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Theology in the Democracy of the Dead

A Dialogue with the Living Tradition

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G. K. Chesterton wrote, "Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead." This book pays homage to major theologians of the Christian tradition that tell the history of theology. Matt Jenson engages in charitable yet critical exposition and dialogue with eleven select thinkers, offering a lucid, synthetic account of their theology with a view to ongoing systematic theological issues. He engages directly with core primary texts and treats individual theologians in greater depth and nuance than most overview textbooks.

1. A King or a Fox? Irenaeus of Lyons and the Theology of Scripture
2. The Word Who Became Flesh: The Center and Circumference of Athanasius's Theology
3. "The Lovely Things Kept Me Far from You": The Wayward Loves of Augustine
4. "That Most Biblical of Theologians": Denys the Areopagite and the Brilliant Darkness of God
5. Faith Seeking Understanding--or Understanding Seeking Faith? Anselm of Canterbury and the Logic of God
6. "St. Thomas of the Creator": Aquinas and the Beginning and End of All Things in God
7. "One Little Word Shall Fell Him": The Word of God and the Faith of Martin Luther
8. "What Do You Have That You Did Not Receive?": John Calvin on Having God as Father
9. The Beauty of Holiness: Jonathan Edwards's Religion of the Heart
10. A Pietist of a Higher Order: Schleiermacher, Jesus, and the Heart of Religion
11. "The Happiest Theologian of Our Age": Karl Barth on the One Word of God That We Have to Hear


"Theology in the Democracy of the Dead is a lively and accessible--and yet also deeply considered--set of conversations with some of the Christian tradition's most vivid and powerful voices. Again and again these voices from the past come to life in response to Jenson's queries and exclamations. A first-rate example of truly dialogical theology."

Alan Jacobs, Honors College, Baylor University

"Matt Jenson deserves our deepest thanks for extending this superb invitation to apprenticeship with some of the finest thinkers ever to walk the face of the earth. I hope and pray that many readers will respond with close attention, advancing in Christian discipleship in communion with the saints."

Douglas A. Sweeney, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

"This book invites readers to learn the craft of Christian theology from eleven of its master practitioners. Matt Jenson shows himself to be more than just an uncommonly deep and skillful reader of these theological classics, though that alone would make these chapters worth close study; he goes further, proving to be that exceptional guide who can teach others to read better by reading alongside him. Theology in the Democracy of the Dead is a rare opportunity for theological apprenticeship."

Fred Sanders, author of The Triune God

"Conversation lies at the heart of the theological enterprise, conversations with great minds of the past in particular. Dispelling damaging caricatures with a largely sure touch, Jenson converses with eleven diverse Christian theologians from across the centuries. By doing so, he engages with many of the key issues of Christian theology--issues which transcend historical context despite always being contextually bound in their articulation. These essays will surely generate further conversation."

Frances Young, emeritus professor, University of Birmingham

"This book has been years in the making. It is a serious engagement with some of the most formative minds in the Christian tradition, written by one of the most thoughtful and careful theologians working today. Those who read it will be challenged to think deeply about fundamental matters of the Christian faith. Matt Jenson has given us a rich and rewarding work full of conversations with those who, though dead, yet speak."

Oliver D. Crisp, professor of analytic theology, University of St. Andrews

"Jenson's opening vision of catholicity provides an ideal foundation for winning over an audience that may not be wholly convinced of the value of tradition. His conversational style will draw readers in for a journey with some of the most important theologians of the Christian tradition in a way that is both engaging and accessible. This book will be deeply valued in the classroom."

Mary Veeneman, associate professor of biblical and theological studies, North Park University

"Today the church and her theology can frequently seem rather thin and immature, whereas the Bible calls us to wholeness and maturity. Matt Jenson adeptly shows that learning from our elders--more specifically from the Triune God's work in and through this 'great cloud of witnesses'--plays a crucial role in growing into that fullness. This book introduces eleven brilliant figures, surveys their work and influence, introduces significant secondary literature, and helps guide readers not merely to know them but to think with them. I wish everyone could be in the classroom with this master teacher; now his classroom expands, and all of us can follow his guidance."

Michael Allen, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

The Author

  1. Matt Jenson
    Natasha Zartman

    Matt Jenson

    Matt Jenson (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is associate professor of theology in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He has written The Gravity of Sin: Augustine, Luther, and Barth on 'homo incurvatus in se'...

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