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A Good Introduction to Theology

Date posted on blog July 16th, 2011

This new book called A "Down and Dirty" Guide to Theology by Donald McKim was a good overview of why Christians think and act seriously about theology. McKim, known for his work on John Calvin has written an insightful book for all those interested in theology. With short chapters and to the point descriptions, this book is chalk full of resources for the interested person wishing to find a concise answer to theological issues. Some of the issues McKim deals with are questions regarding who is a theologian, different denominations, and theological systems.

In his section on Who is a Theologian? McKim writes, "If theology is the study of God, then anyone who says something about God is a theologian. We can't escape it" (11). For McKim, entering into the dialogue with God about the Bible, prayer, the church is all a matter of coming face to face with God. (doing theology). Whenever we speak of God in matters concerning faith, the Bible, and church we seek to come face to face with the living God. McKim rightly points out that although there are specialists out there with degrees in theology, every person has a theology (even if they don't think so).

Secondly, I really enjoyed McKim's discussion about the nature of theology. Systematic theologians can at times seem to try to encompass the whole corpus of thought about God by creating elaborate systems of thought. Yet, as McKim points out "There is always more work for theology to do. No one presentation of theology can say it all.... One is that our theological language can never completely capture all that God has said and done, as we learn of these things from the Scriptures" (18). What is this important? For one, theologians who seek to say all that God has said can become prideful and think that everyone else has it wrong but them. That being said, pride should have no place of prominence in the Christian faith, for we are people who are not perfect, who sin and who do not always capture a vision from God that is both biblical and righteous. McKim goes onto to point out that theology can never be finished because we are dealing with the unfathomable God, therefore, the study of God has no definitive end.

I really enjoyed this book and thought that it would be a great help for those wanting to dive into theology without a great big background or those wanting to brush upon on some basic principles of theology. McKim does seem to truncate some things when he speaks of different denominations and their beliefs. On pp.41-45 he outlines the major sticking points for the various denominations. My critique of his outline here is more of a nuanced approach. For instance, the Baptist denomation has Scripture as its authority but also uses the authority of church history through its confessions, creeds, and theological fathers. I think McKim strays when he says that certain denominations have only one authority, the Bible. Other than that, McKim is not seeking to make specific distinctions across the board, but making a case for theology for everyone. I hope this book is helpful to those interested in learning more about theology.

Thanks to Westminster John Knox Press for the review copy of this book.


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