In his 2012 book, A Little Book for New Theologians, Kelly Kapic seeks to put forth an accessible understanding of what theology is, identifies the reader as a theologian, and gives a lay of the land for theological practice. Chapter Six is a very brief treatise on the role of prayer and study in the practice of theology. Kapic cautions the new theologian that one’s practice of theology is not an outward discipline, but an inner one. To read of Luther’s epiphany (or Wesley’s strangely warmed heart), is not the same as having one’s own personal experience of God. Prayer and study are the ways for the theologian to wrestle with her faith and truly encounter the risen Christ. However, it is not simply having times of prayer or study that are important, according to Kapic, rebutting the popular evangelical notion of “quiet time” or “devotions.” Instead, Kapic rightly emphasizes “constant communion” with God, having an attitude of prayer, a constant awareness of the presence of God. This attitude of prayer is coupled with coram Deo, the living of life before God. With a life of prayer and a life lived before God, theological study and reflection is not simply study, but divine and life-giving conversation.
Having recently graduated from seminary, Kapic’s book reminded me very much of a first-year seminary text. In fact, I would recommend it as an excellent introductory text at any seminary. It’s a fast read and would give all first-year students, regardless of their various vocational backgrounds, equal footing at the start of their seminary journey. His attention to prayer and study as facets of theological practice are spot-on, and I applaud his emphasis on the constancy and pervasiveness of prayer in one’s life. I wished he could have spent more time on this topic, but that would betray the “littleness” of this little book.
Having skimmed the other reviews posted on the CTM blog (I know, a big no-no!), I’d have to agree with the other affirmations of the book as a whole, while offering one major criticism: the formatting. I understand it’s difficult to write a text such as this without referencing other writers and theologians; however, I found the frequency of footnotes and semi-related block quotes inserted on nearly every page rather distracting. Still, a solid introductory text to theological reflection and practice (two items that should never be separated, in my opinion, and thankfully, Kapic’s).
This book was provided free from IVP Academic with my promise to post an unbiased review.
A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology. By Kelly M. Kapic. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2012. 126 pages. ISBN 978-0-8308-3975-9. $8.00.
Whenever we think or hear or read or say anything about God, we are doing theology. In the tradition of Helmut Thielicke’s A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, Kelly Kapic offers a concise introduction to the study of theology. He highlights its value and importance while explaining its unique nature as a serious discipline.
Not only concerned with content and method, Kapic explores the skills, attitudes and spiritual practices needed by those who take up the discipline. This brief, clear and vibrant primer draws out the relevance of theology for Christian life, worship, mission, witness and more. As Kapic says, “Theology is about life. It is not a conversation our souls can afford to avoid.”
“To study with Kelly Kapic must be serious fun. His joy in teaching theology is infectious.” Sinclair B. Ferguson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Redeemer Seminary
“This is a great primer both for new students of theology and for those well practiced in the discipline.” Timothy George, Dean of Beeson Divinity School
“Deceitfully easy and highly accessible, this guide is based on the best of theological wisdom and tested classroom experience.” Veli-Matti Kärkkäïnen, Fuller Theological Seminary
“Kelly Kapic concisely states major characteristics of faithful theologians in this little book…. This is a very good beginning.” Thomas C. Oden, Professor of Theology, Drew University
Rev. Amy Price, Adjunct Professor Malone University, Pastor in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church