by David F. Ford
Theology is a pretty big topic to introduce in fewer than 200 pages. For the most part, I think that with this volume Ford has done a good job. However, I had two main problems with it. First, he focuses almost entirely on Christian theology. He justifies his decision but I still don't buy it because it allows him to duck out of answering too many thorny questions. By way of analogy Jonathan Culler's excellent Literary Theory would have suffered greatly if he had only introduced postmodernism. Second, Ford doesn't always explain himself as well as he needs to in an introductory book. For example, he says "If people can enhance each other's freedom in certain ways, why cannot God do even better?" without explaining just what exactly he means -- I found this to be unsatisfactory.
In an early chapter, Ford divides those who think about theology into five types. People in type 1 regard a religion from the outside, without accepting any of its premises. People in type 5, on the other hand, regard a particular religion as the final word on the nature of reality, and are not open to any other worldviews. The other types are in between. I liked this characterization since it helped me put my own biases into perspective, and to deal with the difficult problem of how people who approach theology from within the context of a religion should relate to those who approach it from the outside.
I found Theology: A Very Short Introduction to be worthwhile because it broadened my thinking about theology and introduced me to aspects of theological thought that I hadn't known existed. For these reasons I'd recommend it, despite the fact that I didn't like some aspects of the book.
copyright © 2000 John Regehr