When Dr Oord asked me to review this book, I was in a bit of a quandary. Why would a theologian want my opinion about his newest book? Theology is just a hobby of mine, like my interest in cultural anthropology. I think maybe because I had written him about I much I enjoyed his earlier book, Relational Holiness and have engaged in online discussions with him, he must have thought I would have something interesting to say.
Being a counselor educator by profession, I am frequently evaluating the writings of my students, the research pertaining to my field and am trying to incorporate my hobbies into my professional life, looking for overlap. This book did bring together my profession and my hobbies.
I was glad to write this short review. I am new to the field of Relational Theology. Hopefully without being offensive, I would retitle the book, Relational Theology for Dummies. I don’t say that because I think that the book is not worthy of reading, I say it because it is a perfect book for someone like me: someone who is not a professional theologian, but someone who wants to understand the Relational branch of Christian theology in a simple format
This is a very easy read and covers many different areas of Relational Theology. It contains 31 chapters that are short and heavily edited. These chapters are grouped into four sections: 1) Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective, 2) Biblical Witness in Relational Perspective, 3) The Christian Life in Relational Perspective, and 4) Ethics and Justice in Relational Perspective. There were several contributors I recognized and even some with whom I have been personally acquainted: Callen, Oord, Lodahl, Flood, Winslow, Thompson, Peterson, Leclerc, Salguero, Mann and many others.
To give you a flavor of the book, I’ll share with you some of my favorites sections:
- “God is understood to be truly personal, loving, and not manipulative (7).”
- “God’s grace works powerfully, but not irresistibly, in matters of human life and salvation. God empowers our “response-ability” without overriding our genuine responsibility (8).”
- “God created humanity to be in responsible relationship with Him, and to find its identity – the “image of God” – in relationship. Yet humanity sought to become independent of its Creator and claim self-sufficiency (15).”
- “God is love, and if we truly live in relationship with God, we will live in love with others and all creation (16).”
- “When we explore relationship through the notions of love and trust, we see that faith and relationship become inseparable (34).”
- “A relational interpretation of the Christian faith proceeds on the assumption that God has created us human beings to be loved and to love … sin is a term that may be identified with any falling short of God’s ideal for us: a life of love (37).”
- “Through intimate union with God in Christ in a living personal relationship, we are transformed into His likeness. We do not merely follow His example. Rather, we become Christlike through abiding in Christ, through living in God (41).”
- “To read Scripture as the Church means that we read with God and with one another. We listen to what God calls of us as the people of God. We also listen to one another, as we discern what that call might even mean for us, at this time and in this place (60).”
- “Prayer is waking up to the presence of God (67).”
- “Too many of us function like atheists when it comes to prayer. We claim belief in God, but we do not act on it (68).”
- “God not only created us for relationship, God also seeks to restore and strengthen that relationship when strained (81).”
- “Love is at the heart of ethics (89).”
- “God is love. Love attempts to care for all people. Love considers how power affects the lives of people (94).”
- “Holiness only exists in it expression, which is love (102).”
- “God has freely created all that is … creatures are free because they have been created by God to reflect and embody God’s loving freedom (108).”
- “Obedience, which reflects love and gratitude, cannot be forced, because the nature of love requires freedom to obey (112).”
- “When freedom to obey means freedom to disobey, the relational God pursues the exiles from Eden. God reminds them they could choose restoration and peace (112).”
- “All creation is interrelated and creation is ongoing. God is both Creator at the beginning and continues to create today (114).”
This book is an exciting compilation of the best of today’s Relational Theologians that quickly became very meaningful to me as I ponder my relationship with God. I could easily have quoted many more sections of this book and would heartily recommend that you read it as well.
One of the things that I like about this book is also its biggest weakness. This book is edited so that the chapters are short, less than four pages. That made it easy for an armchair theologian like myself who needs time to digest concepts and not feel overwhelmed in jargon. However the short chapters, in an attempt to explain concepts, at times seemed a bit disjointed, jumping from one concept to another within the same chapter, reading a bit choppy.
One suggestion for the reprint as I’m sure that this book will become popular: I would suggest that each chapter reference the author's recommended bibliography. This would help the reader follow-up in more detail the chapters that interest him/her more.
My grateful thanks is extended to Dr Oord for providing me with a copy of this book. I would recommend you purchase this book if you desire a cursory overview of Relational Theology. It is the first serving of a theological meal that won’t completely whet your appetite but leave you hungry for a bigger helping.
BE A MAN.