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Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology cover by Dr Val Webb. Morning Star Publishing, 2015 ($39.95).
Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology by Dr Val Webb. Morning Star Publishing, 2015 ($39.95).

Finding your own theological voice

Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology is a little Aussie gem from our own pre-eminent lay theologian Dr Val Webb. 

Webb’s goal in this book is to unlock theological process from the rarefied academic world of the seminary and encourage everyone to do their own theological thinking, “rather than continually accepting the often dumbed-down scraps from the altar of others”.

Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology makes theology accessible for the average reader, using clear language and everyday images that open up the mysteries of religious belief.

It provides a comprehensive overview of the history of theology through the last 2000 years, presenting an intelligible overview of key theologians and their contribution to the development of theological thought.

If you have ever wondered what systematic theology, Pelagianism, neo-orthodoxy or the “filioque” clause are all about, then the early chapters of this book are for you.

Webb then goes on to explore and explain liberation and feminist theologies and appropriately concludes with the contribution eco-theology can make to understanding our relationship with the natural world.

Whether it is ancient and traditional theology or emerging, evolving and progressive theologies, Webb summarises the significant while acknowledging the impossibility of a comprehensive analysis in one small book.

Her précis provides plenty of revision to what we may already know as well as moments of revelation and discovery. Reading this book is to be empowered by a credible lay theologian.

What could have been a dry read is flavoured by an autobiographical thread which covers Webb’s own theological journey from the early certainties of evangelical faith to more complex current contextual understanding.

While she deals equitably with the flow and history of theological thought, Webb doesn’t hide her own theological preferences and unashamed partiality for contextual theology.

“Many people today are ‘doing their theology’ with their feet—walking out of churches that continue to preach outdated and unbelievable ideas from former ages, rather than helping people find answers in their present situation,” she writes.

This perspective won’t sit comfortably with many who favour the neo-Barthian (look this up in her book) fondness that dominates much Uniting Church thinking.

Testing Tradition and Liberating Theology submits that there are many ways to think theologically, and Webb leaves the reader to make their own decision.

Bruce Mullan
Acting director, Uniting Communications

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