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Author(s): John Macquarrie
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This text poses the question "what is theology?" and goes on to discuss issues of methodology, the relation of theology to other disciplines and different theological perspectives. It also investigates topics in the fields of philosophical theology (human existence; revelation; the language of theology; and Christianity and other religions), symbolic theology (triune God; doctrines of creation; the problem of evil and suffering; the person of Jesus Christ; and eschatology) and applied theology (the Church; ministry and mission; word and the sacraments; worship and prayer; and ethics).
John Macquarrie TD FBA was a Scottish-born theologian, philosopher and Anglican priest. He was the author of Principles of Christian Theology and Jesus Christ in Modern Thought.
The first edition of John Macquarrie's 'Principles of Christian Theology' was published in 1966; one of my systematic theology professors, who retired last year, told me this was a text he used when he was in graduate school, because at that time it was about the only contemporary text on theology that approached the subject from a broadly drawn but systematic approach, most others either being denominationally driven, or being the source texts (Calvin's 'Institutes', etc.). Macquarrie is an Anglican theologian, but this is not, strictly speaking, Anglican theology -- the Anglican tradition never produced signature theologians the way many other religious traditions after the Reformation did; while there are figures such as Hooker, Maurice, and Temple, none have the towering stature of a Luther, Calvin, or Wesley as they have in their traditions.
Macquarrie's systematic theology looks at all the classical topics in systematic theology (doctrine of God, Christology, eschatology, ecclesiology, etc.) approached through the lenss of a three-part division -- philosophical theology, symbolic theology, and applied theology. Philosophical theology draws in the connections between secular thought and theological reasoning; Macquarrie points out the distinction between philosophical theology and philosophy of religion. He draws a parallel (with important distinctions) between philosophical theology presented here and more 'old tradition' natural theology.
The second section on symbolic theology should not be confused with a topic such as symbolic logic. Macquarrie's idea of 'symbolic' comes closer to the old school of dogmatic theology -- the idea of the Trinity is a symbol in many ways, as are other important parts of theology. Many of these are derivative ideas, but share the distinction of being specific to the Christian faith.
Dogmatic theology often included other issues such as ecclesiology, sacraments, and more -- these Macquarrie reserves for the section on applied theology, those pieces that actually form structures. It is not a practical theology as such (preaching, liturgics, pastoral care, etc.), but does provide the theological underpinnings of such.
Despite this structure, there are no hard-and-fast boundaries, and the issues and topics spill over into one another. In a sense, the very structure is trinitarian at the core, three-in-one and one-in-three, with differences without distinctions. Macquarrie does a very good job at presenting different strands of thought within the topics, highlighting the crucial issues without declaring infallible pronouncements. Another noted theologian, Robert McAfee Brown, once commented regarding Macquarrie that he demonstrates 'scrupulous fairness and clarity, and yet maintains a distinctive position of his own.'
This work by McQuarrie examines the key ideas of Christian theology and expounds them at considerable length.
This book is fairly dense and very detailed and despite the fairly moderate length, takes a while to read and digest. I would recommend the intrepid reader (especially without a theologial background) try an easier text, such as McGrath's 'Introduction to Christian Theology', before reading this text.
Macquarrie points out the distinction between philosophical theology and philosophy of religion. He draws a parallel (with important distinctions) between philosophical theology presented here and more 'old tradition' natural theology. The second section on symbolic theology should not be confused with a topic such as symbolic logic. Macquarrie's idea of 'symbolic' comes closer to the old school of dogmatic theology -- the idea of the Trinity is a symbol in many ways, as are other important parts of theology. Many of these are derivative ideas, but share the distinction of being specific to the Christian faith.
'The book as a whole represents a splendid achievement of Christian spiritual insight and "rationale". Many readers will find that the reading of it confirms their faith...Professor Macquarrie has done our generation a real service in producing it.' -- Expository Times