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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Approaching the Study of Theology" by Anthony Thiselton. A Review

Approaching the Study of Theology: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & DebatesApproaching the Study of Theology: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates by Anthony C. Thiselton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anthony Thiselton, emeritus professor of Christian theology at the University of Nottingham and a fellow of the British Academy, has done it again. Very much like his previous work, "Approaching Philosophy of Religion" published earlier this year, he has compiled a new 255 page paperback introducing theology. "Approaching the Study of Theology: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates" has just come out and is ideal for college classes, divinity students, pastors and professors. This handy little resource is written to be a reference work and an introduction into the various subjects and sources in theology.

The work unfolds in four sections. The first is an introduction that examines the biblical roots of theology, and its historical development to the present, running through the early church fathers, the medieval era, the Reformation, Karl Barth, up to today. Then Thiselton guides the reader along the various approaches to theological studies: biblical theology, hermeneutical, historical, moral, philosophical, political, practical, systematic, and the theology of religions. This second section is very helpful for showing the genealogies of the assorted disciplines, their strengths and weaknesses. Next covers key concepts and gives some depth to twenty topics beginning with atonement and ending with the Holy Trinity. The author's irenic leadership is clearly evident in these descriptions and explanations. For example, though I am not in the Pentecostal tradition, I thought the installment he penned on Pentecostalism was highly informative and gracious. Finally, there is a glossary of sorts. With a short paragraph dedicated to each term, the author covers 159 words from agnosticism to harmatology to kenotic theory to the wrath of God. Again, Thiselton's amiability was clear. As an example, his handling of Calvinism was genial and perceptive; "More strictly the term refers to Reformed theology, in contrast to Lutheran theology. In popular thought it is sometimes used disparagingly to allude to a preoccupation with predestination, in contrast to Arminianism...But Calvin's theology is far more comprehensive, and his emphasis on predestination and election serves to promote the sovereignty of God, and the undeserved character of grace. He seeks to follow Scripture and Augustine" (173).

"Approaching the Study of Theology" is easy to use and functional. The author desires his book to serve "those who are in the midst of a course in theology, and those contemplating the study of theology to degree level." He also wishes this work to "inform clergy, pastors and teachers who are in a position to advise students about what a degree course in theology will involve" (xi). Not only will it accomplish these goals, but it will be a useful resource for anyone needing a handbook on many theological subjects. I highly recommend the book.

My thanks to IVP Academic who sent me a copy used for this review. My descriptions and explications are all my own and freely given. There were no demands placed on me by the author, publisher, President, or federal agents.

You may easily purchase a copy of the book here: IVP Academic

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