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Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth (Living Theology) [Paperback]

By John R. Franke (Author) & Brian D. McLaren (Foreword by)
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Item description for Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth (Living Theology) by John R. Franke & Brian D. McLaren...

In this provocative yet thoughtful book, Franke argues that orthodox and biblical Christian faith is inherently pluralist, and that this diversity, far from being a problem that needs to be overcome, is in fact a blessing and part of the divine design and intention for the church.

Publishers Description
If Christians are part of the one body of Christ, how do we account theologically for the multiple expressions of our common faith? If God is ultimate truth, why is it so difficult to agree on issues related to truth? Must we sacrifice a commitment to truth in favor of a pragmatic unity in the church? Or must we hold on to our perception of the truth at the expense of fracturing the church? For John Franke, truth versus unity is a false dichotomy. In this provocative yet thoughtful book, he argues that orthodox and biblical Christian faith is inherently pluralist, and that this diversity, far from being a problem that needs to be overcome, is in fact a blessing from God and part of the divine design and intention for the church. Suggesting that Christians should affirm the reality of ultimate truth, but cautioning humility regarding our grasp of it, Frankesets forth a relational theologyin which the many expressions of revealed truth Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Scripture, along with a diverse church together witness to the expansiveness of the one God. John Franke asserts the plurality of truth, not as a capitulation to non- or anti-Christian thought, but rather as an expression of profoundly Christian thought and specifically, of emergent, missional, and Trinitarian Christian thought. In so doing, he gently implies that the dominant alternative view that white, modernist, Western Christian scholars and institutions have a monopoly on truth is actually a capitulation to modes of thought and power that have betrayed the life and gospel of Jesus Christ. From the foreword by Brian McLaren A refreshing study of plurality and diversity as something intrinsic to the nature of Christianity rather than as something extraneous to it. Lucid and lively, the book makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion about the religion s emerging profile in the twenty-first century. I am entirely in agreement with John Franke that faith is embodied, that theology is rooted in practice and experience, and that the gospel shapes and is shaped by culture. Manifold Witness tracks the manifold trails of Christianity s impact on persons and societies. It should find welcome response in theological study and teaching. Lamin Sanneh, Professor of World Christianity and Director, World Christianity Initiative, at Yale Divinity School, Professor of History at Yale University, and author of Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture and Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity Why is there a Trinity of persons and a quartet of Gospels? Do not relation and difference, context and plurality lie at the very heart of the Christian tradition? Is not the infinite resourcefulness of love enhanced by change and alterity? These are the kinds of questions that John Franke addresses in a bold, sweeping, and lucid presentation of the ongoing renewal of the life of the church. Manifold Witness is the fruit of a tenacious faith in the Christian tradition and a no-less-tenacious faith in the power of truth. John D. Caputo, Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Humanities at Syracuse University and author of What Would Jesus Deconstruct? The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church John Franke s Manifold Witness is the most Reformed book I have ever read. Why? It is the first I have read that not only believes the human mind has been impacted by the Fall but also that carries this through into how the Bible makes truth claims. We need manifold witnesses because, as humans, no one author can grasp the whole Story. If it takes a village to nurture a child, it takes the manifold voices of the Bible and the church to nurture the church. Boldness, braced up by humility, marks every page of this book. Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University and author of A Community Called Atonement With clarity, grace, and practical insight, John Franke argues convincingly that the plurality of witnesses in Christian tradition is not a hindrance but a gift that rescues us from both the rigid dogmatism that constricts God s truth and the anything goes pluralism that trivializes it. Danielle Shroyer, pastor of Journey Church in Dallas, Texas, and author of The Boundary Breaking God: An Unfolding Story of Hope and Promise An honest, passionate, engaging, and spirit-raising book Franke s humble, bold articulation of the crux of the emerging church conversation, centered on the Bible and tradition, is confessional yet inclusive. He genuinely celebrates the gifts of the plurality of the church in diverse witnesses and the unity of the reconciling love of God in Jesus mission. Andrew Sung Park, Professor of Theology at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio I cannot think of a more important nor relevant topic than the nature of Truth, with a capital T. It shapes and influences how we think, believe, and act. In a world of competing truth claims it is easy and common to end the conversation by retreating to our own familiar tradition. John Franke wants us to do more, to think deeply and faithfully about a wonderfully provocative notion, the plurality of truth. This book will be an invaluable resource for preachers and teachers. John Buchanan, Pastor, Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, and Editor/Publisher of The Christian Century Manifold Witness will truly help Christians committed to the apostolic faith understand that a plurality of views and interpretations, rather than contradicting that faith, stands at its very core Justo L. Gonzalez, author of A Concise History of Christian Doctrine and A History of Christian Thought "

Citations And Professional Reviews
Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth (Living Theology) by John R. Franke & Brian D. McLaren has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Books & Culture - 07/01/2012 page 32

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Abingdon Press
Pages   176
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.55 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2009
Publisher   Abingdon Church Supplies
Series  Living Theology  
Series Number  1  
ISBN  0687491959  
ISBN13  9780687491957  

Availability  0 units.

More About John R. Franke & Brian D. McLaren

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! John R. Franke (D.Phil., University of Oxford) is associate professor of theology and chair of the faculty at Biblical Theological Seminary. He is the coauthor of "Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context "and editor of "Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel" in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series.

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Discipleship
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4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth (Living Theology)?

