Getting Your Bearings Getting Your Bearings
Engaging with Contemporary Theologians

Philip Duce and Daniel Strange (Eds)
ISBN 9780851112879 (0851112870)
IVP, 2003

Category: Education
Reviewed by: Mark Burnhope

Let me be honest: being an undergraduate student myself, I needed this book to do "exactly what it said on the tin". So, remembering the age-old mantra "Don't judge a book by it's cover", I chose instead to put my altogether more logical trust - or so I hoped - in the promise given by its title, "Getting your Bearings".

In the book's foreword, Donald Mcleod hits the nail smack on the head: "The student is suddenly plunged into an alien new world". Which is exactly why books like this are needed: to serve us students in our quest to navigate this seemingly inhospitable alien world. This book, edited by Philip Duce (Theological Books Editor at Inter-Varsity Press and a former London Bible College student) and Daniel Strange (Co-ordinator of the Religious and Theological Studies Fellowship) does just that.

It is a series of four essays by different writers, compiled particularly to introduce students of theology to the work of some major thinkers in the areas of both theology and philosophy. Included here are John Hick, Jurgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and in the last essay, Don Cupitt and Jon Millbank. Subjects of current interest range from a critique of Hick's changing, arguably inconsistent, work on religious pluralism, to a wide survey of responses to Postmodernism, and some of the issues it raises for contemporary theological study. I found the inclusion of an interview with Hick (after the essay by Christopher Sinkinson) particularly helpful. In it, Hick has the freedom to explain and defend his position in his own, unedited words. I sometimes wonder how often this is the case in books of this type.

Occasionally it happens that I read a summary of a writer's ideas in, say, a theological/philosophical dictionary, and by the time I reach the end, find I haven't understood a word of it. I rarely had that feeling while reading this book. The book manages, largely, to avoid the need to use difficult theological jargon in order to explain profound ideas. Obviously this is not always possible (jargon is, sadly, necessary for any academic study); however, when theological terms are used, care is taken by each author to explain what is meant by them. Because of this, I rarely needed a 'double take' on a sentence, or even a huge paragraph.

This book may not be everyone's idea of light or "bedtime" reading; but any student wanting a profoundly, yet clearly written introduction to the work of any of these Christian thinkers, is well advised to get hold of a copy.

Mark Burnhope, January 2004

Mark Burnhope is a graduate of London School of Theology. He is a 'trying' novelist and poet with a Masters Degree in Creative and Transactional Writing from Brunel University, and an alternative worship/emerging church obsessive.


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