Cover Image: My Theology: Return from a Distant Country

My Theology: Return from a Distant Country

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I am certainly no theologian, but I am very interested in theology and in certain writers and thinkers in particular.  Alistair McGrath is one of those, and this short book allows us the opportunity to hear a little from the author as to his (quite remarkable) background and journey to faith.
McGrath also gives a precis of his theological perspectives and invites us to delve further into his writings.

The opportunity to learn about fiction authors or ‘superstar’ non-fiction writers is easy to come by, but it is rare to get more than a glimpse into the thoughts and background of possibly more influential and important writers from the author themselves, rather than resorting to Wikipedia!

This looks to be a great series and I look forward to reading others from the same collection.
Was this review helpful?
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
---
WHAT'S RETURN FROM A DISTANT COUNTRY ABOUT?
In this brief work, McGrath starts off with a brief spiritual biography—sketching out his early life and interests and then what brought him to faith while a student at Oxford.

He then gives a brief definition of theology and how he sees himself as a theologian, and how he's demonstrating both in his own work. He then sketches out four main themes in his own work and theology—historical theology, the relation between natural sciences and theology, Christian Apologetics, and theological education—both a look at his and then how he tries to educate others.

THE MY THEOLOGY SERIES
The publisher's website (Darton, Longman & Todd) describes this series as: "The world’s leading Christian thinkers explain some of the principal tenets of their theological beliefs." The US Publisher (Fortress Press) helpfully adds "in concise, pocket-sized books" to that description. It looks to be sixteen projected volumes published from September 2021-March 2022 (in the UK), this volume will be published in the U.S. in January, and I would expect the rest to follow a similar schedule.

I think that's an interesting, and potentially fascinating, idea. I don't recognize the overwhelming majority of names, which I guess indicates how far my finger is from the pulse of the world's leading Christian thinkers. I'm a little curious as to who these people are, which might lead me to read some more of these books.

SO, WHAT DID I THINK ABOUT RETURNFROM A DISTANT COUNTRY?
I've started reading "intellectual biographies" in the last few years, and I guess this is pretty much a (mini) intellectual autobiography, which isn't the way I'm used to reading. As such it was an interesting exercise. There was a time when I'd frequently read McGrath's work, but it's been a long time since I did—not that I didn't appreciate it, I just had other priorities. It was nice to touch base with him after all this time. Seeing how he views his work within these four themes--and what he thinks about them--helps the reader understand him as a thinker, theologian, and (I'd imagine) person better than you did before.

I enjoyed this work, and think I got something out of it but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped. Too much of McGrath's description of his work makes it seem like Christianity is a largely—maybe even almost exclusively—a cognitive matter—all about thinking the right things to the exclusion of feeling, belief, and action. That's a tendency for those in the neighborhood of conservative evangelicalism—particularly those with some connection to Reformed theology. I personally would've appreciated it if McGrath had made it clear that wasn't his intention or belief. But that's a more of a me thing than a substantive criticism.

I wouldn't say that this book gave me new insight into Christian theology or any of the themes he addressed. But I got a better insight into who McGrath is and what I should expect as I read his other work—which, for a series called "My Theology" makes a lot of sense.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Darton Longman Todd via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this.
Was this review helpful?
I would say this is Alister McGrath's autobiography in concise form. It's worth reading for the story of someone who, in his own words, could well have become another Richard Dawkins but instead studied the intellectual foundations of the Christian faith and found them compelling and able to answer life's fundamental questions in a way that atheism couldn't. Much of the content of this book can be found in greater depths throughout McGrath's other writings but as a basic primer this is more than worth reading. Recommended.
Was this review helpful?
It probably covers ground that McGrath has explained in more detail elsewhere, but as an accessible introduction, it works quite well. Humble yet interesting autobiographical look at an interesting and ongoing career in theology.
Was this review helpful?