Engaging, But Unfulfilling  Mar 5, 2010
John Franke has written an engaging book, and the subject matter is eternally relevant and always controversial: truth. In Manifold Witness, Franke is arguing for an ever-present plurality within Christian truth claims. Throughout his work, Franke engages questions concerning the nature of truth, the nature of God, explains deconstruction as a vital practice for Christian theological reflection, and adds a proposed approach to theology based on his concept of "manifold witness." From start to finish, this is an interesting read that takes up many important contemporary concerns.

Franke raises some helpful questions, such as whether a historic Christian faith exists. Relying on the work of Andrew Wall, Franke posits what the Christian faith would look like overtime to a space alien researching human religious culture. Focusing on Christianity in particular, Franke asks if the alien would recognize any coherence at all, and if the Vincentian rule of the faith, that which has been believed "everywhere and by all," could be successfully applied. Franke believes it could not. While there would be some similarities found within the Christian faith as it has been professed across time, Franke believes there is more diversity than there is unity, and as such can be considered an evidence for the plurality of truth. While Franke's scenario is plausible, I humbly disagree. Plurality of expression, and particular emphases on certain facets of Christian doctrine and practice over time to meet specific needs and specific cultural situations does not automatically negate a unified "deposit" of Christian faith that has been constant across traditions and across time. Plurality of expression does not exclude unity and singularity of truth.

Franke's work also is Trinitarian, and for this reason is to be commended. The resurgence of Trinitarian theology has been good news for Christianity, and has led to deepening reflection in particular on the social nature of the Godhead, which is Franke's focus here. Franke extends the sociality of the Trinity to the loving, missional impulse of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who are now at work to bring to full expression the redemption that has been made possible through Jesus Christ. This presentation of the Trinity does have some strengths, as it can serve as grounds for the ministry of the local church and the imperative for engagement and service to the world. However, throughout Franke's discussion of the Trinity, I couldn't shake the sense that the plurality of God was being stressed over and above the unity of the Godhead in a way that is unwarranted. It is as though the commitment to truth as plural was driving the assertion that the Trinity's plurality takes precedence over the Divine Oneness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In the final analysis, I can't help but wonder how Franke's presentation in Manifold Witness is able to discern which expressions of the plurality of truth can be upheld and considered authoritative for the body of Christ. While his critiques of cultural superiority (the belief that one particular cultural expression of Christianity can be universalized over all others) are extremely helpful and humbling, for the Church as a whole, I cannot see how such an approach to truth allows for discernment between what, in fact, is true and false. It seems that in the end, the plurality would be favored over the unity, for the ground for unity is evasive.

This is an interesting read in contemporary theology, and those with a postmodern bent might particularly find it compelling. But in the end, I found the book a good read that left me a bit empty, hoping for more. While I recognize that mystery is a facet of Christian faith, I'm seeking for some firm ground to stand upon while engaging in contemplation of Christian truth. The search continues.
The truth about truth  Jan 7, 2010
While the topic of truth gets a lot of air-time these days, few actually take the time to define what they are talking about or move beyond critiquing the "other side." Franke though stays true to an evangelical affirmation of truth while at the same time thoughtfully engaging with the reality of pluralism. His nuanced approach to the discussion doesn't rubber-stamp any extreme, but admits the complexity associated with faith and truth. And for that, I found his work to be refreshing. He admits upfront that "the expression of biblical and orthodox Christian faith is inherently and irreducibly pluralist" (7). But this isn't an in-your-face assertion that must be swallowed whole; it is instead the idea that the whole book seeks to unpack and explore. With a faithful commitment to scripture and a tender compassion for the reader, Franke demonstrates how pluralism is not something to be feared or fought but is instead simply a beautiful intrinsic aspect of not just our faith but all creation.

I appreciated how Franke in his discussion of truth quickly moved beyond the absolute and relative dichotomies. Neither accurately represents truth as the first tries to commoditize it for the sake of power and the second deny it in the name of tolerance. Pluralism and truth are far more complex than the extreme camps allow us to admit. Our world is diverse, as is our faith. And Franke rightly points out that culture and our faith is always changing, God never leaves us where we are at, but is constantly transforming us with the gospel. The constant renewing of our minds allows us to faithfully claim traditions in the church as well as celebrate the new things God is doing. The celebration of plurality affirms the "importance of multiple perspectives in the apprehension and communication of truth" (40). Just as The Father, Son, and Spirit are one even as they are different, the church can be one while living fully into our own diversity.

I also was grateful for Franke's assertion that we can never let our particular cultural setting trump our commitment to truth. We are situated in culture, but when we start to assume that our cultural habits are the only way to present truth, we are in fact limiting God and truth. Scripture and God cannot be subject to cultural assumptions, but must be celebrated in their plurality. Similarly, we should remember that God doesn't seek to assimilate the Other and make us all the same either. Franke brilliantly reminds us that we can be silencing God when we do not listen to voices that might not fit our accepted cultural theological norms. He writes, "theology is not a universal language. It is situated language that reflects the goals, aspirations, and beliefs of a particular people, a particular community" (94). If we are to affirm the plurality that God affirms, we must thoughtfully seek out the diversity of theological voices. This was a poignant wake-up call for me as I too often only listen to the voices of those similar to me. I need to be striving to affirm God by affirming the truth of the many legitimate enculturations of the faith.

Manifold Witness is accessible, but it is also challenging. Franke goes places that others have avoided - not for the sake of controversy, but out of a deep desire to be faithful. His commitment to loving and serving God is apparent on every page of this book making his exploration of the plural nature of truth a gift to the Christian community. I highly recommend this book not just for those caught up in the discussion of truth, but to all Christians eager to celebrate our expansive God in the full diversity of his church.

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