Anthony Thiselton’s Approaching the Study of Theology: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates is a primer for the new Christian, the pastor who needs a refresher on key events and people, and the budding theology or religion student. This book is organized in a way that is conducive to reading any of the parts in any order, though it benefits the reader to move from beginning to end.
Part one (1) is a brief introduction to Church history and thinkers of the past. I thoroughly enjoyed this part because though I studied history and Church history in my undergraduate work, I gladly accepted a refresher as I approach another semester of graduate work with doctoral work looming in the foreground. Understanding, even if in brief, the history of the Christian tradition (hopefully!) helps Christians to understand the past to faithfully serve in the present. This particular portion is helpful to pastors to aid us in the quest of not preaching heresy (helps to know your councils!)
Part two (2) introduces the readers to key theological concepts and the ensuing debates taking place. For instance, the first term discussed is atonement. Thiselton gives a brief definition of atonement and varies models, then guides the reader in discussing those models in depth. I appreciate this section because while I might possess the vocabulary, having the knowledge (and correct knowledge at that!) of debates and issues surrounding various doctrinal positions and terms allows me to approach conversations and classroom discussions confidently.
Part three (3) helps the reader build his or her “Christian vocabulary.” This section is essential to those who are new to the academic study of theology or even walking into their first Christian theology class in seminary. I would have liked to have this particular section, and even this book in general, for my introductory Christian theology class in seminary (InterVarsity Press also publishes a Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms which I highly recommend.)
This is a book for pastors, professors, professional students, and the curious Christian. I hope you will give it a read.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from InterVarsity Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and a positive review is not required.