A Handbook of Contemporary Theology | David L. Smith

Have you ever had a religious discussion with someone that made you feel uneasy? Perhaps the logic of their position seemed to make sense, but you could sense something was fundamentally different from what you believe? Smith’s Handbook is a decent introductory way to acquaint yourself with the details of various theological beliefs.

The book is divided into two sections. The first part explains the major theologies (Fundamentalism, Orthodoxy, Evangelicalism, etc.). The second section tries to define more nebulous concepts such as Prosperity ‘Gospel’ and New Age Spirituality.

There’s a lot of good basic information here. You can tell that Smith was a professor of this subject by the way his information is so logically laid out. That’s a good thing.

The problem lies in Smith’s perspective. He’s clearly influenced by Southern Baptist-style fundamentalism (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), yet he never identifies his beliefs. This becomes a problem at the end of each chapter. After each of the 18 theologies, he takes a page or so to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each system. It would have been better if he had clearly stated his beliefs at the outset, rather than making the reader question his level of bias.

The second problem with this book (no fault of the author!) is its age. The theological landscape has shifted quite a bit over the last two decades. While it’s interesting to read about the state of modern theology in 1992—the book’s quite deficient in describing today’s world.

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