One book that I recommend to all who study theology (pastors, academics, etc.) is Helmut Thielicke’s A Little Exercise for Young Theologians . Along my way in theological education I came across this book and was greatly helped by it. I said then that if I ever taught I would require this book, and now I do. Once a year I work back through this little book with a group of students. Just this week I did this once more. In order to encourage you to read (or re-read) this book, let me share one student’s response to the book:
“At the risk of overstatement, I consider this short book to be one of the most meaningful and personally applicable that I have read. Thielicke’s clarity of thought and colorful expression led me into one of the most deeply convicting reading experiences of recent memory…. I can think of few books in the category of this one, which seemed to look with a penetrating gaze into my very life and gently rebuke me for the secret impurities and ‘gnostic pride’ that have long been locked away in my heart concealed behind doors of humble clichés and gentleness of speech.”
Well put. Thielicke particularly deals with the problem of pride in studying theology and of thinking that because one has studied certain issues he has mastered them. While upholding the value (indeed necessity) of theological study he punctures the arrogance which so easily arises.
Much could be said about this book, but I will simply point out that Thielicke does not merely give a warning. He gives sound advice for pursuing theological study in a devotional and relational manner, for uniting head and heart. He encourages engagement with the people of God and regular reading of the Scriptures. It is not fancy, but this is the way. Here are a few quotes.
“But it is all the more important to insist constantly and almost monotonously that a person who pursues theological courses is spiritually sick unless he reads the Bible uncommonly often and makes the most of opportunities by which, in preaching and Bible classes, that cornerstone is made visible.” (pg. 40)
“How all-important it is that a vigorous spiritual life, in close association with the Holy Scriptures and in the midst of the Christian community, be maintained as a background for theological work…” (pg. 37)
“…insofar as we are determined to be true theologians, we think within the community of God’s people, and for that community, and in the name of that community;--how shall I say?—we think as a part of the community itself…” (pgs.4-5)
Amen! He is no true theologian who does not work from within the church for the good of the church.