Do your own theology

testing tradition and liberating theologyReview by David Merritt

Book | Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology. Finding you own voice | Val Webb

This is a rare book that makes the story of how Christianity has developed over 20 centuries accessible in language most can readily understand. The author’s purpose is not primarily to help us understand history but to encourage us to do what people have done in every period of history – make sense of our heritage under the new circumstances in which we live.

Val Webb interweaves scholarly descriptions of significant figures in the story of Christianity with very personal and, at times, painful memories of her own journey. From her childhood in a conservative protestant tradition in Queensland to becoming a widely travelled speaker on contemporary religion, Ms Webb writes in the language of everyday life rather than the specialised jargon of academic theologians.

A glance through the detailed and very helpful index illustrates the extraordinary scope of the discussion: creeds, Karl Barth, creation, Martin Luther, prayer, Trinity, Reformation, the Basis of Union, salvation, spirituality, feminist theology. The index alone will make this a valuable resource for people with inquiring minds.

At times the cavalcade of people with different theologies through the ages becomes a bit overwhelming. But the main insight is reinforced throughout – there has never been only one way to think about God. And some chapters stand out as examples both of how new perspectives require new wisdom and of the results of “doing theology”. All make interesting reading as we live in a period of dramatic change.

The book ends with a quote from Asian theologian C S Song:

“Theology done with imagination and passion in the midst of a human community, inspired by a vision of a better tomorrow, will have to be done over and over. It has to start again – a new journey, a new adventure, a new pilgrimage, in short, a new beginning.”

With this book Val Webb has added to her reputation as one of the most helpful Australian voices about how to find a faith that works rather than walk away from what is unbelievable.

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