I have to admit, while I love to read challenging books and thoughtful examinations of faith, there’s a part of me that bristles a little at the idea of reading a “theology” book. Sure, it’s important to know what we believe and how and why, and I love getting the perspectives of others to help my ongoing development in this area… but it sounds so “head knowledge,” you know?
Still, head knowledge is part of it all, and it’s worthwhile to explore these ideas. Thankfully, Coffeehouse Theology by Ed Cyzewski is an accessible primer to contextual theology that’s perfect for those that want an overview of how culture and theology intersect, and ideas on what to do with our faith in a postmodern society. Using clear language without watering down his ideas or the weight of the material, this book presents theology as an ongoing dialogue, a work in progress.
My first impression of Coffeehouse Theology was the meticulous, logical organization of the book. Beginning with definitions of biblical, systematic, and contextual theology, he goes on to explain how modernism’s focus on science and reason changed the Christian landscape and explores the shift to postmodernism’s focus on diversity and acceptance. It’s a nice review of history and these major schools of thought, and it presents some intriguing concepts about how these philosophies affect the way we understand our faith.
On the surface, it looks like it could be a nebulous, “fluff” sort of book repeating what others have said before. I haven’t read enough theology to fully understand if that’s the case, but I do appreciate how neatly he breaks down complex ideas. While the book itself can be self-repetitious, it’s helpful to remind readers where they’ve been as he carries them to the next level of understanding. Every chapter features a “web of theology” illustration to help readers keep track of where they are in his thesis and ends with an extensive reading list for those who want to dig deeper.
Cyzewski does stress over and over that this isn’t a book about being relevant or tolerant or radical. Instead, he reminds readers that his goal is to help Christians become better equipped to dialogue with a pluralistic culture while knowing what they believe… being both “relevant and prophetic,” able to understand their world while holding fast to true doctrines.
Overall, this is a clear, accessible read for those who are interested in learning how theology is shaped by the world around it, how to engage that world, and how our beliefs inform everyday life.
Ed Cyzewski (MDiv Biblical Theological Seminary) is a freelance writer and speaker in Eastern Connecticut. He is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life, an introduction to contextual theology as well as the Coffeehouse Theology Bible Study Guide and a Coffeehouse Theology Discussion Guide. His most recent book is A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book. Ed blogs regularly on theology at www.inamirrordimly.com and on writing at www.edcyz.com.
Review copy provided by The Ooze Viral Bloggers