Book Review: For the Life of the World

A review for Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun’s book For the Life of the World: Theology that Makes a Difference (Brazos Press, 2019). 

In the brave new world of pluralism and competing universalities, the queen has been dethroned (44). For ages, theology, even “academic” theology, was the one “science” humanity looked to for help with life’s questions of truth and goodness (57). Now, instead of looking to academic theology for answers, humanity has turned to technology and the hard sciences for life direction. Due to an identity crisis (external and internal) in the guild, academic theologians have lost their place of prominence amongst the ivory towers of academia. Consequently, academic theology lost value in a world searching for answers. Even the church has no place for academic theologians.

When they should be front and center proclaiming the potentiality of a flourishing life with the world as “God’s home” (7) they fluster about gesticulating repristinations or ongoing critique. In their search for significance, they find a shrinking job market (36), a shrinking audience (39), and a shrinking reputation (43). In an effort to cope, they shy away from the truth and turn inward leading to reductions of theology (46), and distortions of normativity (51). The result? Theology is no longer a theology for the life of the world, it is a theology for a guild of specialized academics.

For academic theology to reestablish relevance, academic theologians must return to their first love (Rev 2:4). Love for the person and work of Jesus Christ and the flourishing life he exemplified while he walked among us, needs renewal. They must repent and do the things they did at first. With love for God and the world, their love for knowledge must align with modes of thinking prayer as they seek to proclaim the message of a crucified and risen Lord who is the hope of the world and the hope of a truly flourishing life.