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A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology Paperback – September 3, 2012
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"[O]ne can hope that professors will assign this book to first-year seminary students. It is the perfect sort of book for the spiritual formation class that many of the SBC seminaries require, and yet even seasoned theologians will be refreshed by it. I am confident that it will be successful in awakening many from their spiritual dogmatic slumbers." (A. Blake White, Southwestern Journal of Theology, 56.2)
"A Little Book for New Theologians would make an outstanding text for introductory level undergraduate courses in theology, or for the continuing education of any adult desirous of a high quality inlet into this most excellent and exciting of disciplines. More seasoned students of theology will also discover much to be commended. . . . An able and earnest invitation to advance with increasing skill and integrity toward the end for which we were made―namely, knowing, worshiping and enjoying god." (John C. Clark, Trinity Journal, December 2013)
"In his latest book, Kelly Kapic's contagious passion for embracing the life-transforming potential for the discipline of theology captivated my attention, even in the first few pages. He inspires a renewed value and fresh perspective, arguing that the committed Christian cannot afford to discount theological study. . . . A Little Book for New Theologians is a 'must read' for the new or seasoned theologian. It provides a solid anchor for the nature of theological study." (Ava Oleson, Encounter: Journal for Pentecostal Ministry, Fall 2013, Vol. 10)
"This book delivers on its promise to explain why and how to study theology. . . . Kapic offers much wisdom in a small package. This book could be given as a gift to someone embarking on the study of theology, used as a guide for small group study or mentoring relationships, or even chosen as a required text for an introductory theology class." (Mary L. VandenBerg, Calvin Theological Journal, April 2013)
"New theologians can learn a lot from it, and if it challenges them in some places, then so much the better." (Gerald Bray, Themelios, November 2012)
"This concise guide, perfect for college and seminary students, offers gentle wisdom for beginners in the field." (ByFaith Magazine, Quarter 3, 2012)
"In a very short book [Kapic] draws on sources as diverse as the church fathers (Anselm, Origen of Alexandria, Augustine, Gregory Nazianzus), the writers on contemporary religion books (C.S. Lewis and Miroslav Volf), and the Book of Common Prayer used in the Episcopal Church. Worship is a central theme of the book because it is central to those who would be leaders in a church. His chapters on prayer and good knowledge of the Bible are central to teaching others how to live in and lead a church. . . . This book has appeal to anyone interested in a foundation in theology." (Publishers Weekly, August 13, 2012)
"For many Christians the word theology is synonymous with abstruse, irrelevant and boring. In this jewel of a book, Kelly Kapic shows that theology is really, as the Puritan William Ames said, 'the science of living in the presence of God.' This is a great primer both for new students of theology and for those well practiced in the discipline." (Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University and general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture)
"To study with Kelly Kapic must be serious fun. His joy in teaching theology is infectious; at the same time he is in blood earnest in believing how essential good theology is to shape minds and transform lives for the glory of God. With delightful signposts from the great theologians of the past, A Little Book for New Theologians guides us to a mountain of unending discovery. Here is an ideal starter kit for the beginning theology student and an affection-refresher for those who have been longer on the way." (Sinclair B. Ferguson, professor of systematic theology, Westminster Seminary, Dallas)
"Kelly Kapic concisely states major characteristics of thinking theologically in this little book. For readers who wish a brief explanation of how the study of God functions with reason, prayer, study, humility and repentance, this is a very good beginning. Utilizing salient insights from Augustine, Calvin, Kierkegaard and major reform theologians, he maps out the territory for understanding that theology is naturally a part of living." (Thomas C. Oden, Emeritus Henry Anson Buttz Professor of Theology, Drew University)
"This 'little book' is about a topic that is bigger than life, namely how to begin to think after God. Indeed, this useful manual is based on the conviction that all Christians are already engaged in a theological task as they continue wrestling with the questions of faith. Deceitfully easy and highly accessible, this guide is based on the best of theological wisdom and tested classroom experience. Highly recommended." (Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, professor of systematic theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, and docent of ecumenics, University of Helsinki, Finland)
About the Author
Kelly M. Kapic (PhD, King's College London) is professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. He is the author or editor of numerous books including A Little Book for New Theologians, God So Loved He Gave, Communion with God, Mapping Modern Theology, Sanctification, and Pocket Dictionary of the Reformed Tradition.
