve the gospel by petrifying it. Fear can easily drive us to treat our theological propositions as fossils, unearthed from a privileged period in church history and placed in an ecclesiastical museum, quarantined from the polluted air of cultural anxiety that might contribute to its deterioration."
Reforming the Doctrine of God, 201
 

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