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Why Christian? [Paperback]

By Douglas John Hall (Author)
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Item description for Why Christian? by Douglas John Hall...

One of North America's most respected theologians responds to the questions of those who are on the edge of faith or who are still not sure of their commitment: Why be Christian? Who is Jesus? What does salvation mean? How can it make a difference? Why join a church? Is there a future life?

Publishers Description
In these dialogues with doubt, Hall enters into an earnest search with a young inquirer a composite of undergraduates, graduates, clergy, working people, his own children who is on the edges of Christian faith. Half familiar with superficial aspects of Christianity, hopeful of there being greater depth than has been found so far, she or he is curious, insistent, looking for something to believe in but not ready to leap without good reason. Such a person is asking, "Why be Christian?" In a passionate and personal way, Hall probes fundamental religious questions and wrestles with the cogency of basic Christian convictions about Jesus and God, about religious belief and the human predicament, about inauthentic forms of Christianity, about what is missing in human life today. Quoting Unamuno's dictum that "Faith that does not doubt is dead faith," Hall's accessible and straightforward book helps readers to reclaim a Christianity of personal, intellectual, and moral integrity. This book may well prove a modern religious classic.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   182
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.5" Width: 5.6" Height: 0.4"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 1998
Publisher   Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Edition  New  
ISBN  0800631307  
ISBN13  9780800631307  

Availability  55 units.
Availability accurate as of Mar 23, 2017 10:22.
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More About Douglas John Hall

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Douglas John Hall is emeritus professor of theology at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. Among the most widely read theologians in North America, Hall has written many popular and acclaimed works, including Lighten Our Darkness (1976), God and Human Suffering (1987), and Why Christian? (1998), as well as a full-scale trilogy in systematic theology: Thinking the Faith (1991), Professing the Faith (1996), and Confessing the Faith (1998), all from Fortress Press.

Douglas John Hall was born in 1928.

Douglas John Hall has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Creative Pastoral Care & Counseling

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Apologetics

Christian Product Categories
Books > Christian Living > Practical Life > Science, Faith & Evolution

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Reviews - What do customers think about Why Christian??

Excellent review  Jun 21, 2004
I truly loved this book, it's challenging, simple (but not easy), and I would credit it with deepening my own understanding of my relationship with God.

The author is a thinking man, and this book is for thinking people. No easy answers, no pretend understandings of the Mystery, but a deep looking that is essential for a real relationship with God.

On the edge of faith . . .  May 21, 2001
I found this book to be very well written with a rather unique approach of using a "composite character" with whom the author has first a dialogue on a question and then for whom he provides a more thorough essay answer. The reader is caught up in this give and take between professor and student, and the questions are the hard ones! Why Christian? Why Jesus? Saved from What and for What? Why Church? Is there Hope?

There are many selected biblical quotations with a clear explanation written in such a way as to leave room for the reader to differ. In almost all cases, respect for other faith systems is maintained, reserving the most direct criticism for the author's own beloved Christianity. Professor Hall recognizes many of the atrocities committed in the name of religions, including Christianity, and explains why such actions are inconsistent with the precepts of those religions. He discusses how birthright so often is a reason for starting out in a religion but how today especially, birthright alone is not enough to keep someone in a given faith system.

Appropriately, some of the more fundamental questions are left to the reader to answer. For example, " 'So what precisely (as we may ask with Wendell Berry and others) are human beings for?' If we are not just accidents of nature, what is our place in the scheme of things? What is our purpose and how could we attain it, or reclaim it?" This question is never really answered directly, but is diverted to a related "sense of anxiety" angle.

My belief is that this book will be a bit of a disappointment for those looking to find a dogmatic statement of why Christian today. Instead, one finds a respectful questioning of today's Christianity with a deep routed love of what Christianity can be. This is indeed a wonderful resource "for those on the edge of faith."

