Item description for Readings in the History of Christian Theology, Volume 2: From the Reformation to the Present (Readings in the History of Christian Theology Vol. II) by William C. Placher...
Overview In this second volume of Readings in the History of Christian Theology, William C. Placher begins with a decisive transition, the Reformation of the sixteenth century, and opens with an excerpt from Martin Luther's The Freedom of a Christian. From the sixteenth century into the twentieth, he presents significant selections from works of the principal Protestant and Catholic thinkers, including present-day writers such as Gustavo Gutierrez and Rosemary Radford Ruether.
In this second volume of "Readings in the History of Christian Theology," William C. Placher begins with a decisive transition, the Reformation of the sixteenth century, and opens with an excerpt from Martin Luther's "The Freedom of a Christian." From the sixteenth century into the twentieth, he presents significant selections from works of the principal Protestant and Catholic thinkers, including present-day writers such as Gustavo Gutierrez and Rosemary Radford Ruether.
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Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 6.25" Height: 9.25" Weight: 0.75 lbs.
Release Date May 1, 1988
Publisher PRESBYTERIAN PUBLISHING #86
ISBN 0664240585 ISBN13 9780664240585
Reviews - What do customers think about Readings in the History of Christian Theology, Volume 2: From the Reformation to the Present (Readings in the History of Christian Theology Vol. II)?
Broad Range of Authors. Not deep enough on important ones. Sep 14, 2006
`Readings in the History of Christian Theology, Volumes 1 and 2' edited by William Placher are almost exactly the sort of thing I was looking for when I was planning an `advanced' Sunday School study group examining major commentators on Christian doctrines throughout the last 2000 years. I say almost, because the editing policy which selects small fragments from a large number of documents is really not what I had hoped. A second weakness is that oddly, some major documents were left out.
On the first point, an important discussion topic may be the Nag Hammadi documents, their reflection of Gnostic doctrines, and their relevance to Christian orthodoxy of the first 200 years of the Common Era. The editor includes the most important of these Gnostic gospels, the `Gospel of Thomas'. Unfortunately, the editor only sees fit to include a scant 12 out of the 114 verses printed in, for example, Bart D. Ehrman's `Lost Scriptures'. This is not nearly enough to accurately contrast this document with the canonical gospels on all major points such as the nature of Jesus and the Gnostic cosmology story, which is distinctly different from the one early Christians inherited from the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament).
On the second point, there are important highlights which I really wish would have been included such as the text of Martin Luther's 95 Theses and the writings of Jonathan Edwards on Free Will, especially as the snippet from Augustine is on the subject of Free Will and the topic comes up again in the selection from Blaise Pascal's `Pensees'.
On the whole, the book tries to cover all bases, even if that means the coverage is as thin as a leaf of phyllo dough. I would have much rather seen in the section on (Early) American theology less from Joseph Smith (Mormons) and Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (`Transcendentalist') and much more from Edwards, who was easily the very best American philosophical theologian even up to the present day, rivaling even Charles Saunders Peirce for the distinction of most important American philosopher.
The one thing that makes these failings even more regrettable is that the generally very good bibliography doesn't give references to complete texts for all sources such as any works of Jonathan Edwards or Soren Kierkegaard for example. I would also argue that some of the bibliographical references are not as strong as they could be, for example, the often criticized `The Gnostic Gospels' by writer for the layman, Elaine Pagals.
This pair of volumes remains a nicely inexpensive overview of source documents and a starting point for the study of same, but one could do a better job of providing a good source for all the most important post-canonical writings.
More of their own words... Jun 21, 2004
William Placher teaches religion and philosophy at a university nearby to my schools and residence; I've had the opportunity to hear him speak several times. During his time as a teacher, he has written books on religious studies, theology and history for use in classroom settings, and this two-volume set of readings is one such useful product of Placher's.
Originally intended to be reader companions to his earlier work, 'A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction' (1983), Placher discovered to his surprise and delight that these books are able to stand alone without the earlier volume as a useful narrative of the development of Christian ideas.
The second volume deals with Christianity from the time of the Reformation to (almost) the present day. The first chapter begins with the Reformation in earnest, looking at writings of key reformers -- Martin Luther, Menno Simons, Ulrich Zwingli, Thomas Muntzer, as well as some of the formative documents of the time. It is amazing the profound impact these ideas have had on Christianity Protestant and Catholic, and how relatively unknown these writings (and sometimes, the people themselves) are.
The next chapter looks at the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Response to the Reformation. Documents include pieces from the Council of Trent, writing of Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and Pascal (better known perhaps as a philosopher).
The English Reformation is the topic of the next chapter, including writings from John Calvin, John Knox, Richard Hooker, George Fox and others -- the English version of the Reformation took a diverse form, with Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, Quaker, and other free-church traditions beginning in uneasy community on the island of Great Britain.
Placher's fourth chapter here looks at theology and philosophy, particularly the period of the Enlightenment. This was a period of time when Christian ideas began to be influenced by and take account of outside disciplines in earnest. Writers not traditionally classified as theologians or religious are included here -- David Hume, Immanuel Kant, John Locke -- as well as names such as John Wesley.
The fifth chapter looks specifically at the early American expeirence of theology and Christian ideas, including religious leaders such as Thomas Hooker, Jonathan Edwards, Mary Baker Eddy and Joseph Smith, aas well as prophetic voices such as Sarah Grimke and Ralph Waldo Emerson, all of whom show a great spectrum of Christian expression as America grew as a nation.
The sixth and seventh chapters look at the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; if not the most profound in Christian history, certainly the most prolific and productive in terms of texts and thinkers. The nineteenth century theological enterprise was a largely northern European affair, with a dominance of Germanic scholars (Schleiermacher, Harnack, Feuerbach, Troeltsch, Kierkegaard, Schweitzer); this was also the period of the first Vatican Council, The twentieth century also saw a good deal of Germanic theological work (Barth, Bonhoeffer, Bultmann, Tillich, Rahner), but this began to give way to an English dominance (Whitehead, Niebuhr, Martin Luther King).
This leads into the final chapter, on new voices in theology, including people such as James Cone (Black theology), Gustavo Gutierrez (Latino/Hispanic, liberation theology), John Mbiti (African theology), and Rosemary Radford Ruether (feminist theology). Any selection of texts in this category is bound to be controversial; output is so frequent in some of these topics (and others not addressed here) that only the briefest exposure can be given to give the reader a sense of the divergent directions of theology, while keeping the text to a manageable size.
The books in this set are ecumenical in nature; it is generally Western in its bias, tending toward the northern-European and American development; of course, this is audience to whom Placher writes. This is not an institutional history, but rather a history of ideas. Placher has introductions to the chapters and again to each of the primary texts, but these are minimal percentage-wise of the overall text. Placher made the conscious effort to include the most common and familiar of the passages from history, making the persuasive argument that, for students, often the passages seemingly over-used by teachers and ministers, are in fact new.
No Better Way to Read Church History Apr 14, 2000
William Placher writes a history of the Reformed church which is accessible to an Adult sunday school class as well as graduate level students. Always careful to include general movements in history as well as the church's specific crises, Placher offers the reader a full contact history - one unabashedly profound history text!