The SCM Studyguide Christian Doctrine engages readers by developing theological conversations between his or her own 'ordinary theology', on the one hand, and the theological resources of ecclesiastical and academic theology, on the other. Students get a clear view of the wide canvas of Christian doctrine, including a range of different theological positions. This study of doctrine helps those who are seeking a form of Christian thinking and spirituality - and possibly ministry - that is true to their own lives, and takes their own hesitations and doubts seriously. Each chapter is broken up into sections and interspersed with boxes which introduce pertinent extracts from classical and contemporary theologians, together with short exercises or aids to reading these texts, or provide explanations of technical theological terms. Each chapter has questions for reflection and/or discussion, together with suggestions for further reading.
Jeff Astley is Director of the North of England Institute for Christian Education, and an honorary professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University.
Jeff Astley has provided the doctrine volume missing from SCM's largely excellent Studyguide series. His contribution is up to the standard of the best of these books. He writes fluently and clearly, with pleasing turns of phrase. The style is marked by profuse use of quotations. These are consistently well chosen . . . The centre of gravity is Anglican, but gently so. . . . Astley begins with theological methodology. This may not be where the complete beginner would want to start, but he soon engages the reader by relating methodology to questions that reflective churchgoers are likely to have asked themselves. Then come chapters on the Church and the relation of theology to Christian practice [that] are particularly strong. . . . The theological tone represents a confidence in broadly traditional positions combined with a willingness to survey the other options that have been put forward. The result has more of a sense of coherence than this commitment to breadth might suggest. Sometimes he is fairly categorical about the virtues of the orthodox view, especially in Christology. When it comes to creation and the doctrine of God, however, he is more willing to leave startlingly divergent opinions in play. . . . The chart of Christological positions . . . is a surprisingly useful summary'.
-- Church Times
The "SCM Studyguide to Christian Doctrine" is pitched at undergraduate level one; an introductory text for those beginning serious study of theology. It presents issues in both the method and content of doctrine, and provides a rich introduction to the different aspects of studying the beliefs of Christian faith ... As well as being an excellent introduction, I suspects that this is a book that students of theology will refer back to each time that they start a new topic, or to remind themselves of some of the main aspects of particular Christian doctrine. The most significant contribution of this book, however, is the tone that it sets for studying theology. The reader is very clearly invited to take responsibility for her or his own learning and beliefs, as well as being encouraged to contribute to the rich and dynamic conversation which is Christian theology.'
As someone who teaches an introductory course on doctrine I am always on the lookout for new books which are stimulating, accessible and which help students to see how second-order theological thinking and language are compatible with, and even helpful to, the life of faith and the practical demands of ministry. Astley's work in "ordinary theology" equips him to undertake this task with particular skill, and he organizes his SCM Studyguide . . . beginning with the more concrete and experiential [doctrines] before moving on to abstract processes and concepts. This method is what marks the book out from the many other excellent introductions to doctrine on the market. . . . There are some excellent summaries of key doctrinal positions, for example, on the Eucharist, on sin and salvation, and on Trinitarian terms. Astley often goes further to offer additional interpretive possibilities, as with the section "Other Insights?" on models of atonement . . . Throughout it is apparent that this text is the work of someone who has been engaged with theological concepts and with other human beings grappling with these concepts for a very long time, and who is at home in finding ways of communicating complex ideas in clear and varied ways. . . . [This is] a book that is ambitious, wide-ranging, engaging and aware of the need to keep doctrine rooted in wider Christian existence. It will be appearing on my students' reading list this year and for years to come'.
-- Journal of Adult Theological Education.
Astley's introductory text to theology is a masterpiece of clarity and an excellent contribution to the SCM "Studyguide" series. . . . This is no dry and dusty tome, as chapter headings themselves amply indicate. . . . Chapter 7 moves into the Christological minefield [where] Astley's pedagogical strengths triumph. I do not think I have ever come across such a clear, albeit pithy yet . . . sensible and helpful presentation of the myriad of options and alternatives for interpretation and theological understanding. Standard Christological 'isms'. . . are succinctly summarized. Outlines of the classical solutions to the dominical question - Who do you say I am? - are a godsend for the instructor of an introductory course to this most vexed arena of Christian theology. . . . The end of this book marks but the reader's commencement of a journey into a deeper exploration of this mystery having gained a firm grounding, orientation and compass upon which to set out. And, in the process of being so equipped, the reader has been introduced to a range of excellent Christian thinkers and authors, for another of the strengths of this work is the substantial use made of apposite quotations from a most impressive selection of theologians. Thus the attentive student has not only been introduced to the range and nature of theology as a subject, but to a balanced range of classic and contemporary Christian thinkers, supported by a most comprehensive bibliography and helpful further reading section. This book will make an excellent beginners' text - the purpose for which it was designed - but also a useful basis for more advanced discussion groups of what Astley is pleased to call "ordinary theologians". . . And for many ordained, this book provides a helpful refresher and a useful reference.
-- Reviews in Religion & Theology
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