You may be familiar with my Facebook and Twitter pages, where I have a weekly segment called #ThursdayTheology. There I provide short, substantive quotes from important theological thinkers past and present. One of the most frequent sources is Alister McGrath.

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McGrath serves as professor of science and religion at Oxford University. He earned three doctorates from Oxford in science, intellectual history, and theology. A truly prolific author, McGrath has written more than 50 books in such fields as science, theology, and apologetics. I have read many of his books and have found his writings deeply informing and inspiring.

What follows are four provocative quotes from McGrath on theology and apologetics that I’ve used in my social media Theological Thursday segment, along with a brief reaction to them.

1. On Jesus Christ

“If Christianity has a center, it is Jesus Christ. It is impossible for the Christian to talk about God, salvation, or worship without bringing Jesus into the discussion, whether explicitly or implicitly.”1

It is said that Christianity is Christ. The faith is all about his life, death, and resurrection. We know God through Christ and we know the Father and the Holy Spirit through the incarnate Son. We also embrace salvation by believing that Jesus Christ has made us right with God through doing (keeping God’s law) and dying (atoning for our failures to keep God’s law) on the cross of Calvary.

2. On Revelation

“Islam speaks of a revelation from God, where Christianity speaks of a revelation of God.”2

One of the central differences between Islam and Christianity concerns the different forms of revelation found in the two religions. Muslims view Muhammad as a prophet of God who delivers the inspired text, the Qur’an. Thus Muslims believe they have a revelation from God. Historic Christians view Jesus Christ as God in human flesh. Thus Christians believe they have a revelation of God. In Christianity, God has come to the world in person.

3. The Revelation in Christ

“The basic idea we find throughout the New Testament is that Christians worship and know the same God as Israel. Nevertheless, Christians hold that this God is revealed supremely and finally in Christ.”3

The biblical religions of Judaism and Christianity share much in common. McGrath is right—Christians do worship the same God as the Jews in the following sense: Christians believe in the Jewish Messiah. Yet the revelation that comes in and through Jesus Christ is supreme and final and thus includes the Trinity, the incarnation, and Jesus’s atonement on the cross. In other words, Christians worship Israel’s God fully revealed.

4. God’s Providential Presence

“God is always with us, a gracious and consoling presence on the journey of life, even as we ‘walk through the valley of the shadow of death.’”4

The Scriptures reveal that God is everywhere present and yet he specially indwells all of his people through the Holy Spirit. The Lord is also graciously with believers when they die and leave this life for the intimate presence of God. Christians can be thankful for God’s faithful watchfulness over his people.

What impresses me about Alister McGrath is his ability to speak and write authoritatively in such diverse fields as science, theology, and intellectual history. His diligence has provided all of us with ample intellectual reflection to consider.

Reflections: Your Turn

Are there Christian theologians that you’ve learned from? Who are they? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

Endnotes
  1. Alister E. McGrath, Christianity: An Introduction (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1997), 75.
  2. McGrath, Christianity.
  3. Alister E. McGrath, Theology: The Basics (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004), 18.
  4. Alister E. McGrath, Surprised by Meaning (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2011), 6.

 

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.



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