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God in Dispute

“Conversations” among Great Christian Thinkers

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"Olson helps us understand that the Christian tradition is a complex, lively, ongoing argument about what happened in Jesus Christ. A unique text that makes historical theology come alive."--Dennis Okholm, Azusa Pacific University

This volume creatively explores the history of Christian thought by imagining a series of twenty-nine dialogues and debates among key figures throughout church history. It traces the history of theology via such conversation partners as Augustine and Pelagius, Calvin and Arminius, Barth and Brunner, and Bultmann and Pannenberg. Each imagined dialogue includes a brief summary that introduces the figures under consideration and places them in the history of theology, a more detailed assessment of the thinkers and theological issues presented, and a guide for further reading. This approach offers readers an entertaining, informative, and concise history of Christian thought. The book will be of use to professors and students in theology, church history, and historical theology courses and will also interest pastors and lay readers.


"Most textbooks that trace the development of historical theology provide us with content, unpacking the positions of theologians and major schools of thought. While Olson's book does that, it also does much more. By bringing generations of Christian thinkers together in dialogue to discuss a number of topics, Olson helps us understand that the Christian tradition is a complex, lively, ongoing argument about what happened in Jesus Christ. And while most textbooks leave the reader an arm's length from the disputes, Olson's approach invites us into the fray as participants in the debates. This is a unique text that makes historical theology come alive."--Dennis Okholm, professor of theology, Azusa Pacific University

"God in Dispute creatively presents significant issues in Christian doctrine through imaginary dialogues between giants in the history of our faith. Professors, students, and laypeople alike will find it a valuable resource."--Vincent Bacote, associate professor of theology, director, Center for Applied Christian Ethics, Wheaton College

The Author

  1. Roger E. Olson

    Roger E. Olson

    Roger E. Olson (PhD, Rice University) is Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, in Waco, Texas. He is a prolific author whose volumes include Reformed and Always Reforming,...

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"Few scholars possess the creativity, historical breadth, and theological acumen to pull off a volume like this. If Roger Olson's fictionalized discussions occasionally reveal as much about his own views as those of other Christian thinkers, then the excellence of his unusual survey of church history can be his excuse."--Madison Trammel, Christianity Today

"A hoot of a book, creative and maybe a bit crazy, offering imagined conversations between historic figures. And, yes, it is exceptionally rigorous as an educational text. . . . It is a creative overview of the history of Christian thought, from the early church through the twenty-first century. . . . Olson is a prolific church historian and theologian and is well qualified to 'get into the minds' of these thinkers, representing them fairly. There are 29 long conversations, so there is plenty of detail and it covers acres of ground. . . . This is perfect for any geeky theology nerds, or, to be honest, anybody willing to work through some of the greatest debates with the greatest minds of Western history. Hold on, dig in, have fun. This is a theology text that deserves some kind of award!"--Byron Borger,

"Historical theology doesn't have to be dry, dusty, and dull. With Roger Olson as a guide, it can be downright entertaining. . . . God in Dispute collects 29 . . . insightful dialogues involving great Christian thinkers from the early church to the present. . . . He presents the key ideas of each speaker through lively--and sometimes humorous--dialogue. . . . For readers who want to dig deeper, each dialogue ends with a list of suggested books for further reading. But for those who are content with a sampling, Olson provides a painless introduction to some of the greatest Christian thinkers in history."--Ken Camp, Baptist Standard

"[Olson] offers an intriguing approach to learning about the history of Christian theology. Using 29 imaginary conversations between two or more luminaries of Christian thought, he writes an easily understandable introduction not only to the conversational partners but also to the particular theological issues of every Christian epoch. . . . Even though the author takes pains to acknowledge that these conversations are imaginary, they do have an appropriate historical feel. Olson also makes a very helpful contribution in the setting he offers for each conversation; one understands exactly the context for the content. . . . For readers unfamiliar with this material, the book is an easy-to-read resource, and a list of further readings appears at the end of each selection. . . . Recommended. Lower- and upper-level undergraduates; general readers."--A. L. Kolp, Choice

"On a number of levels, Olson succeeds in bringing these figures to life, so to speak, for a wide range of readers not limited to students of theology. . . . The structure of the book is quite refreshing. . . . God in Dispute is an enjoyable book that covers a lot of material. Olson casts as wide a net as is reasonable not only on the issues themselves, which extend as far as evangelical theology, liberation theology, and postmodern theology, but also [on] the conversation participants. . . . Olson's humor will keep even the most cynical student engaged."--Matthew W. Ward, Southwestern Journal of Theology

"Olson's book is a basic introduction to the history of Christian thought. Stretching over the apostolic and postmodern eras, it covers a wide range of issues and periods pivotal to the development of Christian theology. His work notably departs from other introductory texts in its structure. Olson imaginatively constructs twenty-nine conversations among forty prominent thinkers. . . . Preceded by a brief setting, each conversation is followed by an analysis and a suggestion for further reading. Such a method of presentation, born out of Olson's own pedagogical practice, does indeed produce an accessible medium for those with little or no acquaintance with Christian theology. . . . God in Dispute could make for an entertaining supplemental text, especially for pedagogical variation in a classroom."--Bradley M. Peper, Religious Studies Review