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Nathan Soderblom and the Study of Religion.

This excellent presentation of Nathan Soderblom, historian of religions, ecumenical theologian, and archbishop of Sweden, is a timely publication. It concentrates on the scholarly achievements of this remarkable man, who is known today more for his practical clerical work than for his contributions to the history of religions. And yet, Soderblom opened up the paths in this discipline in both Sweden and Germany.

The author, Eric Sharpe, professor of religious studies at the University of Sydney (and formerly professor of the history of religions at the University of Uppsala), is well known for his splendid comprehensive work on the history of comparative religion (1975). The beautiful style and sound judgment of the earlier volume characterize also the present book. Sharpe has achieved a very exhaustive, reliable, and creative account of Soderblom's intellectual contributions and the growth of his scholarly visions.

Against the background of the successive periods in Soderblom's life--his time as professor, and then his time as archbishop (during the latter he was only partly concerned with religio-historical writing)--the author notes that theology and scientific study overlap in his work and that it is arbitrary to isolate the one from the other. Soderblom never lost sight of the dominant issue in all religious experience: a human being's relation to the divine, to the "holy." In underlining this connection, he claimed a theological position that many of his successors have avoided--mostly, it seems, in order to follow intrinsic humanistic criteria.

Ake Hultkrantz is professor emeritus in the history of religion at the University of Stockholm, Sweden.
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Author:Hultkrantz, Ake
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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