Theology as Retrieval: Receiving the Past, Renewing the Church, By W. David Buschart and Kent Eilers

Theology as Retrieval

Receiving the Past, Renewing the Church

by W. David Buschart and Kent Eilers

Theology as Retrieval
  • Length: 319 pages
  • Published: April 15, 2015
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 2467
  • ISBN: 9780830824670

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"Tradition is the living faith of the dead." —Jaroslav Pelikan

The movement to retrieve the Christian past is a mode of theological discernment, a cultivated habit of thought. It views the doctrines, practices and resonant realities of the Christian tradition as deep wells for a thirsty age. This movement across the church looks back in order to move forward.

David Buschart and Kent Eilers survey this varied movement and identify six areas where the impulse and practice of retrieval has been notably fruitful and suggestive: the interpretation of Scripture, the articulation of theology, the practices of worship, the disciplines of spirituality, the modes of mission and the participatory ontology of Radical Orthodoxy. In each area they offer a wide-angle view before taking a close look at representative examples in order to give finer texture to the discussion. More than a survey and mapping of the terrain, Theology as Retrieval inspires reflection, practice and hope.

"God has been at work in the church's reflections and practices for centuries. How can modern Christians wisely and discerningly retrieve and transmit these riches so they continue to feed us today? David Buschart and Kent Eilers answer this question by delving into six key areas of the church's tradition—Scripture, theology, worship, spirituality, mission and cosmos—and cogently explain and explore current efforts at the art and science of retrieval and transmission in each of them. This is an extremely helpful and learned book and will prove to be valuable to a broad audience."

Christopher A. Hall, Distinguished Professor of Theology, director of academic spiritual formation, Eastern University

"Theology as Retrieval offers an intriguing and carefully grounded typology of contemporary Christian writers who are intent upon reception from past Christian witness for the renewal of God's people. The book begins by wisely situating retrieving theology in media res—as already part of the reception and transmission of the deposit of faith—and by insisting that what is delivered to God's people is not simply conceptual, but 'the personal presence of God in Christ.' Here is a book that will be of great interest to Christians who are wondering about the many 'ancient Christian future' quests that are emerging in the areas of Scripture, theology, worship, spirituality, mission and 'reclamation of the cosmos' (i.e., radical Orthodox thinkers). The book is wide-ranging and imaginatively conceived, using metaphors as varied as jazz improvisation and genetics, and fastening upon both academic and popular quests for Christian roots. Though naturally shaped by its social location within evangelicalism—for example, little is made of the imaginative Eastern Orthodox neo-patristic synthesis, or the North American adaptation of monastic ideals to Orthodox family life—it commends itself as an informative and challenging analysis to readers of various Christian backgrounds. Especially welcome is its closing embrace of scholarly askesis: humble critique of the past, attending carefully to the present and faithfully waiting for the Lord to act."

Edith M. Humphrey, William F. Orr Professor of New Testament, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

"In recent decades, a wide range of scholars have sought to retrieve voices from the church's history to open up creative possibilities that move beyond the polarities and dead-ends of the present. Theology as Retrieval is the only book that provides a map to the diverse literature that has resulted. It surveys and critically probes this recent literature as it relates not only to theology, but to worship, spirituality and mission as well. Buschart and Eilers provide a valuable resource for the renewal of the church's life and witness today!"

J. Todd Billings, Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, MI

"Theology as Retrieval avoids the temptation either simply to revile the past (chronological snobbery) or to relive it (chronological stubbornness). Eilers and Buschart instead prove themselves to be 'golden retrievers' who listen to the past in order theologically to discern the way forward. Rather than being embarrassed by the doctrines and practices of our premodern forbears, they discover an embarrassment of riches that continue to fund the church's doctrine, worship and mission."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Buschart and Eilers have provided the church with an invaluable resource: a guide—a primer, one might say—for emerging theologians who recognize that the theological task is found in counterpoint between continuity and discontinuity. This kind of work requires discernment, and this is precisely what this publication will offer—a guide to effective discernment in drawing on the wisdom of the past for the theological vision and challenges of the church of tomorrow."

Gordon T. Smith, president and professor of systematic and spiritual theology, Ambrose University

"This overview of recent projects of retrieval of the Christian tradition demonstrates their growth both in scope and in depth. But Buschart and Eilers do more than just making clear that theologies of retrieval are here to stay. By putting forward key instances of theological retrieval, they offer a salient contribution to the church's maturation in faithfully passing on the deposit of the Christian faith."

Hans Boersma, J. I. Packer Professor of Theology, Regent College

"Thinking in the present is often animated, enriched and healed by thinking through the past; this book tells its readers why and how this is so."

John Webster, professor of divinity, University of St. Andrews

"In Theology as Retrieval: Receiving the Past, Renewing the Church, David Buschart and Kent Eilers (professors of theology at Denver Seminary and Huntington University respectively) offer the first comprehensive, book-length treatment of theological retrieval as a contemporary movement. . . . We should be grateful for their intelligent and articulate contribution, and eager to join in ourselves as the conversation moves forward."

Gavin Ortlund, The Gospel Coalition, July 21, 2015



1. Scripture
2. Theology
3. Worship
4. Spirituality
5. Mission
6. Cosmos

Works Cited
Author Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index


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W. David Buschart

W. David Buschart (PhD, Drew University) is associate dean and professor of theology and historical studies at Denver Seminary. He is the author of Exploring Protestant Traditions: An Invitation to Theological Hospitality and is coeditor of and a contributor to Scholarship, Sacraments, and Service. He has published a number of articles, essays, and book chapters and is a member of the American Academy of Religion and the Evangelical Theological Society.

Buschart served in the theology department at Canadian Theological Seminary from 1988 to 1998 and also served as acting dean of the faculty for one year. He was a founding member of the Research Science and Ethics Advisory Committee at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan, and is also the founder of Credo Consulting, a theological consulting firm. He and his wife Nancy are active members of the Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

Kent Eilers

Kent Eilers (PhD, King's College, University of Aberdeen) is associate professor of theology at Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana. He is the author of Faithful to Save: Pannenberg on God's Reconciling Action and the coeditor of Sanctified by Grace: A Theology of the Christian Life. His essays have appeared in publications such as Teaching Theology and Religion, American Theological Inquiry, and Christianity and Literature. His research interests include the doctrine of the Christian life, the place of traditions and the Great Tradition in the church, theological method, and the theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg. He and his wife, Tammy, have two daughters.