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John Oman and His Doctrine of God.

John Oman and His Doctrine of God. By Stephen Bevans. New York: Cambridge University, 1992. Pp. 175. $44.95.

John Wood Oman (1860-1939) was a Scottish theologian who served as a professor at Westminster College, Cambridge (1907-35). He was not widely known beyond his country, and even within his own Reformed tradition Oman's works are not often studied. This splendid volume establishes his significance, however, particularly on the issue of God.

Bevans draws together Oman's scattered comments on God and weaves them into a coherent whole. For Oman, God is radically personal in nature and graciously deals with humanity by calling people into freedom in community and responsibility in love. Ever alive to religion's challenges from contemporary science--especially on the topic of evolution--Oman wrestled with the issue of divine power and human freedom. He sought an open, honest theological method, rooted firmly in human experience. Rejecting the extremes of rationalism and romanticism, he declared, "Unless theology is, like true science, about experience and not in place of it, it is worthless." Theology begins from the experience of God's action in human life, the deepest experience being the call to freedom. This freedom finds its fulfillment in an interdependence composed of both autonomy and dependence, which Oman saw as two aspects of one reality. In this true experience of freedom, one has experienced God.

For Oman God is supremely personal, acting in the grace of parental love which embraces humanity. People are persuaded to respond to God's call to freedom, not by some omnipotent power, but by the omnipotence of love. The fullness of God's personal nature and this omnipotent love is seen in Jesus's death on the cross. B. sees Oman's personalist theology as what "we would call today a theology of liberation." This clearly-written, excellent study brings significant aspects of a forgotten figure's theology to light. Some contemporary theologians may find roots in Oman of which they have been previously unaware.

Donald K. McKim Berwyn, Pennsylvania
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Author:McKim, Donald K.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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