A lover’s quarrel with his church

A Lover’s Quarrel: A Theologian and His Beloved Church, by Joe R. Jones. Foreword by Stanley Hauerwas (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2014).

JonesThe lover in the book title is Joe R. Jones, retired theologian, professor, and academic administrator. The beloved church is the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in which Jones was reared, educated, ordained, and employed through much of his career. The quarrel is the author’s contention that his church needs theological renewal at its deepest level in order to continue as a faithful and effective witness of the Christian gospel in the world today.

A Lover’s Quarrel follows two other books that Jones has published since his retirement in 2000. A Grammar of Christian Faith: Systematic Explorations in Christian Life and Doctrine (published in 2002) is a two-volume exposition of Christian theology based on many years of graduate level teaching in three seminaries. Jones frequently references this book in his later publications.

On Being the Church of Jesus Christ in Tumultuous Times (published in 2005) contains lectures, papers, sermons, prayers, and other documents (some previously published) that represent the wider range of Jones’ theological and cultural work. As the title indicates, Jones understands himself to be a theologian in the church and for the church rather than a scholar who understands theology primarily as an academic discipline.

Jones’ latest book continues the pattern of the previous volume in that it is a collection of documents of varied character, all but two of them written since 2005. These recent documents, he writes, “are consistent with the overall perspective conveyed in the Grammar volumes” although they “were occasioned by time-specific personal and public events, politics, and church life” (viii).

Jones divides the book into four parts that indicate the range of his interests: (1) Ecumenical Theologizing with Ecclesial Friends; (2) On Being Mugged by Politics but Lifted by Gospel Hope; (3) Fragments from Times Past and Emerging Hopes; (4) Sermons Ventured on Behalf of the Witness of the Beloved Church. The chapters vary in length from two-page blogs to substantive papers, notably: “Salvation: Mapping the Salvific Themes of Christian Faith,” and “Yoder and Stone-Campbellites: Sorting the Grammar of Radical Orthodoxy and Radical Discipleship.” Read more. . . A Lover’s Quarrel

5 Responses to A lover’s quarrel with his church

  1. C . R. Red Neumann says:

    Is this a Learned Man’s way of saying the Church went away and Left it’s members . So the Members went another way?

    • Joe believes that there is a theological center that is necessary in order to maintain the health and effectiveness of the church. He also believes that the way this center is described gradually changes from generation to generation.I think that his complaint is that his church (our church) along with many others has allowed this center to leak away; as a result the church is increasingly anemic. He believes that what he calls radical orthodoxy restores the source of vitality and energy. In general, I agree with the diagnosis. My prescription for restoring strength differs from his at several points.

  2. Paul Freeman says:

    Thank you for sharing your insights on Joe Jones’ most recent book. I can still hear his booming and distinctive voice from my seminary years at Phillips with him being my first theology professor. What you say of him is true.

  3. Keith,

    Thank you for sharing your insights on the book! I decided to wait to read your review until I finished the book. I’m probably closer theologically to Jones considering my trajectory — but what I appreciate is that we all share a concern about the drifting nature of the church we serve.

    Here’s my attempt:

    • Bob, I have just read your review of Joe’s book and like it very much. You have dealt more fully with the substance of his central theme than I did in my review of the book. I agree that you are closer to him in your theological position than I am. If you have not done so already, be sure to forward a link to Joe so that he will be able to respond in his own way.

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