Saturday, February 2, 2013

Review of A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology, by Kelly M.Kapic

You are a theologian. The term "theology" means a word (logos) about God (theos). If you speak about God, you are engaged in theology; you are a theologian.

In the first chapter of A Little Book for New Theologians, Kapic makes the case that theology isn't just for the seminary student, pastor, or professor. According to Kelly Kapic, "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." This includes most people, and most certainly should include all Christians because all Christians should desire to know and talk of God.

Having established that Christians ought to be concerned about theology, Kapic then goes on in the second chapter, to unpack the connection between knowledge of God, knowledge of self, and worship. Kapic, in summary of the second chapter, states, "Although our understanding is never final, and although we can expect that we will misunderstand or misapply aspects of what we learn, he still invites us to begin. And thus, with eyes lifted toward him we live, speak and praise. This is the beginning of the fear of the Lord; this is the beginning of wisdom; this is the beginning of worship."

Next, Kapic sets up the remainder of the book through the analogy of a pilgrimage. God  knows himself perfectly. We, however, have an imperfect knowledge of God. Although we are able to have a true knowledge of God (revealed to us in Scripture), our knowledge is incomplete. "Because our knowledge of God must grow over time as we walk with him, it should not be surprising that some of the best imagery used to depict the theological enterprise is that of pilgrimage." Kapic encourages the reader to persevere in knowing and worshiping God through theology, not giving up because of our limitations because our confidence ultimately rests on God, not ourselves.
Our call is to come, to gaze at Christ, to hear his word and to respond in faith and love. Here theology and worship come together: we are answering the call of our heavenly Father to speak words from the basis of an intimate knowledge of the Word, which is possible only by the gift of the Spirit. Theology is wrapped up in this response to God's call. Hence, it is to be faith-full: faith is always required for genuine theology. We rightly respond to God's revelation when our words about God, whether many or few, are placed into the matrix of worship.When we see the relationship between theology and worship we are moved beyond intellectual curiosity to an engaged encounter with the living God.
Kapic moves on to the second movement of the book with seven chapters, each identifying a characteristic of faithful theology and theologians:

  • The inseparability of life and theology--True theology is inevitably lived theology
  • Faithful reason--Acknowledging that our reason works properly only when it is full of faith
  • Prayer and study--To avoid depersonalizing our theology, we must be in constant communion with God
  • Humility and repentance--We can not rightly respond to God's revelation and worship him in any other posture
  • Suffering, Justice, and Knowing God--We must consistently resist the either-or choice of the Lord's justice and mercy
  • Tradition and Community--While the Bible is our only rulse of faith and practice, God's Spirit has guided the church through the ages as it rightly sought to understand that Word
  • Love of Scripture--To study the words but never encounter the life-sustaining Word is to miss everything
Kapic concludes with a working definition of theology: "an active response to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, whereby the believer, in the power of the Holy Spirit, subordinate to the testimonies of the prophets and apostles as recorded in the Scriptures and in communion with the saints, wrestles with and rests in the mysteries of God, his work and his world." This, indeed, is the path of living to God.

The author does a wonderful job of stirring the coals of desire for God and his word. I highly recommend this short book (around 120 pages) for those, as the title suggests, just beginning the pilgrimage of theological inquiry; those who have, after years of study, allowed the engagement with holy Scripture to become depersonalized; and every other Christian who wishes to, through deeper knowledge, worship God more fully.

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