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Having taught college and Seminary theology courses for some time now, a rising frustration has continued to grow with available textbooks. Traditional theology books are heavy on doctrines, their historical development, and comparing modern perspectives. They give students a good introduction and overview to the issues and beliefs central to Christianity, but often read like a dictionary. They often too, focused on doctrines as they are, treat the Bible as a repository of information for various “-ologies.” The Bible thus gives information about God which must harvested, organized, and systematized. They thus often lack in a contextual reading of passages, and in particular any sense of the overarching story that ties Scripture together. Jesus, for example, was big on kingdom. Your average theology text is not.
Enter The Magnificent Story by James Bryan Smith. It is not a systematic theology, but it is quite theological. As I read through this book, I was struck by how it aligned with the central themes of one of the courses I teach frequently: Trinity, incarnation, kingdom, atonement, Christology, Pneumatology, formation. It’s all there. But Smith is keenly aware of how the Bible unfolds its themes and doctrines, not through definitions and disputes, but primarily through story. And Smith is also right that when we lose sight of the story of Scripture, it is easy for doctrines to lose their depth, or, as he would describe, lose their beauty, goodness, and truth.
Smith - Influences - Balthasar - Willard - Wright
Smith’s major influences are Balthasar, Willard, and Wright, a forceful trio in the theological world. He likewise creatively blends the themes of beauty, truth, and goodness with spiritual formation and a narrative-heavy approach to the theology of the Bible. The result is an impressive, yet accessible, construction that is both theologically rich and spiritually impactful.
Smith begins not with the story of the Bible, but...
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