Top customer reviews
The goal of this book is to show that theology is not a lifeless science that is separated from everyday life. The author shows this by saying, “Theology is not reserved for those in the academy; it is an aspect of thought and conversation for all who live and breathe, who wrestle and fear, who hope and pray.” (81) Whenever we read, think, hear or say anything about God, we are doing theology. Yet theology is not just a matter of what we think. It affects who we are.
In the tradition of Helmut Thielicke's A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, the author offers a concise introduction to the study of theology for newcomers to the field. He highlights the value and importance of theological study and explains its unique nature as a serious discipline. The author reminds us of this by saying, “Good theology is public theology.” (815)
Not only concerned with content and method, Kapic explores the skills, attitudes and spiritual practices needed by those who take up the discipline. This concise, clear and lively primer draws out the relevance of theology for Christian life, worship, mission, witness and more. "Theological reflection is a way of examining our praise, prayers, words and worship with the goal of making sure they conform to God alone." (109)
The author achieves this goal by first answering the question, “why study Theology”, and then by giving us characteristics of faithful theology and theologians. He first displays to us that we do need to study theology by saying, “One great danger of idols is that we try to fill our souls with what cannot satisfy, and then in our loneliness, questions and despair we wonder where God is. We were created for fellowship with God, and apart from that communion we are lost. Theology is about life, and it is not a conversation our souls can afford to avoid.” (126)
Theology is not an isolated activity that happens in an ivory tower. It is something that changes the way we live and affects those around us. The author displays this when he quotes Carolyn Curtis James, “Whether our theology is good or flawed, those we love most will be first to feel the effects.” (97) He also states, “Theology grows best in community.” (856) More is at stake than just our relationship with God or our thoughts, our theology can change the lives of those around us, in fact, since our theology is not dead it should change the lives and for some the eternity of those around us.
In the next section he points to the characteristics of faithful theology and theologians. In this section we learn that not only why we should study theology, but also what it looks like in the everyday life of a theologian. The author starts by first reminding us that, “true theology is inevitably lived theology.” (323)
However, the main goal of this section is to debunk several misconceptions about theology. First the author takes on the misconception that theology becomes defective because of faulty thinking. “Not so, argues Hodge. Our theology can become corrupted because we neglect to attend to our lives, for true theology must always be true spirituality. He concludes, “Holiness is essential to correct knowledge of divine things, and the great security from error.”” (360)
Another misconception that the author takes on is the misconception that not all people have a theology because some do not believe in a God. The author responds to this by saying, “There are no true unbelievers; we all place our trust in something. Therefore, whatever its content, our faith inescapably informs what we determine to be reasonable. Reason is not mocked by faithful theologians; it is put to proper use as the servant of faith rather than its master.” (505)
Next the author answers the question, which is more important, prayer or theology? He answers by appealing that they are not opposites. He says, “Our study informs our prayers, and our prayers enliven our study. We cannot choose between prayer and study; faithful theology requires prayerful study.” (613)
Similarly, he does the same for the question of tradition and scripture. He in the same way answers both by saying, “We do ourselves and God no favors by neglecting the faithful, whether they are living or dead. Those in the pew should not lord their instincts over their pastors and theologians, but neither should such leaders neglect the wisdom in the pew.” (972) However, just to clarify that scripture takes precedence he goes onto say, “With all of the importance of tradition, it cannot stand above Scripture, nor can the experience of the church.” (975)
The author also takes on the challenge of whether the Christian should pick between having strong emotions or solid theology. To answer this the author reminds us that, “The theologian who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this science.” (1150)
A strength of this book is that its claims and arguments are very well supported. Throughout the book the author quotes several different theologians from different time periods as well as from different theological backgrounds. Another strength of this book is not only does he point us to other strong theologians that back up his claims, but the author also uses several biblical references from both the new and old testaments to back his claims.
Another strength of this book is the way that he delivers weighty theological truths in a concise and easily understandable language. One does not need a Masters degree nor have extensive background in Greek and Hebrew to understand the main point of this book.
The author does come from a reformed theological background, but does so in a way that would not scare off anyone that opposes reformed theology. The claims he makes about scripture and theology are done so in a way that does not use any terminology that others might find offensive or distracting.
