April 17, 2018
Some people refer to incredible timing as a coincidence, but I find God-incidence much more plausible and easier to believe! God is with us. God cares about our lives. And God knew when my son would be ready to unpack a dozen heavy boxes of books kept in storage for over seven years.
Most of those books came from his religious studies at Stetson, Vanderbilt, and Marquette, providing a range of perspectives in theology I wanted to know more about but feared were over my head! And then “suddenly” I received an email from Crossway, announcing the availability of an advance reader copy of Biblical and Theological Studies: A Student’s Guide to review.
Not only did the title appeal to me, the purpose stated at the topic of the cover challenged me: “Reclaiming The Christian Intellectual Tradition.” What a great idea!
We’re not dumb! But when it comes to theological premises, we (at least, I) might be ignorant. So, before tackling two or three huge boxes of texts on the topic, I dove into this study guide by Michael J. Wilkins and Erik Thoennes, who apparently knew I needed something accessible, conversational, concise and to the point (without tangents), making what could be difficult concepts understandable to me and, undoubtedly, to you.
In the Introduction, for example, we read:
“God has spoken. This whole book is about those three simple words. That God has personally, truthfully, and sufficiently revealed himself in the Bible is the assumption of our understanding of the study of the Bible….”
“Biblical studies is an academic discipline that seeks to understand the Bible as God intended when he inspired its human authors. The study of theology is the effort to summarize the overall teaching of the Bible so it can be meaningfully applied to our lives.”
This practical application begins with our need to focus on what God emphasizes, rather than what we think or expect. As the authors point out:
“Your basic beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes will determine how you approach your quest for truth. How you define God, humans, and the purpose of life will shape your experience in learning and also determine your methods of learning.”
With “theo” referring to God and “ology” to the study of, our theology will be based on who we believe God is and how we read God’s Word to us in scripture. Hopefully, we’ll read the Bible with humility, prayer, awe, praise, worship, and prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and guide our understanding.
The back of the book contains a glossary, additional resources, and “Questions For Reflection” that will help us to focus on God as revealed in the Bible and, perhaps, even redirect our thinking, especially if our fears, prejudices, or opinions, which began in childhood, haven’t been updated into an adult view of the Christian faith and our Father in Heaven.
As the authors state: “Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter.”
Why? We ARE the church! Before we draw others to Christ or minister accurately, lovingly, and well in His name, we need to settle within ourself our beliefs from a prayerful, biblical point of view. This book will help us to do that as we reclaim Christian intellectual traditions for ourselves and the church Body of Christ – so in need of truths meant to heal, embrace, and unite us in Jesus' Name.
Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer, reviewer
Biblical and Theological Studies: A Student’s Guide