Olsen, Roger E.

Story of Christian Theology, The


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Roger E. Olson, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999, 6×9″ hardbound, 652 pages. 

Named a 2000 Book of the Year by Christianity Today and won an ECPA Gold Medallion Award (theology and doctrine category.)

This is an ideal text–scholarly, readable, and up to date. It presents theological history in an engaging narrative form which educates interested Christians and students of religion in their heritage.

History is made up of stories–narratives that recount the events, movements, ideas and lives that have shaped religions and nations. Theologian Roger Olson believes that the history of Christian theology should be told as such a story, one replete with thick plots, exciting twists, interesting people and fascinating ideas.

In this panoramic work of historical theology Olson vividly recounts the deeds and words of the cultists and apostolic fathers of the second century, the clash between the theological schools of Alexandria and Antioch, the epochal division between East and West, the revolutionary advent of the Reformation and much more, right on up to the dazzling, sometimes dismaying fallout that has continued to shake Christians through the twentieth century. Through it all Olson detects and traces a common thread: a concern for salvation–God’s redemptive activity in forgiving and transforming sinful human beings.

Evenhanded, refreshingly readable, impressive in its breadth and depth, The Story of Christian Theology is poised to become a standard historical theology text.


Abbreviations & General Information for Readers

Preface & Introduction: Christian Theology as Story

Part I: The Opening Act: Conflicting Christian Visions in the Second Century

1. Critics & Cultists Cause Confusion

2. The Apostolic Fathers Explain the Way

3. The Apologists Defend the Faith

4. Irenaeus Exposes Heresies

Part II: The Plot Thickens: Third-Century Tensions & Transformations

5. North African Thinkers Examine Philosophy

6. Origen of Alexandria Leaves a Troubling Legacy

7. Cyprian of Carthage Promotes Unity

8. Christianity Gets Its Act Together

Part III: A Great Crisis Rocks the Church: The Controversy About the Trinity

9. Alexandrians Argue About the Son of God

10. The Church Responds at the Council of Nicea

11. Athanasius Stubbornly Keeps the Faith

12. The Cappadocian Fathers Settle the Issue

Part IV: Another Crisis Shakes the Church: The Conflict Over the Person of Christ

13. The Schools of Antioch & Alexandria Clash over Christ

14. Nestorius & Cyril Bring the Controversy to a Head

15. Chalcedon Protects the Mystery

16. Fallout from the Conflict Continues

Part V: A Tale of Two Churches: The Great Tradition Divides Between East & West

17. Augustine Confesses God’s Glory & Human Depravity

18. The Western Church Becomes Roman Catholic

19. The Eastern Church Becomes Eastern Orthodox

20. The Great Schism Creates Two Traditions Out of One

Part VI: The Saga of the Queen of Sciences: Scholastics Revive & Enthrone Theology

21. Anselm & Abelard Speculate About God’s Ways

22. Thomas Aquinas Summarizes Christian Truth

23. Nominalists, Reformers & Humanists Challenge the Scholastic Synthesis

Part VII: A New Twist in the Narratives: The Western Church Reforms & Divides

24. Luther Rediscovers the Gospel & Divides the Church

25. Zwingli & Calvin Organize Protestant Thought

26. Anabaptists Go Back to the Roots of Christianity

27. Rome & Canterbury Go Separate But Parallel Ways

Part VIII: The Center of the Story Falls Apart: Protestants Follow Diverse Paths

28. Arminians Attempt to Reform Reformed Theology

29. Pietists Seek to Renew Lutheran Theology

30. Puritans & Methodists Struggle to Revive English Theology

31. Deists Try to Transform Protestant Theology

Part IX: The Overall Plots Divides: Liberals & Conservatives Respond to Modernity

32. Liberal Theology Accommodates to Modern Culture

33. Conservative Theology Hardens Traditional Categories

34. Neo-Orthodoxy Transcends the Divide

35. Contemporary Theology Struggles with Diversity

Conclusion: The Unfinished Story & Its Future

Additional information

Weight 3 lbs