Thoughtful, if inconclusive  Dec 5, 2000
As any reader of Douglas John Hall's massive three-volume systematic theology--Thinking the Faith, Confessing the Faith, and Professing the Faith--will know, Hall is a sensitive and thoughtful Christian who is convinced of both the reality of God and the decisiveness of Jesus. He does not seek in this book simply to repeat in detail the content of his earlier work but to explain to contemporary audiences why he believes Christianity still makes sense. Some Christians will regard him as too liberal, others as too conservative; all can, I hope, agree that his heart beats with a passion for making God's love real in our world and for acknowledging the gap between God's goodness and the state of contemporary North American culture. I wish Hall had been somewhat more systematic; I wish he had explicated his own position in a somewhat less impressionistic fashion. But this is certainly among the books I'd place in the hands of someone interested in exploring the Christian gospel.
A Christian perspective without the rhetoric  Mar 31, 2000
This book is great for those who want a modern rational for Christianity. Mr. Hall makes the belief in Jesus the Christ understandable, if not quite, well, believable. For those who are not Christian, and want a view of Christianity without the preaching or "hell and damnation" rhetoric, this is good. For those who are Christian, this book can provide a different view of the religion.
Hall fails to defend anything resembling Christianity.  Nov 16, 1999
Hall fashions this latest, very readable work "an exercise in what is conventionally called Christian apologetics." Composed as a series of notes from a professor responding to a skeptical student's questions, Hall tackles the questions of why one might chose Christianity, why Jesus is essential to the faith, how we might consider salvation in a modern context, how the Holy Spirit is involved, and why the church matters. It is a most simple exploration of some preliminary questions for those interested in the Christian faith. It is strange that the author aligns himself with the task of Christian apologetics. Traditionally, such a work was assumed to involve a defense of classical understandings of the Christian faith in the wake of modern questions and challenges being raised against them. Hall's work does not attempt to explore classical Christian doctrines, what might be termed "orthodoxy." While clinging to the terminology of Trinitarian theology, he is comfortable redefining most orthodox doctrines into new, and quite different, beliefs. In fact, the book is not so much a systematic defense of anything as it is the musings of an Emeritus seminary professor in response to a student's questions. Rather than defending Christian doctrine, Hall reinterprets it in ways that might accommodate the modern ethos. Here are a few examples:

On Scripture: Love is at the center of the canon. Paul's discussion of love in 1Cor. 13 is central to the meaning of faith, while Paul's discussion of Jesus' death for our sins is dismissed as "ghastly." His doctrine of Scripture readily acknowledges historical critical scholarship, at one point qualifying a citation from Jesus as, "words attributed to Jesus by the author of the Gospel according to John" (p 41). Hall continuously refers to it as the "newer Testament." While he laments the loss of Scriptural authority in the liberal churches, but his own use of it is fairly selective. On Sin: Tipping his hat to Tillich, Hall redefines sin as "the anxiety of meaninglessness and despair" (p 56). Sin is generally disregarded, as the modern, Western conscience is no longer plagued with guilt. Instead, the anxiety we feel is over fear of our own superfluous existence. It is for this reason that Jesus came. In one of the only passages that mentions sin, the author says that Constantine's claims to military victory in the name of God were "pretty close to the essence of sin" (p 143), although Old Testament passages suggesting God's leading of the Hebrew army are not discussed. On Salvation: "There is of course no definitive 'conclusion' to our understanding of salvation.... 'What do we need to be saved from?' And the answer to that question will always depend on who 'we' are, precisely-corporately, personally" (61-2). The goal of salvation is not the reconciliation of God and humanity, but "health" or "wholeness." He says that heaven and hell are not his concern. On the Atonement: "I am with the liberals in their present Jesus as the innocent victim God needs in order to forgive the guilty" (p 49). The atonement is generally disregarded, and no explanation of it is given to replace the traditional understanding of substitutionary sacrifice. On the Resurrection: as far as I can tell, he doesn't mention it. On miracles: likewise not a subject of discussion. On Eschatology: nope. On the Sacraments: not discussed.

In general, Hall's work suffers two fatal flaws. First, his use of the Scripture is an arbitrary proof-texting the likes of which one might get from our televangelists. The themes have changed, but the disregard for the center of the texts is the same. Love is definitely at the heart of the Scriptures for Hall, but where the major theological themes of the Old and New Testaments have gone, Hall doesn't say. Second, Hall continues to maintain the language of Trinitarian systematic theology, referring to Trinity, salvation, sin, the Holy Spirit. However, he has redefined each of these doctrines individually so much so that they no longer resemble Christianity. The question is this: why keep the peel when you've discarded the fruit? There is no reason why Hall ought to hang on to the Trinity, when so much of orthodox Christianity has been laid aside for the sake of its modern audience. If the Scriptures do not define individual doctrines, there is no need to maintain the systematic structure which was originally derived from them. For a better explanation of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, I would refer to John Stott's Basic Christianity, and for a thinking person's explorations of reasons to believe, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Better read theology students would do well to explore the apologetics of William Lane Craig. In the end, I walked away from the book asking the question of its origin all the more. Dr. Hall, if Jesus didn't die for our sins, if he makes no claim to divinity, if is resurrection is irrelevant to an apology, then...why Christian?


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