Review: Kelly M. Kapic, A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology

Kelly M. Kapic, A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology. IVP Academic, 2012. 126 pp.

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Kapic’s short introduction to theology is an ideal book for both the classroom and church. His writing is clear, careful, insightful, and he is a wise guide for students beginning and continuing their study of theology. Aimed at American evangelical college and seminary students, the book strongly integrates theology and spirituality by convincingly demonstrating that worship is at the heart of good theology. Theologians must learn how to become wise and how to approach and do theology in a way that avoids idolatry, admits our sin and finitude, and develops key characteristics of the life and mind via the work of the Holy Spirit. I would definitely recommend that professors and church leaders give this book a serious look (and read). I believe it can help provide structure and direction for students to approach and do theology well in relation to Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Coupled with the personal guidance of the teacher, this will be a significant resource for developing faithful theologians.

This book is an “updated attempt” at Thielicke’s A Little Exercise for Young Theologians (1962), but I’m not sure that this means it replaces the older text. Both could be read together with great benefit. The book comprises ten short chapters:

Part One – Why Study Theology?
1. Entering the Conversation
2. To Know and Enjoy God: Becoming Wise
3. Theology as Pilgrimage

Part Two – Characteristics of Faith Theology and Theologians
4. The Inseparability of Life and Theology
5. Faithful Reason
6. Prayer and Study
7. Humility and Repentance
8. Suffering, Justice and Knowing God
9. Tradition and Community
10. Love of Scripture

Kapic models the kind of theology he recommends to students by consistently integrating Scripture, the theological tradition, and working towards what he calls an “anthroposensitive theology.” By this he means “a refusal to divorce theological considerations from practical human application, since theological reflections are always interwoven with anthropological concerns” (p. 47). This kind of theology can be seen, for example, when Kapic writes that “God judges our theology faithful or false by our attitudes and responses to those in need. Theology that lacks compassion and action is no theology at all” (pp. 83–84). Furthermore, he calls students to do theology within the context of the great tradition as well as our local communities. Listening to the past requires patience, humility, trust, critical interaction, and the recognition that the Spirit worked in the lives of previous saints as well. Doing theology locally is to hear and recognize the Spirit’s work in the church now and to realize that theology grows best in community. In short, “we do ourselves and God no favors by neglecting the faithful, whether they are living or dead” (p. 104).

In the end, Kapic describes Christian theology as “an active response to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, whereby the believer, in the power of the Holy Spirit, subordinate to the testimonies of the prophets and apostles as recorded in the Scriptures and in communion with the saints, wrestles with and rests in the mysteries of God, his work and his world.” (p. 121). I hope this book will find a wide readership as an excellent starting-place for serious study of theology.

For those interested, you can watch a video interview with Kapic here.

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy.


About Jordan P. Barrett

PhD, Systematic Theology, Wheaton College
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5 Responses to Review: Kelly M. Kapic, A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology

  1. Phil Harrold says:

    Many thanks for this review. This comes at a very good time for us at Trinity School for Ministry.

  2. Jordan, what are some of the similarities and differences with Thielicke’s book?

  3. Adam Shields says:

    I have read them both and I like this one better. It is a little longer. (About 120 pages instead of 65), more concerned with spiritual practice (although both are) and more devotional in feel.

    Thielicke’s feels more like a short textbook than a devotional. Kapic’s feels more like going on a walk with a trusted professor or pastor and chatting about your spiritual life and growth.

    I think both are worth reading, but probably not one right after another.

  4. Jordan Barrett says:

    Adam, thanks for your response to Stephanie’s question. I’d agree with much of what you said. Both focus on the attitudes/heart of the person studying theology. Being a theologian is limited to the mind, but it’s also nothing less than the use of our minds (so faith and reason become important). I still think Thielicke’s book is worth reading (esp when it’s so short). As he says himself, Kapic’s is more updated and likely to speak more strongly to recent generations.

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