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Reforming Theological Anthropology: After the Philosophical Turn to Relationality [Paperback]

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Item Number 143238  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   248
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.18" Width: 6.04" Height: 0.75"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 20, 2003
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802848877  
EAN  9780802848871  


Availability  111 units.
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Item Description...
Overview
With the profound changes in today's intellectual and scientific landscape, traditional ways of speaking about human nature, sin, and the image of God have lost their explanatory power. In this volume F.LeRon Shults explores the challenges to and opportunities for rethinking current religious views of humankind in contemporary Western culture. From philosophy to theology, from physics to psychology, we find a turn to the categories of "relationality." Shults briefly traces this history from Aristotle to Levinas, showing its impact on the Christian doctrine of anthropology, and he argues that the biblical understanding of humanity has much to contribute to today's dialogue on persons and on human becoming in relation to God and others. Shults's work stands as a potent effort to reform theological anthropology in a way that restores its relevance to contemporary interpretations of the world and our place in it.

Publishers Description
With the profound changes in today's intellectual and scientific landscape, traditional ways of speaking about human nature, sin, and the image of God have lost their explanatory power. In this volume F.LeRon Shults explores the challenges to and opportunities for rethinking current religious views of humankind in contemporary Western culture. From philosophy to theology, from physics to psychology, we find a turn to the categories of "relationality." Shults briefly traces this history from Aristotle to Levinas, showing its impact on the Christian doctrine of anthropology, and he argues that the biblical understanding of humanity has much to contribute to today's dialogue on persons and on human becoming in relation to God and others. Shults's work stands as a potent effort to reform theological anthropology in a way that restores its relevance to contemporary interpretations of the world and our place in it.

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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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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Through a glass darkly...  May 4, 2004
I Corinthian 13:12 says that "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." Yet oddly, it seems that many who have theological interests seem to think that we can see all of theology in a crystal-clear way, and now that we 'have' this perfect knowledge, all we need to do is pass it down.

LeRon's excellent book Reforming Theological Anthropology is basically about Paul's point in I Corinthians: we DON'T have everything figured out. As we all see darkly now, we must work to understand that darkness through the light of Christ, as Christ related to the world: by interacting with people's understanding of the times. LeRon's book is very much about deconstructing some of the strong assumptions that we've come to accept as fact, and he challenges us to see that many of these 'facts' are, in fact, not facts.

This is a thick read: don't expect to blow through it and have full comprehension of it. For myself, I know that I probably woudn't have understood half of it if I hadn't had him as a professor who was willing to explain things in class. But don't be to quick to pass it by because of this...LeRon's work deserves careful consideration.

 
Challenging and Transforming, if you are ready for it  Feb 27, 2004
In the spirit of full disclosure, and in the Spirit of Christ that should characterize such interactions, I will admit up front that I am one of Dr. Shults' current teaching assistants. This implies, as one of the previous reviewers has noted, that I do have a bias in favor of Shults. At the same time, I am also very familiar with Shults' ideas and arguments. The critical reader is cautioned to note these possible strengths and weaknesses of my perspective.

I had not planned to review this book; a work of this quality hardly needs my endorsement. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to respond to what I found to be an unfair and scathing review of this book by Gannon Murphy. I trust that the discerning reader will recognize that Mr. Murphy has a personal axe to grind with Dr. Shults as a direct result of taking his theology class in seminary. The fact that Murphy largely disagrees with Shults is clear. Readers can judge for themselves whether Murphy's reasons for disagreeing actually make sense (although I recommend taking a look at the full web article he references for a more complete argument). I find many of Murphy's claims to be confused and possibly incoherent, such as the apparent notion that there is a monolithic "classical theology" characteristic of Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin. My primary goal here, however, is to provide an alternative perspective to Murphy's clearly partisan reading of Shults.

Before I embark on that task, however, I will also remark how surprised I am to see Shults' character, motivation, and allegiances questioned in this fashion (which only gets worse in the full article). This is a personal attack that has no place in a book review. I will make every effort to not repeat such speculations about Murphy's personal motivations and character. I think Murphy's "axe" is apparent, especially in the longer article, but I will allow the reader to make this call for him/herself.

Reforming Theological Anthropology is based on a simple idea, which is decidedly not that we should abandon any theology corrupted by Greek philosophy. Instead, it is based on the observation that every great theologian in Christian history - including Murphy's five classics - used the best available science and philosophy of their day (even if they were sometimes unaware of it) and attempted to articulate a faithfully biblical set of doctrines for the living church. This is what it truly means to be reformed. Even Luther and Calvin, who admittedly attempted to recover lost biblical insights, still articulated those insights within a specific cultural context largely shaped by a prevailing philosophical-scientific worldview. Shults is simply suggesting that contemporary theologians should do the same. This is not a complete break from the past. It is a critical appropriation of what has come before in light of what is available now. Yes, the "now" may become obsolete, but then another generation of sharp minds will continue the ongoing task of reforming theology and the church.

