The Story of Christian Theology
by Roger Olson is a clear and (somewhat) concise overview of the history of Christian thought. Olson’s purpose in writing the book is to show a clear progression of Christian theology throughout the ages. The book works as a supplement to other works of historical theology in that it provides context for primary sources and other, more specific texts. Olson doesn’t attempt to be exhaustive in his analysis, but seeks to provide tool to enhance one’s study of theology. The ultimate purpose of this book is to give a brief historical context of the development of Christian theology, which, as Olson argues, is specifically and intimately related to salvation. The Story of Christian Theology
is primarily a story of God’s salvation throughout the centuries following the end of the writing of the Bible.
Olson follows the line of Christian orthodoxy through the tradition of the church. Time and time again, controversy surges to the forefront. It is during this controversy that some of the most brilliant minds set their arguments in the tome of Christian history. Olson picks up on these points and transmits the stories through a medium used to reach the reader. He certainly upholds the views of those who have been deemed as orthodox, yet he attempts to be fair while explaining the views of heretics and other Christian sects. Each of the stories includes a segment explaining the importance the characters and their thoughts have had on Christian theology, even up until the present.
The book, basically, follows one story line until the reformation. It is through this storyline that the tradition of orthodoxy and what Olson sees as Christian theological history is made clear. After the reformation he broadens the horizon to include several sects of Protestantism. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologies are left unexamined, for the most part after their split from Olson’s theological lineage. He tends to focus on what has specifically affected the tradition of theology he adheres to, Protestantism.
His pages are littered with quotes and arguments from the characters of the story. Letters, books, and creeds are referenced to support the views he presents of the events and people involved.
Olson did a great job in painting the pictures of theological history. It put into context many of the doctrines of different Christian sects. It helps to explain how and why the doctrines were developed. The book makes a point to show how the theme of salvation has influenced Western civilization and Christian theological thought.