Christology

A Global Introduction

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Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
  • Grand Rapids, MI: 
    Baker Academic
    , April
     2016.
     256 pages.
     $26.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780801030888.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Thirteen years after the release of the first edition of his Christology: A Global Introduction, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen has revised his seminal text. In the amended edition, Kärkkäinen has added an entire section that explores religious views of Jesus outside of Christianity, and he has augmented it with new sections on contextual christologies. Moreover, Kärkkäinen has enhanced original parts of the text with insights that he has gained from subsequent research. All of these supplements offer significant value to a text that already stood in its own right.

Kärkkäinen’s book is divided into four parts. The first part examines biblical depictions of Jesus with one chapter focusing upon the gospels and another chapter paying attention to Pauline texts. The next part considers christology from the patristic era to the modern period. It begins with a study of the early creeds and moves to the beginning of the quest for the historical Jesus. The third part summaries contemporary christologies, including views from Europe, North America, the Global South, and other contextual perspectives (e.g., feminist, Black, womanist, Hispanic American, Latino/a, postcoloanial, queer, Asian American, and Native American). The fourth and final part surveys how several religious traditions—particularly Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism—understand Jesus.

Kärkkäinen’s book provides a balanced and neutral overview of multifarious christologies. His goal seems to inform his readers of the diversity of views concerning Christ. I did not detect an underlying agenda whereby he was attempting to push his beliefs upon the reader. Rather, he provided fair portrayals of each position. In my opinion, Kärkkäinen’s method is appropriate, given the nature of this book as an introductory text. This method lends itself to using the text in a variety of manners, but I think that this could be a very effective text in undergraduate and seminary theology classes. Besides these uses, individuals who want to deepen their grasp of christology are likely to benefit from reading this book.

I commend Kärkkäinen for representing a broad assortment of theological perspectives. While his text is certainly informative, there were times, however, where I would have appreciated further elaboration. For example, I think that the section on Buddhist perspectives, specifically that of Pure Land Buddhism, could have benefited from a discussion of Buddhist and Christian views concerning grace. Also, his discussion on Islam could have been supplemented by drawing attention to Islamic views of Christ’s return alongside Muhammad to initiate God’s final judgment. Understandably, an introductory text cannot cover every topic in great depth. Nevertheless, if Kärkkäinen retools Christology into a third edition at a later date, I think that my suggestions would be beneficial additions to consider. On the other hand, where the text occasionally lacks depth, it could be supplemented with lectures by a university professor, making it effective for a classroom setting.

In conclusion, Kärkkäinen’s book, Christology: A Global Introduction, given its wide scope, has the potential to be a perennial classic when it comes to introductory books on christology. The improvements made in this new edition only add to the argument that it should be a staple text in preliminary studies concerning christology.

About the Reviewer(s): 

David Bradnick is an instructor in philosophy at Harrisburg Area Community College.

Date of Review: 
September 26, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (DrTheol, University of Helsinki) is professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, where he has taught for over fifteen years. He is also docent of ecumenics at the University of Helsinki, Finland. A prolific writer, Kärkkäinen has authored or edited numerous books, including Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective; The Doctrine of God: A Global Introduction; and a five-volume project, A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World, that aims to develop a new approach to and method of doing Christian theology.

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