Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: The Trials of Theology

A caution light is not what one might expect to see as they begin to journey down the path of theological study.  Yet there are many dangers and stumbling blocks lurking for those who immerse themselves into a study of God and His relation to the world.  Pride, theology as an idol and heresy, just to name a few.

The Trials of Theology contains words of advice and warning by theologians of the past, such as Spurgeon, Luther and Augustine, and  theologians in our present age:   D.A. Carson, Carl Trueman, John Woodhouse and others.  Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner compiled this book using selections based on those who helped them study "theology well."  The two themes of the book is protecting our affectionate attachment to Christ and continuing our participation in a loving community of others.  (pg. 10)  Our affectionate attachment to Christ seems most difficult to maintain when embarking on a study of theology.  It's too easy to forget why we are studying in the first place and some are prompted by motives that are not entirely God-centered.

Here is a sample of what is shared in the book: 
  • Use prayer as a tool to understand difficult passages.  (Spurgeon.  Pg. 41)
  • Those who challenge what you believe can make you a better theologian. (Luther.  Pg. 29)
  • The more you learn about God and His ways, the more you realize how little you truly know. (Luther. Pg. 29)
  • Don't be inconsistent;  live what you teach, preach or write.  (Spurgeon.  Pg. 37)
  • Do not allow what is holy to become common.  (Warfield. Pg. 59)
  • Do not "turn black into white, but call truth, truth, and heresy, heresy."  (Bonhoeffer. Pg. 73)
  • Do not pursue acceptance by anyone, but God.  "Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain."  (C.S. Lewis Pg. 87)
  • Knowing God should be linked with loving God:  "we seek the kind of knowledge here that changes our affections."  (Warfield. Pg. 100)
  • Christian ethics must be based on the fact that our human nature is "wonderfully made and terribly fallen." (Hollinger.  Pg. 183) 
As I read through this book I was reminded of II Timothy 2:15 The ESV reads:  "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,* a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."  The footnote reads:  "That is, one approved after being tested"  May we be able to stand before God without approved, not with a counterfeit faith.  John Woodhouse notes that "the distortion and perversion of the Word of God, the teaching of error as though it were truth, is what the human mind tends to do naturally."  (pg. 106)

This book also brought the parable of the talent's to mind.  What we learn about God in our study should be shared with others through teaching, preaching, or writing.   If God has blessed us with the time and ability to learn more about His ways (our talent), then we should not bury it in the ground, but invest it in others.  (Matthew 25:15)  Involvement in a local church body makes this investment possible.

The book is only 191 pages long and the short chapters make for excellent readability.  Some of the idioms and wording found in the first section are a bit more challenging, since language has changed over the last several hundred years.   My attention was captured and I would have certainly enjoyed a lengthier book.  After reading this I am interested in reading Cameron and Rosner's previous work, The Consolations of Theology.  I would recommend this book to anyone pursuing a formal or informal study of theology. 

Disclaimer: "Christian Focus Publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book to me.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


  1. What a great and thorough review! I've never heard of this book, but I'm adding it to my list.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful book. I'll have to bookmark it. :-) Thanks!


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