Kristin Johnston LARGEN, Finding God Among Our Neighbors: An Interfaith Systematic Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013. Pp. 244. $29.00 pb. ISBN 9780800699338 Reviewed by Joseph S. FLIPPER, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY 40205
Religious diversity is not merely a problem to be solved by Christian theology and interreligious dialogue is not an appendix to Christian theology. Instead, religious diversity and interreligious engagement must be moved to the center of Christian self-understanding. Kristin Johnston Largen’s Finding God Among Our Neighbors: An Interfaith Systematic Theology moves the engagement with religious others to the center of Christian theology by examining major theological topics in Christian theology through a comparison with world religions.
Part I of the book, “Introduction to World Religions,” introduces Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. Largen, writing for a largely Christian and western audience, makes it clear that her presentation is a general overview of religious traditions that comprehend vast cultural and geographical differences. Despite the challenge of presenting these four religious traditions, Largen integrates an accessible general introduction with details of local practices and brief selections from religious texts. Part II of the book, entitled “A Comparative Approach to Christian Theology,” presents an overview of Christian theology and is organized in chapters on the theology of God, anthropology, and creation.
Part II, “A Comparative Approach to Christian Theology,” draws upon an eclectic range of historical and contemporary theological sources to explain the basics of Christian faith, including Irenaeus, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Elizabeth Johnson, and James Cone. Part II is divided into three chapters that treat God, theological anthropology, and creation in Christianity, developing each topic in dialogue with non-Christian traditions. The presentation of theological topics in Finding God Among Our Neighbors is ecumenical and could be used in a range of settings, though the chapter on theological anthropology presents a thoroughly Lutheran understanding of sin and justification. Curiously, while Part I presents both religious ideas and religious practices in Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam, Part II focuses almost exclusively on creedal and theological expression, neglecting Christian religious practices.
There remains an unresolved tension in the text between its affirmation of the universal scope of God’s revelation and the specificity of God’s revelation through Jesus Christ. On the one hand, Largen states that God’s self-disclosure is potentially universal, communicated through the natural world and other religions. As a result, interreligious dialogue is necessary for Christian theology and Christian self-understanding. On the other hand, Largen indicates that the potentially universal scope of God’s self-disclosure finds completeness in the particular life of Jesus. Though Largen does not attenuate either universality or specificity, she does attempt to resolve the tension. As a result, the methodology for comparison—that is, how to “find God among our neighbors” and why we need to—is not explicit. Largen’s comparative theology should be understood as an invitation to dialogue with those of different faiths rather than as a theoretical model that resolves the theological tensions that arise from religious diversity.
There remain few resources with which to teach Christian theology in a comparative framework, especially at an undergraduate level. Largen’s textbook is particularly useful because it integrates an overview of Christian theology with a presentation of the faith of religious others. Given the need for exposure to other faith traditions, Finding God Among Our Neighbors is a valuable resource as an introductory theolo