Before his untimely death in November of 2008, William Placher was a celebrated teacher who exercised his gifts of exceptional insight and clarity of expression not only in the classroom but also in his many books, book chapters and edited works. One project in progress at the time of his passing was a biblical commentary series authored by well-respected theologians and published by Westminster John Knox.
Students of American religious history have long been aware that, at least until recently, the field has been riddled with four yawning gaps—eras that cried out for solid synthetic treatments. Those gaps are (in reverse chronological order) religion during the Great Depression, religion and the Civil War, religion during the Revolutionary era and religion during the Great Awakening.
Lists of the "best of" are inevitably somewhat arbitrary, reflecting individual views of what "best" might mean. Not surprisingly, the eight theologians we asked to name five essential theology books of the past 25 years came up with very different titles.
Unlike in previous eras, when the majority of our risks came from natural sources, today the majority of our risks are "manufactured." We humans create them.
I have returned again and again to Letters and Papers in search of insight into what it means to do theology today, especially in my own South African context. Whether my interest and inquiry has focused on theological issues, on the renewal of the church and its public responsibility or on history, literature, art and aesthetics, this remarkable collection has always provided much practical wisdom for people living in tough and uncertain times.
Given the tendency of evangelicals and liberals to focus on different parts of Bonhoeffer's theology and witness, the challenge is to transcend polarization. But for Metaxas, polarization is a structural motif: his mission is to reclaim the true Bonhoeffer from "liberals" who have "hijacked" him.