“At the heart of this systematic theology is the sense of God as the giver of all good gifts, their fount, luminous source, fecund treasury, and store house.” Kathryn Tanner
Kathryn Tanner’s Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity served as my own introduction to contemporary systematic theology. Though I had already familiarized myself with many of the most significant historical theologians beginning from Christianity’s inception, Tanner’s work opened up to me the exciting possibilities that still exist with systematic theology. In terms of impact on my own thinking, this work remains the most significant within my library thus far. She started the book due to the ongoing need for Christians today to figure out for themselves what their faith is all about. From the beginning, this book is deeply practical while still retaining its rigorous academic character.
The general theological principle that Tanner employs as the basis for interacting with the traditional loci of Christian theology is that God wants to give us the fullness of God’s own life through the close relationship that comes to us through the Incarnation. It is this gift-giving of God’s own self that forms the lens through which all beliefs and dogma are filtered. Through the bringing about of unity between God and humanity that comes to completion in Jesus Christ, God is able to once again give of Godself to humanity as this unity is further effected through the ongoing process of the Christian life. This, according to Tanner, redeems humanity back towards fulfilling the original intentions God had for them: unity with Godself. Through her notion of God’s fullness prior to the Incarnation, Tanner can talk about the non-competitive nature of God’s gift-giving, which then becomes the basis for human inter-personal relationships here on earth as the intended shape of human life. This theological method is, to me, what systematic theology is all about. This book taught me how to take more general theological principles and apply them to the various doctrines of the Christian faith. While Tanner’s book only briefly deals with the topics of Jesus, the Trinity and eschatology, the theological method just mentioned can be used in any number of areas of inquiry for the theologian.
In doing systematic theology, one must relate many theological loci together through some sort of system, hence the name. It is not so much duplicating Tanner’s guiding principle that makes this book meaningful to me, but it is rather the model that is presented in this work. I immediately knew after reading her brief work that I, like Tanner, wanted to make a contribution to academic theology. What makes Tanner’s work special to me is its academic character in pursuit of benefitting Christian individuals. It is not so much practical theology, but theology that is relevant to the current situation Christians find themselves in. This is exactly why I want to do theology in areas of impact for the contemporary church. This type of systematic theology need not be limited to the more traditional and worn out doctrines because our modern situation calls for theologians to increasingly tackle issues which have historically been on the fringe of systematic theology.
Here is the amazon link to the book.