Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hard Rock Theology - my review of Dan Stange's theology of religions

Dan Strange's major new book was published in the UK in the spring: 'For Their Rock Is Not as Our Rock': An Evangelical Theology of Religions (Nottingham: Apollos, 2014, 384 pp, £19.99). (Due to be published in March 2015 in the USA.)

My review article of it is now online in Foundations here.

Here is a taster of the article in the hope that you go on to read the book and my review:

A few years ago I read this extract of a letter from a Japanese student on returning to Japan after studying in England:
Two months have already passed since I came home. I’ve been missing England and all my friends so much that I sometimes cry… Please listen to me. I’ve decided not to follow Christianity any more. I’m so sorry if my decision disappoints you. I can’t deny Christianity at all because I really know what I experienced in England… But now I must follow my family’s religion. Please don’t misunderstand. I’ve decided by myself although it was hard for me.
No sensitive disciple of Christ, regardless of their position on perseverance and apostasy, would be left unmoved on reading such words. But they also provoke questions: What does she mean when she says she is not going to follow Christianity anymore? Just what did she experience in England? What is it about her family’s religion that has led her to take such a decision? Quite apart from the pastoral issues that arise from such a situation the need for clear thinking on religion and religions is obvious. This volume by Daniel Strange, Academic Vice-Principal and Lecturer in Culture, Religion and Public Theology at Oak Hill College, London, is his attempt to do just that.
Strange draws the geological metaphor for his title from Moses’ song (Deut 32:31) and is not shy to declare his theological commitments: “this is a book for evangelical Christians, written by an evangelical Christian” (33). His particular confessional stance is that of Reformed theology (“the confessional tradition I believe to be closest to God’s revelation in Scripture”) although he hopes that the common evangelical position on the authority of Scripture will encourage a broad range of evangelical interaction. He also believes in the creation and fall as real space-time historical events, the uniqueness of Christ, and the necessity of conscious faith in the finished work of Christ for salvation, which I also affirm.

Dan’s book is a major contribution to the field of the theology of religion and deserves to be studied carefully.I learned a lot from it and have been challenged to hone my own understanding considerably. But I do have issues too. My critique in the review article focuses primarily on the author's method. It seems to me that Dan, like most writers in this area, get into difficulty by equating religion (the orientation of the heart) and religions (rival social realities). What do you think?

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