review of theology as if jesus matters

Phyllis Bixler, via email, 5/5/10

I am half way through Ted Grimsrud’s “Theology as if Jesus Matters: An
Introduction to Christianity’s Main Convictions” (2009) and am
ordering a copy for each of you and, if you think appropriate, another
copy or two to put on the book shelf outside the sanctuary.

I think that you will find much here that is compatible with your own
views, and expressed in a way that is accessible to most persons in
the pew.  As such, I’m thinking you may find some ideas for sermons as
well as further thinking about how a “theology of peace” grows out of
and affects other more traditional theological topics.  Currently,
e.g., I am reading Ted’s chapter on creation (“This is God’s World:
So What?”) and appreciate his handling of the very common view of
nature as primarily “red in tooth and claw.”

As the title suggests, Ted’s theology grows out of what is typically
left out of the Nicene and other creeds:  the life and teachings of
Jesus.  In addition, Ted insists that “theology” must be related to
“praxis.” (A term I haven’t seen him use as one of the things I admire
about this book is Ted’s ability to challenge his reader in clear,
accessible, jargon-free language.  He indicates that the book in many
ways grew out of years of teaching “Introduction to Theology” for
college students in their first two years.  Though the book is
obviously informed as well by some of his more scholarly writing,
including his M.A. thesis one examiner for which was John Howard
Yoder.)

As an example of Ted’s style and summary statement of his purpose,
note the following, from p. 76.

“Let me review the basic view of theology I am presenting in this
book.  Theology I propose, has to do with our hierarchy of values–the
things we actually shape our lives by, the things we ACTUALLY believe
as verified by our practices.  Theological reflection matters because
it is how we gain self-awareness about what our values actually are.

“I believe we best understand CHRISTIAN theology as reflecting on how
the values embodied by Jesus in his life and teaching might become OUR
values.  So I am calling what I do “theology as if Jesus matters.”
Well, I want to pursue this approach as far as I can.  So I now turn
to this question:  when we reflect on the doctrine of
creation–including nature, the world around us–might we understand
it through an interpretive framework centered on Jesus?”

Accordingly, Ted has chapters on “The Person of Christ,” “God,” “The
Holy Spirit,” “Creation,” “Revelation,” “Humanity,” “The Work of
Christ,” “Christian Community,” “The Sacraments,” “The Religions,”
“Eschatology,” and “The Christian Life.”

The book would be an excellent basis for a Sunday School or Wednesday
evening series of discussions, in my opinion.  As such, I will be
recommending it to another friend or two I have, elsewhere, in
Mennonite churches.  Where I hope it gets plenty of serious attention.

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