Sunday, August 12, 2007


This is the title of the latest in an energetic series of recent, semi-popular books which have poured forth from the pen of Keith Ward, Professor of Divinity at Gresham College, London, and Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus at the University of Oxford, over the past few years. I say "semi-popular" because these titles (God: A Guide for the Perplexed; Is Religion Dangerous?, What the Bible Really Teaches and Pascal's Fire: Scientific Faith and Religious Understanding) have their roots in careful, scholarly thought. But they are still crafted with a clarity and engagingness that ought to communicate to intelligent people who otherwise lack a grasp of much of the technical, historiographical, interpretative and conceptual vocabulary which needs to inform discussion of God and belief at the toughest level - that is, way beyond the pigeon-holing, point-scoring approach of both 'muscular religion' (in its many modern guises) and the new 'muscular atheism' (of Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Grayling, Hitchens, et al).

Publishers OneWorld Books (Oxford, 2007) sum up the remit of Ward's new volume, made available in hardback on 30 March - which happens to be my birthday - as follows: "The Christian faith is often charged with being outmoded and anachronistic. [Subsisting in what is taken to be] a monolithic institution rooted in the past, many critics have claimed that it lacks the resources to adapt to modern society's needs and advances. In Re-thinking Christianity, popular Christian theologian Keith Ward sets out to challenge this view, arguing persuasively that it is not only uncharitable, but refuted by historical evidence.

"Mapping the evolution of six major beliefs, from the Hellenistic restatement to the challenge of evolutionary theory, Ward demonstrates that Christianity has always been expressed in constantly changing ways in response to new knowledge and understandings of the world. Controversial, liberal [in the sense of open and critical], and confronting the principal questions facing Christianity today, Ward uses this basis to support the construction of his own ground-breaking theology: a 'systematic theology' for the post-scientific age." [My interpolations added]

Full review article continued at:

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