Probably the biggest strength of this book is the manner that the author handles such theological claims with such great humility. Knowing that knowledge has a temptation to “puff up” the author approaches everything with humility even pointing out his goal by saying:
This book was not written from the perspective of a person who has arrived and finished the race. My prayers are weak, my pride a constant threat, my concern for the poor and those who suffer is often meager, and my struggle with faith is anything but over. I have known and continue to wrestle with suffering, doubt, weariness, hardness of heart and the constant presence of my own finitude. But I have also known joy, hope and the deepest comfort in my pilgrimage. What I describe above should be considered marks of a good theologian and theology, not because I have personally attained them but because I think they point in the right direction. I write merely as one sojourner to another. (1141)
In summary this is a great book for anyone starting out in the work of theology. It will help anyone not only know the why of studying theology, but also help them think through some of the pitfalls and misconceptions about who a theologian is and what he looks like. This book is a concise and easily readable book regardless of background.
A weakness of this book is that it does not point you out beyond this book. This book is great to get one started in the work of theology, but it would have been great if it could point the reader in the right direction for their next step as they continue to study theology. However, one could argue that in the notes section of the book, someone looking for the next step could start there. Although some of those references get heavy very quickly especially for a new theologian.
Overall this is a great book and would recommend it to anyone that is searching or has misconceptions on what theology really is about. The author achieves a great accomplishment by writing a concise book on theology that calls all to the task by reminding us that, “Theology is about life, and it is not a conversation our souls can afford to avoid.” (126)
Starting this book, I assumed I would quickly skim through it and have heard most of it before. That did not happen. Each chapter is rich and dense (in a good way), with citations and references to theologians from a very broad (but orthodox) spectrum, both theologically and chronologically. I found this not just intellectually helpful, but also humbling: I felt very tangibly surrounded by a great "cloud of witnesses" all the way through.
The chapters about personal character, service, humility, etc. were deeply challenging, and the chapters on faith/reason and history/tradition/authority very helpfully grounding.
Like I said, if you study theology at any level, or are even remotely interested in it, I can't envisage a scenario where you would not be encouraged, challenged, and helpfully informed by this book. Very thankful for having been given it!
I grew up in the Catholic tradition, which very much leaves theology to the theologians, most of whom seemed to be priests with lots of degrees. Even after my conversion to the Baptist reformed faith, and despite having a couple of degrees myself, I at first resisted the idea that I would ever be, much less want to be in any way a theologian. But the more I read and studied the Bible and read the writings of holy men and women from across the ages and faith traditions, without realizing it I became a theology student. And not reluctantly, either, like one of those required courses you have to take to get your degree. I was actually enjoying it. Eventually I realized that if we are indeed a priesthood of all believers, then we are by definition theologians.
Kelly Kapic lays out why and how this is so in a most readable fashion. Like most of the best writers in this area, his book is filled not only with passages from Scripture—both testaments, and he explains why that is important at one point—but also writers from Augustine on to the present day. Kapic has concentrated his own research on the early Puritan John Owen, so it is not surprising that he quotes him several times along with Luther and others from the Reformed tradition as well. I think, however, that any Christian of any of the three major traditions could benefit from reading this book, whether to gain new perspectives or to be reminded and refreshed in old ones.
The book is divided into two parts. Part I, Why Study Theology, has three chapters. Part II, Characteristics of Faithful Theology and Theologians, has seven. This book really spoke to me in several places based on my own pilgrimage, which is one of his themes, but I think anyone who is serious about faith would find the same thing, even though every person's own particular pilgrimage is so different. This book not only spurs you to study, but to prayer as well.
I own a Kindle 1100, the basic model. Not from any plan, I basically read the first half of the book on the Kindle, and the second half on my desktop using Windows 8. This Kindle edition worked well on both platforms. I really appreciated that it had good notes, but also a name and subject index, as well as a scripture index. It concluded with a short note on the author that contained a link to a short video of Professor Kapic talking about theology that I really enjoyed.
I highly recommend this book. I can't help but reflect sadly that, like many a good sermon, it's the people who really need this book that will not read it.
Most recent customer reviews
This book is an easy to read book that I have recommended for those interested in studying theology.