Friday, July 6, 2012

The Trials of Theology

The Trials of Theology, ed. Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner

Here is a book to give the theological student in your life.

When you head off to theological college, your heart and mind is full of excitement – what treasures of God’s word will I learn today?  Now I will learn how to deal with that tough pastoral situation.  I will now have answers to all my theological, ethical and other questions. Now I will spend my days surrounded by like-minded fellow believers with whom I will become close friends and share the joys of ministry together forever!

Very quickly however reality and disillusionment can set in: Why do I struggle to read God’s word for personal growth when I study it all day? How much new Greek vocab must I master this week?   I did not realise there were so many ways of interpreting this doctrine, how can I know the truth?  How is it that so many Christians can have so many different opinions and personalities, and why do I find them so hard to get along with?

Ah yes, there are trials in theological study, and Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner have created an excellent book, almost a handbook, for theological students. Filled with wisdom from great theological minds of the past and present, it gives a clear warning of the dangers of theological study, yet continues to raise our hopes to the great gain, joy and benefit that such study brings.

I will not go into each chapter in detail but suffice to say there were nuggets of wisdom in each. I especially loved the voices of the past: Augustine’s encouragement to take time out from study to read, pray and weep; the treasures of Spurgeon’s wisdom to study the books you have in detail, rather than accumulate books for the sake of it (something I need to hear!); and B.B. Warfield’s sobering reminder that our spiritual fitness is much more important than our intellectual fitness:
A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly. (p51)

And the warning that studying God makes him become common to us:
Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you! Other men, oppressed by the hard conditions of life… find it hard to get time and opportunity so much as to pause and consider whether there be such things as God, and religion, and salvation from the sin that compasses them about and holds them captive. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore; they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God! (p57)

The current voices were also wise and helpful, with chapters by Woodhouse, Carson, Trumann, Bray and Hollinger, all commenting on various disciplines in study – doctrine, ethics, church history and biblical studies.

I leave you with Rosner’s closing words:
Students do well to remember that the goal of our theological study is not to figure out God, but rather, to arrive at awestruck incredulity and joyful confidence in God. It is to be blown away in wide-eyed, transfixed adoration. To miss that is to miss everything and to fail to glorify God in our studies. The aim is not finally an accurate eloquence, but to become lost for words, in the praise and wonder of God. (p191)

Well worth reading for any bible college student or anyone supporting them. 

(also posted today at in tandem)

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