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By Alan Sell / Paternoster / 2006
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Nonconformist Theology in the Twentieth Century is the first comprehensive study of the systematic, doctrinal and constructive theology produced within the major Nonconformist traditions during the twentieth century. Sell tackles the issues in four penetrating lectures first delivered at the Didsbury Lectures. The first lecture surveys the theological landscape from which the twentieth-century Nonconformist traditions sprouted. By the end of the nineteenth century modern biblical critical methods were fairly widely adopted, evolutionary thought was in the air, and doctrinal modifications, especially concerning the Fatherhood of God, were under way. Sell charts the influence on Nonconformist thinking in the twentieth century of the New Theology associated with R. J. Campbell, the First World War, the reception of Karl Barth, the theological excitements of the 1960s, and growing religious pluralism.
The second lecture concerns the major Christian doctrines of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. Whereas in the early decades of the century there was considerable emphasis upon the atonement, during the concluding two decades the Trinity received more attention than had formerly been the case.
In Lecture Three, attention is directed to ecclesiological and ecumenical themes. The Nonconformists are presented as Protestant, and as displaying some zeal in propagating their particular understandings of the Church. The doctrinal aspects of their national and international moves towards inner-family unity and of their broader ecumenical relationships are considered.
Eschatology is treated in the concluding lecture prior to Sell’s assessment of the significance of twentieth-century Nonconformist theology and its current state, its future content, and its practitioners.
Alan P. F. Sell is a minister of the United Reformed Church who lectures internationally on the history of Christian thought, philosophy of religion and theology. He is Distinguished Fellow and Visiting Professor at Acadia University Divinity College, Canada and has previously published twenty-two books and edited fourteen others.