A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology: Biblical, Historical, Constructive by Thomas N. Finger (InterVarsity Press) In this comprehensive volume Thomas N. Finger takes on the formidable task of making explicit the often implicit theology of the Anabaptist movement and then presenting, for the sake of the welfare of the whole contemporary Christian church, his own constructive theology. In the first part Finger tells the story of the development of Anabaptist thought, helping the reader grasp both the unifying and diverse elements in that theological tradition. In the second and third parts Finger considers in more detail the major themes essential to Anabaptist theology, first considering the historic views and then presenting his own constructive effort. Within the Anabaptist perspective Finger offers a theology that highlights the three dimensions of its salvific center: the communal, the personal and the missional. The themes taken up in the final part form what Finger identifies as the convictional framework of that center; namely, Christology, anthropology and eschatology. A landmark contribution of Anabaptist theology for the whole church in biblical, historical and contemporary context.
Excerpt: Chapter two outlines the period that I call historic Anabaptism (from about 1525-I575). Next I outline various scholarly interpretations, beginning roughly with Harold Bender's The Anabaptist Vision (1944) and then some major efforts at current Anabaptist theology, most of them post-I980 (chap. 3). With these in mind, I set forth my own procedures, assumptions and methodology as transparently as possible (chap. 4). These first four chapters constitute part one: "Contemporary and Historical Context."
Each chapter in parts two and three considers a specific theological locus (e.g., the church), sometimes by dividing it into sections (e.g., baptism, Lord's Sup-per). Each chapter or section thereof first presents historic Anabaptist views and my reading of them. The second half develops my constructive theology on these topics. There I dialogue with current theological movements, generally a different one for each locus. To indicate the broad potential relevance of Anabaptist insights, I engage contemporary Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Orthodox, liberation, feminist, neo-orthodox and evangelical as well as other Anabaptist theologies. My resulting affirmations are substantive. But due to diversities among my dialogue partners, they may be more nearly samples than comprehensive ex-positions of my theology.
Part two, "The Coming of the New Creation" (chaps. 5-7), proposes and explicates a center for a theology informed by Anabaptism. I present this not as an essence but simply one helpful vantage point for exploring the whole. Neither does it consist simply of "distinctives" that would constitute Anabaptism, even were other features eliminated or altered. Historical movements and theologies attain distinctive shape not only from features which distinguish them but also from how they incorporate those affirmed by others.
This center will be the coming of the new creation in three inseparable dimensions: personal, communal and missional. Anabaptism's salvific impetus can be characterized as intertwining these aspects, which other traditions often separate. Chapter five, "The Personal Dimension," shows how Anabaptists did and today can interconnect themes stressed by Protestants (justification), by Catholics (sanctification) and by Orthodoxy (divinization).
Chapter six indicates how the personal dimension is expressed through and shaped by "the communal dimension"—and how the latter must be energized and informed by the former. Its four sections cover ecclesial practices: baptism, the Lord's Supper, discipline and economic sharing. Chapter seven, "The Missional Dimension," shows how the first two dimensions give rise to and yet originate from the church's mission. Here I discuss evangelism, especially the universality of the Christian message, which is often challenged by postmodernism. I also ponder the church's interactions with the rest of the world.
Part three (chaps. 8-I0), "The Convictional Framework," considers this salvific center. Here I ponder three loci sometimes regarded as more formally theological: Christology, anthropology and eschatology. Although the salvific center (chaps. 5-7) more often occupied historic Anabaptist awareness, this framework was no less essential. Had Anabaptists understood Jesus, humankind and the coming end other than they did, their soteriology would have been quite different.
Chapter eight, "Jesus and Divine Reality," discusses in three sections Jesus' work, his person and God's triune character. Chapter nine, "Human Nature," centers around the human will and body. Chapter ten, "The Last Things," portrays the intensity with which historic Anabaptists anticipated the new creation's coming, and how their expectation, despite some excesses, can function today. Space simply does not allow for other loci. Creation would perhaps be next most important; it appears at various points. So does revelation, most succinctly in my basic assumptions (chap. 4). A brief concluding chapter (eleven) sketches the contours of the theology developed.
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