A Practical Primer on Theological Method: Table Manners for Discussing God, His Works, and His Ways
by Glenn R. Kreider & Michael J. Svigel
5 out of 5 cups of coffee!
Most of us at begin with an inherited theological framework. It is the foundation our earliest understandings about God are built upon. This is probably most often formed by the denominational landscape of one’s early church experience (or even prejudices against it). As I have aged and grown and matured and stretched, I have found myself seeking a more comprehensive understanding of biblical faith. (To be clear, this is not a disrespect toward or rejection of the tradition of my roots but rather a desire for understanding of the broader landscape of Christianity.)
If you’ve made it far enough to read this sentence, you probably have a healthy sense of intellectual curiosity. Or perhaps you simply know me well enough to know that I’m not likely to write about a boring book. But I will begin by simply pointing out that I picked up this book (on Audible) not because of its less-than-gripping title, but because I have had classes with both of the authors and I know that they both have a way of bringing big ideas through a very accessible manner of communication. Thus I was confident that the book would, to lean on the cliche, be better than the cover.
“A Practical Primer On Theological Method” is a rich but simple explanation of a responsible, level approach to the enormity of theology. By theology I mean (as I have been taught) seeking understanding of God and His ways and His works and His Word. Drs. Kreider and Svigel are professors of theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. I have been strongly influenced by the way that I have seen them seek to engage ideas and not simply toss around labels. (I submit that so often the labels we use as shortcuts often muddy the waters of understanding instead of bringing clarity simply because our perceptions of the labels may be markedly different from others in the conversation.) This integrity to work with the ideas and not simply the labels has helped my understanding and thus my teaching enormously (at least in my personal estimation).
So I picked up this book knowing it would be worth my time. It did not disappoint. The good doctors here established a very image-rich framework for approaching the matter of how we engage the subject of theology. They do so by painting a picture of a gathering of personalities around a table. Each personality comes from a different place, background, and discipline and so each will approach the matter of theology from a unique perspective.
If one pauses to reflect on this idea for a moment, it makes perfect sense as we have walked through this life engaging with others in conversation. We all start from the perspective given us by our life experience—what we have been taught, what we have seen and understood, what resonates with our own background and personality. It is natural for us to lean heavily upon the perspective of that from which we have come. For example, having grown up in a particular denomination of churches will give us a strong inclination toward certain perspectives just as studying in a certain discipline will incline us to other perspectives.
What I feel this Practical Primer accomplishes quite well is that it pushes the reader to recognize that there are a number of important perspectives that need to be considered for a healthy examination of theology. Leaving out one or more of these important perspectives creates ideological blind spots. From a personal observation, it seems to me that the vast array of denominational diversity can be directly traced to the emphasis of some voices in the theological conversation and the silencing or disregard of others.
When you look at the cover of this book and its simple and descriptive title, it is easy to pass it by. If you are, like I find myself to be more and more in recent years, looking to have a more genuine and open engagement with theological understanding than simply what you have inherited through your own faith tradition, this book will be very helpful in understanding what a healthy approach to theology should entail.
Dr. Svigel and Dr. Kreider have both been instruments of God’s refining and growing process in my life. I have enough personal experience of their teaching to assure you that they strive to approach their work with spiritual and academic integrity. I believe it would serve you well to consider their image-rich primer as a tool in understanding the many voices that must be brought into the conversation of whole, healthy theology.
You can purchase “A Practical Primer on Theological Method: Table Manners for Discussing God, His Works, and His Ways” through these Amazon links:
Paperback – https://amzn.to/3Uw282x
Kindle – https://amzn.to/3Tp0v5j
Audiobook – https://amzn.to/3UqkRwq
(Note: I do receive a small commission on sales through these links!)
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