A Little Book for New Theologian: Why and How to Study Theology. By Kelly M. Kapic. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8308-3975-9. $8.00.
Review of Chapter Four, “The Inseparability of Life and Theology”
Kelly Kapic’s handy guide, A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology, provides a crisp and to-the-point look at the inevitable relationship between theology and the Christian life. He purposefully explains how the knowledge of God helps us to understand and conform to God in ways that are simple yet worship-filled, wonderful yet unique. With the help of ideals from timeless theologians such as Augustine, Kierkegaard, Barth, Chesterton, and Calvin, Kapic challenges his readers to take this relationship seriously as we join on the pilgrimage of faith together.
Kapic delves into the interwoven nature of everyday life and theology in chapter four, “The Inseparability of Life and Theology.” He sparks the attention of the theologian when he asks, “How is my life related to my theology,” for it is a travesty to consider separating one from the other. Kapic argues that, despite the rise of postmodern ideas, the Holy Spirit should be the true leader to helping us understand God.
To prove this, he introduces us to some great theologians of the ages: Paul, Gregory of Nazianzus, Charles Hodge, and J.I. Packer. All agree that the mark of a true theologian lies not in the depth and breadth of intellectual maturity with a goal of perfection; rather, it lies in the realization that we are all sinners saved by grace and directed through the daily struggles of life by the Spirit—that is true faithfulness. A person does not simply know God through studying scripture hermeneutically and purposefully; she also needs to experience the presence of God and prepare herself spiritually for everyday encounters with the living God.
However, Kapic does take care to warn that pride and piety can very often step in the way of theological discussions. Instead of studying and speaking of God with arrogance and feeling as if we have God completely figured out, we should come to speak of theology in a way that reflects the humility in our study and softness in our hearts. Great theologians come to terms with the fact that God will always be too infinite for our very finite minds to understand; we will never be able to fully comprehend God’s character and love and to attempt to claim that we do proves dangerous indeed. What Kapic refers to as “anthroposensitive theology” affirms what all past theologians have concluded: our intellectual thoughts about theology must also be accompanied by life-application.
Inevitably, our ultimate goal is to apply our thoughts about theology into our lives as spiritual beings serving a God who communes with us, cares for us, and reveals himself to us humbly. We become great theologians by being devoted to, as Kapic explains throughout the rest of the book, faithful reason, prayer and study, humility and repentance, suffering, justice, and knowing God, tradition and community, and love of scripture.
Kelly Kapic moves mountains with this compelling and faith-filled, one-hundred page book. He clearly has worked many long hours and had conversations with many to put together his thoughts about theology into this succinct guide. It does not matter if one comes to A Little Book for New Theologians well-versed in theology or if one takes up this book for daily devotional reading, it benefits positively all who read it because of Kapic’s desire for the reader to connect his or her Christian life with the study of theology.
Quoting Martin Luther as saying, “We are all called theologians, just as we are all called Christians,” Kapic strings this theme through all of the chapters, talking to the reader as if he sits with him nonchalantly in a café, speaking in words that are clear and easy to understand (15). Desiring to know God and study what God is like proves a challenge but is something that all Christians must attempt because God is not only at the very center of our core and our being, but knowing God also ties together within us the relationship between worship, wisdom, and knowing our own selves. We cannot separate our Christian life from theology, for the two are like a basket that has been tightly woven together to create a strong holding place for whatever may be carried within.
“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…An ideal starter kit for the beginning theology student and an affection-refresher for those who have been longer on the way,” Sinclair B. Ferguson, Redeemer Seminary
“A very good beginning,” Thomas C. Oden, author of Classic Christianity
“This is a great primer both for new students of theology and for those well practiced in the discipline,” Timothy George, Beeson Divinity School
This book was provided free from InterVarsity Press with my promise to post an unbiased review.