This is a disturbing thought to some evangelicals who want to believe that we have most things already nailed down. For them, theology is mostly about arguing the esoteric fine points (which is why many find it inaccessible) and the goal of theological education is primarily to pass on this secure body of knowledge to the next generation of pastors. If you tend to view theology this way, as Murphy explicitly does near the end of his full article, then you will probably dislike Shults' book. Don't buy it.

If, on the other hand, you find evangelical faith to be compelling yet contemporary evangelical theology less so, this book is likely for you. Be warned that it is a challenging read. You may need to have a dictionary handy. It is meant for graduate level seminary education. Don't expect it to read like the Prayer of Jabez.

Having said that, by definition this book should be a bit confusing. Part of Shults' premise is that our mental categories need to be rearranged. You need to learn to think in radically new ways. This kind of rewiring can be a long and even painful process. You may discover allegiances to ideas (even unbiblical ones) that you were unaware you had. You may also find great hope. Do your best to suspend judgment, at least temporarily. My experience is that these ideas do eventually make sense, once you've dwelled in the new ideas for a time. I have found that it is worth the wait.

Note also that RTA was not only written for evangelicals, which may also concern some. Shults believes that the gospel is worth sharing with everyone, so that all might be invited into a transforming relationship with the infinite trinitarian God. How annoyingly evangelical of him.

 
An important work  Feb 27, 2004
All in all, I think the book was pretty dense, but it challenged some long-held evangelical assumptions that must be reformed for the future. This is an important book that helps to make evangelical thought more conversant with some of the major contributions in 20th century theology. It serves to help conservative christians engage other disciplines, as well as helping us to understand our faith in philosophical categories that more closely correlate to the Biblical presentation of a dynamic transformative Triune God.
 
Erudite but misguided  Feb 10, 2004
This book certainly has some strengths. Shults is obviously well-versed in the history of philosophy and theology, he knows his concepts, and is terribly bright. The book proves to be a challenging read and will force a person to examine his or her own theological and philosophical presuppositions. Shults provides a forum off of which to bounce ideas and reflect on modern and classical theological formulations and this is always healthy for theologues.

However, I disagree with many of Shults' conclusions. Much of his keen intellect seems misdirected on red herrings and questionable premises stemming from his apparent commitment to the dregs of the "biblical theology" movement and from his unwavering allegiance to the controlling metaphor of modern philosophical relationality. As a result, I believe several major portions of the book become paper tigers. And, though Shults declares his theologizing to be "reconstructive", I hardly recall reading anything substantively positive regarding the classical theology of Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, et al., other than some tangential references and conciliatory hat tipping. For the most part, they are portrayed as philosophically neanderthal and lost in the Grecian metaphysics and patristical Neoplatonism which they supposedly assimilated by osmosis, thereby poisoning their theology. The latter is something continually emphasized in the book and a tired cliche following the well-worn henpecking of the "biblical theology" movement (ala Muilenburg, Anderson, Bowan, et al). The notion that classical theology has been "infected" with Grecian metaphysics (as opposed to USING it within certain sociocultural constructs in early Xian history) is one with a storied past (e.g., Harnack) but, in my view, has been so well countered and mollified that it surprises me a man with Shults' intellection endorses it so vigorously. The result is scholarly meat packed on the bones of a genetic fallacy and ignores the fact that the patricians and classicalists demurred on far more pieces of philosphy than they appropriated from the Neoplatonists and Stoics.

Shults wants to bring "new" and "updated" insights into historic Christian doctrine, as opposed to USING new insights to UPHOLD Christian doctrine. In my experience, whenever a "progressive" theologian or philosopher desires to do this, they often begin with the Greek vs. Hebrew paradigm argument. And, whenever I see this argument regurgitated as a sort of prolegomena, I know something novel is likely around the corner. This is true in spades of Shults. And, in a one-two combination, he also does this with modern science which he supposes to render moot much of the backbone of classical theology. While Shults' discussion in this regard is certainly interesting, I'm afraid I simply cannot share his confidence in the power of modern science to accomplish what he hopes it will, and I think he's far too cocksure in building his case on what he sees to be radically transforming discoveries in neurobiology, physical studies, anthropology, and other fields. Some of the theories he brings forth are highly speculative and, in my calculus, should not be knighted as fancy cues for building an entirely new theology that doesn't "reconstruct" classical theology, as he hopes it will, but deconstructs and demolishes it as antiquated.

This is interesting reading, but haven't we seen this sort of "novel" thing a thousand times before? The task of Christian theology is to take it's historic gospel truths and put them in modern dress so that people can receive and understand them within their own cultural framework, not to change the dress along with the form that fills it.
 
interesting, but...  Jul 10, 2003
As the previous reviewer (who happens to have been Shults' teaching assistant, and who therefore may be more than a bit biased) stated, Shults has written an interesting and timely book. It is, however, very dense--perhaps for economy's sake, Shults frequently does not define complex theological terms, and the readability of the book ultimately suffers. While a student of theology will find it an interesting perspective, I would not readily recommend it to the average layperson.
 

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