The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction
By Veli-Matti Karkkainen
In his book, The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction, Karkkainen outlines two main purposes. First, he surveys the interpretations of God throughout Christian history beginning with the biblical testimonies. Second, he highlights the ongoing debate between classical theistic traditions and its modern and postmodern challengers. This attempts to be comprehensive and inclusive of all the major voices namely biblical, historical, and contemporary. It also incorporates minority perspectives of women and non-Western voices.
In part one, the author distinguishes the Christian God from other gods by engaging the Biblical tradition from which Christians base their faith and practice. Part two navigates the historical developments of classical theistic traditions in both patristic and medieval periods. Part three surveys major theologians who have shaped the Western understanding of God. Among them are Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Karl Rahner, Rudolf Bultmann, and Jurgen Moltmann. In parts four and five, Karkkainen introduces the theological dialogue between modern theism and the classical theistic tradition. He begins with North American perspectives that include the newer perspectives of Feminist, Womanist, Mujerista, Black, and Native American.
The final part of the book deals with reflections of God from non-Western perspectives. The author recognizes the shift of Christianity from the West to the non-Western world. Already, their theologians seek a genuinely African, Asian, or Latin American interpretation of God from their own particular contexts of poverty and pluralism. The author acknowledges with appreciation that “the communal emphasis of non-Western cultures will certainly help Western theologies rehabilitate the biblical communion theology” (300).
This is a good book. Any Christian interested in broadening their knowledge of the divine ought to read it. Karkkainen has splendidly mapped out a broad spectrum of voices in discussing the doctrine of God from global perspectives. The students in the Doctrine of God class [at Emmanuel] appreciated the inclusion of many voices in the discourse.
Reviewed by S. Kip Elolia, Professor of Theology and World Christianity