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The Doctrine of God, 2nd Edition

A Global Introduction

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In recent years, the doctrine of God has once again become a central focus of theological discussion and debate. In this ecumenical, international, and contextual introduction, internationally respected scholar Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen offers a global survey of understandings of God in Scripture, Christian history, and contemporary theology. This new edition incorporates developments in theological research over the past decade and has been substantially updated throughout.


Introduction: God-Talk Then and Now
Part 1: The Texture of Historical Developments
1. Biblical Narrative and Testimonies of God
For Orientation: God-Talk in the Bible
Old Testament: Jewish Monotheism
New Testament: Christian Trinitarian Monotheism
2. The Rise and Consolidation of the Christian Doctrine of God
Classical Theism: What Is It?
Early Fathers on God and Trinity
The Emergence of the Trinitarian Doctrine and Its Challengers
Patristic and Creedal Establishment of the Doctrine of God
3. From the Medieval to the Modern Quest for God
Mystical Visions and Sophisticated Doctrines of Medieval Times
The Zenith of Classical Theism: The "Schoolmen" on the Doctrine of God
The Rise of the Social Model of the Trinity
The Reformers and Their Followers on God
The Mystical Experience of God among Catholic Reformers
Post-Reformation Testimonies and Doctrines
God in Modernity
Reflections: Looking Back and Forward
Part 2: God in Contemporary Theological Interpretations
4. Interpretations of God among European Theologies
God as the Wholly Other: Karl Barth
God as the Mystery of the World: Karl Rahner
God as Communion: John Zizioulas and Eastern Orthodox Tradition
God as the Power of the Future: Wolfhart Pannenberg
The Crucified God: Jurgen Moltmann
God's Existence in Dispute: Secularism and New Atheism(s)
Reflections on Contemporary European Views of God
5. Interpretations of God from Diverse North American Contexts
For Orientation: The North American Mosaic
Rebuttals to Classical Theism: Secular and Process Theologies
Revisions of Classical Theism: Contextual Interpretations
Revisiting Classical Theism: Evangelicalism and Open Theism
Reflections on the North American Scene
6. Interpretations of God in the Global South
For Orientation: Theology Goes Global
God in African Theologies
God in Latin American Theologies
God in Asian Theologies
Reflections on Non-Western God-Talk
Part 3: The Christian God among Religions
7. Christian Theology Faces Religious Plurality and Pluralism(s)
Religious Plurality as a New Challenge
Theological Responses to Pluralism(s)
How to Approach the Dialogical Comparative Task
8. The Gods of the Religions
Allah of Islam
The Deities of Hinduism
Any Deities in Buddhism?
Concluding Reflections on the Comparative Theological Exercise
Epilogue: The Future of God-Talk in the Third Millennium


Praise for the First Edition

"This astonishingly wide-ranging and well-informed book will serve as an introduction to the doctrine of God for scholars of all kinds and for many generations of students. The story of the numerous theologians and thinkers within the long, rich, and varied Christian tradition is freshly told with great insight and intelligence. In addition to providing a systematic treatment of the historical development of a Christian doctrine of God, this book addresses those parts of the world that, as the twenty-first century develops, are likely to become crucial to Christian scholarship--Africa, Latin America, and Asia. I warmly recommend this book for its thoroughness, scope, clarity, and fairness."

William K. Kay, professor of Pentecostal studies, University of Chester

"Kärkkäinen has produced a trilogy that will become a prophetic call for a new theological paradigm. In completing this series, he has created a work that will serve the global Christian world for the new century. He has rendered a particular service to the churches in the South and the East by challenging them to ponder their theological richness and by showing them how they can make unique theological contributions to shape healthy, global Christianity that is familiar and friendly to their varying sociocultural contexts."

Wonsuk Ma, distinguished professor of global Christianity, Oral Roberts University

"This engagingly written, clearly organized volume will be very useful for those interested in an overall historical view of the doctrine of God, major movements within it, or particular theologians and issues. Kärkkäinen offers informative surveys from contexts as different as the biblical writings, modernity, contemporary Europe, North America, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Within each context, diversities receive detailed attention, such as those among black, womanist, Latino, Latina, feminist, Native American, and evangelical theologies. Kärkkäinen threads some unifying strands into this multifaceted tapestry by noting that nearly all current discussion involves dialogue, often critical, with 'classical theism.' Other issues, such as the challenge of religious pluralism, also appear quite often. Kärkkäinen aims not to take sides but to describe each viewpoint accurately so that readers can approach it with the most fruitful questions."

Thomas Finger, author of Christian Theology: An Eschatological Approach

"I know of no better introduction to the essential elements of the contemporary discussion of the doctrine of God than this. The author surveys the biblical and historical materials, recounts recent European and North American responses to classical theism, and then draws African, Asian, and Latin American theologians into the conversation. An impressive accomplishment, this text is very useful to teachers and scholars alike."

D. Lyle Dabney, associate professor of theology, Marquette University

"In his fine series of handbooks, Kärkkäinen meets a felt need of many theology students--to be given an introduction in global perspective to great themes such as this one: the doctrine of God. The book reveals what theologians around the world are saying about this primary and all-important subject and will stimulate readers to imagine God in more relevant and transforming ways."

Clark Pinnock, professor emeritus of systematic theology, McMaster Divinity College

The Author

  1. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

    Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen

    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...

    Continue reading about Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen


Praise for the First Edition

"Theology does not have a reputation for clarity or simplicity, but somehow this book succeeds in avoiding theological or philosophical obfuscation in order to show that the Bible cherishes a plurality of voices. . . . Giving equal treatment to Western and non-Western theology, [Kärkkäinen] eloquently discusses process theology, ecological theology, as well as immigrant, African American, Native American, Asian, Latin American, and feminist theologies. His introduction to classic theism is particularly helpful as are his insightful comparisons between theologies as diverse as those of Vine Deloria Jr., John Hick, Karl Rahner, Paul Tillich, and Thomas Aquinas. Those seeking a survey of the current status of theology throughout the world can't ask for a better title than this descriptive textbook. Recommended for all public and academic libraries."

Gary P. Gillum,

Library Journal

"Kärkkäinen vows to change [the] 'tragic neglect of third world voices'--and he succeeds. . . . The power of this book is the careful, even presentation of a wide range of non-Western Christian theologians. They pose challenges and offer creative alternatives from diverse worldviews. This is a reader-friendly book with helpful subject and scriptural indexes. . . . Recommended."

A. L. Kolp,


"Kärkkäinen's brief end-of-chapter summaries, which note the significance of each period and its primary figures, are particularly helpful in such a textbook. . . . The work is a good descriptive 'global introduction.' Kärkkäinen's snapshots of movements, periods, and theologians would be useful in courses on trinitarian theology."

Jaroslav Z. Skira,

Toronto Journal of Theology

"[A] fascinating historical and global overview of theology."

A. Christopher Smith,

International Bulletin of Mission Research