The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition  Reform, By Roger E. Olson

The Story of Christian Theology

Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform

by Roger E. Olson

The Story of Christian Theology
  • Length: 652 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: April 01, 1999
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 1505
  • ISBN: 9780830815050

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Christianity Today Book of the Year Award
ECPA Gold Medallion Award

History is made up of stories--narratives that recount the events, movements, ideas and lives that have shaped religions and nations. Theologian Roger Olson believes that the history of Christian theology should be told as such a story, one replete with thick plots, exciting twists, interesting people and fascinating ideas.

In this panoramic work of historical theology Olson vividly recounts the deeds and words of the cultists and apostolic fathers of the second century, the clash between the theological schools of Alexandria and Antioch, the epochal division between East and West, the revolutionary advent of the Reformation and much more, right on up to the dazzling, sometimes dismaying fallout that has continued to shake Christians through the twentieth century. Through it all Olson detects and traces a common thread: a concern for salvation--God's redemptive activity in forgiving and transforming sinful human beings.

Evenhanded, refreshingly readable, impressive in its breadth and depth, The Story of Christian Theology is poised to become a standard historical theology text.

"A monumental achievement! The Story of Christian Theology is eminently readable, a welcome and helpful guide to the history of Christian theology."
Donald G. Bloesch, professor of theology emeritus, Dubuque Theological Seminary
"Roger Olson's The Story of Christian Theology is a real page-turner. Here is no bloodless and passionless history of ideas. Olson's Story pulsates with real people living in real time who pray, study, argue, struggle and even occasionally beat each other up over what and how to believe. Olson is convinced that beliefs matter and that the story of Christian theology is not yet finished. Without much effort readers can find themselves in this story too."
Timothy Weber, dean and professor of church history, Northern Baptist Theological Seminary
"A lucid and fair-minded account of highlights in the history of Christian thought. . . . An adventure in theological ideas."
Gabriel Fackre, author of The Christian Story and The Doctrine of Revelation
"Historical theology has never been known for winning popularity contests in Christian classrooms. It is too dated and too abstract. But Roger Olson is out to change that common perception. He has taken this aging beauty, dressed her up in a stylish storytelling outfit and trained her to speak to a contemporary audience. For my students Olson's The Story of Christian Theology has just moved to the top of my you've-got-to-meet-her list."
Bruce L. Shelley, professor of church history, Denver Seminary
"An ideal history of Christian theology lies beyond the realm of human possibility, but all church members, along with pastors and students, will surely profit from Professor Olson's new presentation. In reasonably concise form, it uses judiciously selected incidents and movements to tell the story as a vast array of theologians, monks, ecclesiastics and teachers wrestled with the divine truths revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This historical survey offers a good foundation, not only for Christian scholarship but also for authentic Christian witness and ministry."
Geoffrey W. Bromiley, author of Historical Theology
"In this clear and eminently readable text, Roger Olson not only tells the story of Christian theology in all its richness and diversity but also shows why the questions faced were important then and remain so for us today. Theology is shown to be about salvation and hence an ultimately practical endeavor. This is a book that deserves a wide readership in both the classroom and the church."
Henry H. Knight III, Saint Paul School of Theology
"Congratulations to Roger Olson for giving us a masterful survey of the main contours of Christian theology from the second century to the present day. This work is written with admirable clarity, capturing the major figures and movements with accurate descriptions as well as with an eye toward the effects of their views for later periods and contemporary times. Beginning as well as more advanced students can turn here with confidence to gain a sure sense of how the story of Christian theology has developed, what its primary issues have been and how the whole Christian church has been affected by what its theologians have believed, argued about and—unfortunately—at times have literally fought over. This is a fine achievement, a superb resource grounded in solid scholarship. Here is a volume that will be eminently useful for many years to come."
Donald K. McKim, academic dean and professor of theology, Memphis Theological Seminary


Abbreviations General Information for Readers
Introduction: Christian Theology as Story

Part I: The Opening Act: Conflicting Christian Visions in the Second Century
1. Critics Cultists Cause Confusion
2. The Apostolic Fathers Explain the Way
3. The Apologists Defend the Faith
4. Irenaeus Exposes Heresies

Part II: The Plot Thickens: Third-Century Tensions Transformations
5. North African Thinkers Examine Philosophy
6. Origen of Alexandria Leaves a Troubling Legacy
7. Cyprian of Carthage Promotes Unity
8. Christianity Gets Its Act Together

Part III: A Great Crisis Rocks the Church: The Controversy About the Trinity
9. Alexandrians Argue About the Son of God
10. The Church Responds at the Council of Nicea
11. Athanasius Stubbornly Keeps the Faith
12. The Cappadocian Fathers Settle the Issue

Part IV: Another Crisis Shakes the Church: The Conflict Over the Person of Christ
13. The Schools of Antioch Alexandria Clash over Christ
14. Nestorius Cyril Bring the Controversy to a Head
15. Chalcedon Protects the Mystery
16. Fallout from the Conflict Continues

Part V: A Tale of Two Churches: The Great Tradition Divides Between East West
17. Augustine Confesses God's Glory Human Depravity
18. The Western Church Becomes Roman Catholic
19. The Eastern Church Becomes Eastern Orthodox
20. The Great Schism Creates Two Traditions Out of One

Part VI: The Saga of the Queen of Sciences: Scholastics Revive Enthrone Theology
21. Anselm Abelard Speculate About God's Ways
22. Thomas Aquinas Summarizes Christian Truth
23. Nominalists, Reformers Humanists Challenge the Scholastic Synthesis

Part VII: A New Twist in the Narratives: The Western Church Reforms Divides
24. Luther Rediscovers the Gospel Divides the Church
25. Zwingli Calvin Organize Protestant Thought
26. Anabaptists Go Back to the Roots of Christianity
27. Rome Canterbury Go Separate But Parallel Ways

Part VIII: The Center of the Story Falls Apart: Protestants Follow Diverse Paths
28. Arminians Attempt to Reform Reformed Theology
29. Pietists Seek to Renew Lutheran Theology
30. Puritans Methodists Struggle to Revive English Theology
31. Deists Try to Transform Protestant Theology

Part IX: The Overall Plots Divides: Liberals Conservatives Respond to Modernity
32. Liberal Theology Accommodates to Modern Culture
33. Conservative Theology Hardens Traditional Categories
34. Neo-Orthodoxy Transcends the Divide
35. Contemporary Theology Struggles with Diversity

Conclusion: The Unfinished Story Its Future




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Roger E. Olson

Roger E. Olson (PhD, Rice University) is professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is the author of The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity, and The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology. He is also coauthor of 20th-Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age and Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God (both with Stanley J. Grenz), and of The Trinity (with Christopher A. Hall).