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By Hug Rayment-Pickard

In fifty outstanding brief essays one of many UK's liveliest younger writers on faith introduces the foremost topics, activities and thinkers in theology. George Pattison, Professor of Divinity on the collage of Oxford says: 'Hugh Rayment-Pickard is without doubt one of the clearest thinkers at the British theological scene, and 50 Key suggestions in Theology opens the door to theology for college students and basic readers alike. He has provided a legitimate advisor for the puzzled and a stimulus to argument among the interested.'

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Form Criticism identifies the ‘type’ or ‘form’ (Gattung) of a biblical passage, and tries to determine the social and historical circumstances (Stiz im Leben) which gave rise to that ‘type’ or ‘form’. Genre Criticism analyses the literary genres of the biblical texts, and what influence the genre of a specific text should have upon its interpretation. Hexapla: the name given to Origen’s edition of the Old Testament in Hebrew and Greek – the first work of Christian textual criticism (second century ad).

Ludwig Feuerbach offered a psychological argument for atheism, saying that God is only a projection of our inner human need for meaning. Nietzsche argued that belief in God is an illusion that inhibits ‘the will to life’. Karl Marx offered a political critique of theism, saying that belief in God is a drug (‘the opium of the people’) that deadens our desire to fight for justice. Sigmund Freud argued that belief in God is a cultural projection of our need for a ‘father figure’ to protect us from the hostile forces of nature.

Abelard’s version of the atonement has recently been championed by René Girard, who rejects penal substitution, seeing it as a form of scapegoating. Girard argues that Jesus made a self-sacrifice of his life to show precisely that there is a non-violent alternative to scapegoating. Since we are, Girard says, creatures who learn by imitating others, Jesus’ death is a virtuous example that can bring about social transformation. The problem with exemplar theories – most ‘solutions’ also create new problems – is that they do not clearly explain how Christ’s heroic and exemplary death achieves the objective of cancelling the historic sins of humanity.

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