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David Kelsey, Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), pp. 1092. $79.95.

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 October 2012

Tom Greggs*
King's College, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UB,


Without doubt, David Kelsey's Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology (henceforth, EE) is one of the most significant and important contributions to the field of theology from this generation of theologians. The two-volume work of over a thousand pages (really one volume bound into two books because of its size) is Kelsey's magnum opus, and arises from more than three decades of study and thought. It addresses directly and (properly) theologically central issues relating to humanity in relation to God and to creation (‘all that is not God’). This book has arisen within a theological setting of conversations with other members of the ‘Yale school’ (Hans Frei and George Lindbeck). Yet, there is a sense in which this book surpasses what that school of thought has offered thus far, not by beginning on an altogether different theological path, but by journeying further, and bringing what that theological approach has to offer to bear on one doctrinal locus in a way which the other key proponents of post-liberal theology have not yet done: Kelsey moves from discussing a theological method to using that theological method more fully and directly than has previously been the case in relation to the theological content of a single theological issue.

Article Review
Copyright © Scottish Journal of Theology Ltd 2012

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1 There is already a wealth of literature that has summarised and reflected on Kelsey's book. See e.g. Modern Theology 27/1 (2011).

2 Cf. Kelsey, David, ‘Response to the Symposium on Eccentric Existence’, Modern Theology 27/1 (2011), pp. 7780CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 Interestingly, this is also an idea which is developed in Latino/a theology.

4 Space has determined that I cannot attend to Kelsey's understanding of sins and sin in detail. The reader is, however, directed to McDougall, Joy Ann, ‘A Trinitarian Grammar of Sin’, Modern Theology 27/1 (2011), pp. 5571CrossRefGoogle Scholar, for a detailed engagement with this.

5 I am thinking here of the British system of a Research Excellence Framework, which demands that academics produce a minimum number of particularly defined outputs in a particular period (around five years).

6 Some people have questioned whether the separate narratives are too distinct in Kelsey. See e.g. Ford, David F., ‘The What, How and Who of Humanity before God: Theological Anthropology and the Bible in the Twenty-first Century’, Modern Theology 27/1 (2011), p. 45CrossRefGoogle Scholar. However, I am not sure that this is quite the case by the time one reaches the end of EE, esp. when one gets to Kelsey's rendering of the imago Dei.

7 Plant's, Stephen review article, ‘Christian Ethics as Eccentric Existence: On Relating Anthropology and Ethics’, Studies in Christian Ethics 24/3 (2011), pp. 367–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 See e.g. McCormack, Bruce, ‘Grace and Being: The Role of God's Gracious Election in Karl Barth's Theological Ontology’, in Webster, John (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth (Cambridge: CUP, 2000)Google Scholar; McCormack, Bruce, ‘Seek God Where He May Be Found: A Response to Edwin Chr. Van Driel’, Scottish Journal of Theology 60/1 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and the associated literature around this theme (with the replies from Paul Molnar and George Hunsinger).

9 On Nicene (and pro-Nicene) theology and scripture, see Ayres, Lewis, Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth Century Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: OUP, 2006), pp. 418–25Google Scholar.

10 See Plant, ‘Christian Ethics as Eccentric Existence’.