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My book: Towards a Theology of Relationship

My book on a theology of relationship has been published (by Wipf&Stock)! I am very happy about it and I hope that it will spark something and lay the foundation for further things. The topic of the book is my heart’s, probably even my life’s theme.

Several years ago I had already published a booklet (group material) with the title “Radical Relationship – the three dimensions of a crass Christian”. The content was simple, practical, and aimed at a young readership. Since then I have done a lot of writing and preaching around this theme, and habe been discovering it more and more as a common thread in my life, my thinking, and my theology. The line of thinking in my new book has remained the same, but the content is much more fundamental, complex, and hopefully mature. It is a book that (unfortunately) is unlikely to be suitable for a very wide readership, as it is my dissertation (PhD) at the London School of Theology. Nevertheless, I think this book has a high practical relevance and whoever wants to work through it will benefit from it (below some tips on how different reader:s might approach reading the book). I have never wanted to simply complete an “academic exercise” but have always researched and written for a larger vision: Changed Lives (and therefore a changed theology). But what is the book about?

The Content

We live in an era in which relations are considered to be of the utmost importance in almost every field of science and society. For theology, however, this is nothing new. Having a personal relationship with God is a common Christian expression, and while this notion of relationship with God usually lacks a clear definition and its explication is often deeply flawed, this book argues nevertheless for the centrality of a theology of relationship.
By reintroducing Emil Brunner as a relational theologian, based on his seminal work Truth as Encounter, it is boldly proposed that relationship must be the prime leitmotif for the whole of theology. Furthermore, the relationship analogy is investigated in light of contemporary relationship science: is it accurate to speak of a relationship with God? Berra argues that God-human interaction is indeed categorically a relationship and existentially intended to be intimate. Consequently, this relationship needs to be the theological leitmotif leading to a theology of relationship.

How to Read the Book

Actually, that’s clear: from front to back. And of course I would be pleased if people read this book as a whole. However, I also think that not everyone will find access to the book in this way, since – as already mentioned – it is an academic work and therefore also has quite a few things in it that are not of interest to everyone (for example, methodological considerations, etc). For this reason, I would like to indicate in the following chapters and sections of the book that might interest certain target groups. Of course, the book is “one piece” and everything is interconnected, but you might start reading in one place and then look up the remaining parts if you are interested (there are also cross-references in the footnotes).

PS: The INTRODUCTION d) gives a good overview of the whole book.

Interest: What does relationship between God and Humans mean?

PART II is mainly dedicated to this question (through the glasses of Emil Brunner): how the Bible speaks about the relationship between God and man.
PART III then addresses the question of what relationship is (from the perspective of “relationship science”) and whether one can speak of a God-human relationship at all.
The main chapters (without methodological considerations) are: 4, 5, 6, 7a, 8

Interest: Theology of Relationship

PART IV draws a conclusion and argues very tightly for “relationship” as a leitmotif of theology, deals with objections and concludes with 10 theses that point beyond this book and concern various practical fields.
PART I can be interesting, as it deals with Brunner’s view of a theology of relationship (= starting point for our argument).
The essential chapters are: 1, 9, 10

Interest: Emil Brunner

Different parts of the book contribute to Brunner research and of course the whole book is permeated with references to Brunner and aspects of his theology (therefore, best to read the whole book…):

PART I deals with Emil Brunner as a relational theologian and what his specific contribution is (compared to others, e.g. Barth).
PART II presents Brunner’s view of the interaction between God and man.
CHAPTER 3 makes important methodological reflections on Brunner and his way of doing theology
Chapter 4 contributes to Brunner’s relational ontology and proposes a solution to his often misunderstood concept of Imago Dei
Chapters 5 & 6: Brunner’s view of revelation and faith.
Chapter 10 is interesting because it extends and continues Brunner’s lines of thought

To be continued…

This blog has as its goal to present topics consistently with relationship as a leitmotif (e.g. ethics of relationship, hermeneutics of relationship, soteriology of relationship, etc etc). In other words, I want to really see the conclusion of the book implemented: “Towards a theology of relationship”. If you are interested to contribute, please contact me! And maybe, more books will follow someday.

Appraisal for the Book

“The great Emil Brunner is mentioned today often only in discussion as an anecdote or side tangent. Yet his theology of relationship is powerful, complex, and more relevant today than ever. Michael Berra reintroduces Brunner and the category of relationship as theology’s leitmotif, while critically assessing relationality in light of contemporary research. Using analogical reasoning, Berra provides a theological framework of relational depth and breadth. This book was a joy to read!”

—Thomas Jay Oord, author of Pluriform Love

“Discursive theology needs a philosophy that translates the biblical witness convincingly and boldly. How do we understand God and the world? Twentieth-century systematic theology responds with a relational ontology. From this, Michael Berra goes further and deeper. Drawing on Emil Brunner’s groundbreaking ‘theology of relationship,’ he points to ways of reconstructing our habits of thought. It is worthwhile to follow him there.”

—Ralph Kunz, University of Zürich

“Christian theology, at its best, is a dynamic endeavor that attends to a rich heritage and responds to the contemporary context. This volume contributes well to that task. With precision and confidence, Berra juxtaposes Christian doctrine and relationship science to argue for a singular theme around which all of theology should turn: relationship. Readers will benefit from his careful analysis of Brunner’s work and its enduring relevance for Christian thinking and living today.”

—Cynthia Bennett Brown, author of Believing Thinking, Bounded Theology: The Theological Methodology of Emil Brunner

„What makes Michael’s work important is that he has grasped the direction in which theology is going and has written a piece of work that engages this movement and in doing so adds to rather than merely repeats what has already been said elsewhere. His research is of interest because he engages a theologian who has been historically and theologically eclipsed by Barth and Barthian studies, Emil Brunner, and yet has much to say to the contemporary church. In his work, Michael brings Brunner to life, as it were, by drawing on the relational aspects of his thinking and bringing them into conversation with relationship science.

 Michael’s work will be of interest to a wide range of readers: those interested in trinitarian theology and anthropology, relationship science, relational theology, Brunner & Barthian studies. It will also appeal to practical theologians given the pastoral ‚texture‘ Michael brings to his work as a result not only of his own calling as a minister of the Gospel, but also because of his passion to earth theology in pastoral connections that lead to deeper discipleship.”

—Graham McFarlane, author of A Model For Evangelical Theology

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