As I look towards the end of my time at theological college, I’ve been thinking about the beginning.
Here are 5 tips for kick-starting theological study, and book recommendations to go along with them. (For price comparisons and easy ordering, I’ve linked to Booko.com.au.)
1. Get multifactorial. Christian theology isn’t about neat rights and wrongs, but about perspectives and tensions. It’s “multifactorial”, as our principal Peter Adam is fond of saying! Across the Spectrum gives you a sense of how this plays out within evangelical Christian thought. It’s an accessible primer that presents more than 40 viewpoints on 17 issues. Theology is a conversation, and Across the Spectrum will help you to begin participating. This book is one of a kind, and a hundred times more useful than a systematic theology!
2. Get “the other half”. It’s not a good idea to get boxed into thinking like a white guy. Although men’s perspectives are only part of the picture, they’re so dominant that they’re usually invisible. However, the IVP Women’s Bible Commentary is one small step in threading the rest of the tapestry. This commentary is written not for women but from women (about 80, actually!). If you’re a woman, the IVP Women’s Bible Commentary will help you to think as a woman. If you’re a man, it will help you to see beyond the horizon you were born with. You’ll be doing the whole church a favour!
3. Get creative. At Bible college, you study the Bible. A lot. In detail. At length. It’s always challenging, but sometimes mind-numbing — the Bible’s not exactly light reading! There may be times when you can’t see the wood for the trees. You’ll need to keep your studies in perspective and to keep yourself spiritually awake. So, get a creative window on the Bible’s big storyline: read Siku’s Manga Bible and the novel The Story of God, the Story of Us.
4. Get Greek. Keep your Greek is only a tiny little book, but I wish I’d had it when I first started college. Why? Because it’s all too easy to lose your Greek after first year, which is simply a waste of a great learning tool. Not even Bible software can save you! From day one, Keep your Greek will help you to form proper expectations and habits worth keeping.
5. Get devotional. You’ll be using your study Bible in class every week, but the “Yoda Standard Version” isn’t always so useful! To complement your studies, change things up in your devotional time. Use an audio Bible. Use a more dynamic translation, like The Message or the NLT. Get some visual depth with Anneke Kaai’s beautiful devotional paintings. Allow God to address you at every level: emotional, practical, intellectual.
See also Making the most of theological education.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.