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Coffeehouse Theology by Ed Cyzewski

The Advocate

Coffeehouse Theology by Ed Cyzewski

Reviewed by Marshall Hughes

"Ed Cyzewski’s Coffeehouse Theology challenges us to have a broader, global perspective of modern-day theology, especially as seen in the context of the challenges of post-modernism."

With much of some Christian circles having been reduced to either emotions, interpersonal relationships or a pursuit of prosperity, it is refreshing to have someone write a Christian book on something closer to the target - like theology.

Ed Cyzewski’s Coffeehouse Theology challenges us, after a slow start, to have a broader, global perspective of modern-day theology, especially as seen in the context of post-modernism. He challenges us to think from a world perspective since Christianity is not limited to North America. (This book should not be confused with another book of the same title written in 2000 by Jim Thomas.)

The Bible itself contains cultural context, and the author discusses what we can and must do to separate that cultural context from Christ’s message. The writers of the Bible, says Cyzewski, “formed their own kind of contextual theology that shared the story of God using the literary forms, language and shared experiences of their times.”

An in-depth discussion of post-modernism is probably the highlight of the book. If you can make it past the wandering first stages, this part is thought provoking and well worth waiting for.

Although the overall effect of Coffeehouse Theology is quite good, there are a few minor points with which one could quibble.

First, the author’s use of the term A.C.E. (After the Common Era) instead of A.D. (anno domini, more commonly know as After Death) strikes me as political correctness at best, pretentious surrender monkey at worst. But I digress.

Second, at the end of most but not all chapters is a less-than-helpful diagram called, “A Web of Theology” which “illustrates the interconnected nature of Christian theology’s sources and contexts.” The diagram is the same each time, with only one sentence in each chapter being printed in bold.

Fortunately, each chapter, regardless of whether or not it has the unnecessary diagram, has a detailed “for further reading” list for the reader who wants to do more in-depth study. There are also a few helpful websites listed for those seeking biblical commentaries and resources as well as church creeds and historical documents.

Last but not least, the author gets high points for his mostly hubris-less style which makes it easy for even the layman to understand... in most cases. As he acknowledges, “sometimes theology debates are little more than contests to show off who knows more.”

However, early in the book Cyzewski slips up a few times and gives us an over-the-topper or two such as, “If all mystery, divinity, and subjectivity could be removed, the enlightenment’s quest for certainty could be fulfilled, removing the free radical of divine intervention from the works of objective observation.”

Um, right.

Skip over a few gobbledygookers like that, and you have a good, thought-provoking read.

Marshall HughesMarshall Hughes is a former sports writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. For most of the past 22 years he has taught English in Japan. He has taught at the university level in America, Japan and China. Among his hobbies are sports, traveling and photography. He has been to 41 countries and is always hoping to go somewhere new. He is an award-winning photographer in both Japan and America. His bi-lines include The Washington Post, The Pacific Daily News (Guam), The Contra Costa Times and several sports publications.