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The Word That Has No End
J. I. Packer has observed that Christians do not have license to ignore theology; insofar as we are Christians, we must think theologically, however good or bad, informed or misinformed that thinking may be. The same is true, he would add, of biblical study. What is striking and disturbing today is the gap—the gulf—between the formal academic disciplines of theology and biblical studies and the practice of those disciplines in the life of the church. Rather than attempting an account of how we got in this fix, I would like to point to some Exit doors. I am writing not as a scholar but rather as an interested reader. The books under review deserve extended scholarly engagement; what I am offering instead is an incitement, a provocation challenging others more qualified for the task to recognize the enormous opportunity represented by such books.
Where three are gathered
Miroslav Volf has been until recently professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and has now accepted a position at Yale Divinity School. He is familiar to readers of Books & Culture as the author of Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. His new book, After Our Likeness: The Church As the Image of the Trinity, is a translation from the original German edition, which was in turn based on Volf's Habilitationsschrift (the so-called second doctoral dissertation in the German system) at the University of Tubingen, supervised by Jurgen Moltmann. Volf's book is the first volume in Eerdmans's series Sacra Doctrina: Christian Theology for a Postmodern Age, under the general editorship of Alan G. Padgett.
After Our Likeness makes a case for a particular understanding of the nature of the church, as exemplified in the free church tradition. But Volf makes that case in a most unusual way: in an ecumenical dialogue with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and the Orthodox Metropolitan John D. Zizioulas. Volf's own "point of departure" in this ...