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A Practical Primer on Theological Method


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PROLOGUE: THE PURPOSE OF THIS PRIMER This book is meant to be used as a primer and invitation to the task of theology, providing an introductory orientation to theological method and a practical guide for doing theology. INTRODUCTION: AROUND THE TABLE Theological method can be likened to a round table discussion between eight individuals representing intersecting fields of inquiry centered on God's revelation. CHAPTER 1: WHAT THEOLOGICAL METHOD IS AND ISN'T Clearing up some common misunderstandings, "theological method" is defined as the manner, mode, and means of participating in discourse concerning God, his works, and his ways. CHAPTER 2: THEOLOGY AS FRAMED DIALOGUE At the center of the round table, theological method centers its discussion on God's threefold revelation: the Word to the World, the Word in the World, and the World of the Word. CHAPTER 3: THE TASK OF THE INTERPRETER Providing vital guidance in biblical exegesis and biblical theology, the interpreter maintains the standard of inspired Scripture as the inviolable norming norm of theological method. CHAPTER 4: THE MIND OF THE THEOLOGIAN Guided by the "Rule of Faith" as a confessional cornerstone, the theologian focuses on doctrinal standards believed, taught, and confessed in the body of Christ worldwide. CHAPTER 5: THE BURDEN OF THE VIRTUOUS The virtuous serves as the conscience of the table by attending to virtues of faith, hope, love, prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice as well as beauty, balance, and proportion. CHAPTER 6: THE PURSUIT OF THE PHILOSOPHER Philosophy provides insight into fundamental questions of hermeneutics, truth, logic, worldview, and critical thinking necessary to better understand, defend, and articulate theology. CHAPTER 7: THE QUEST OF THE SCIENTIST Gaining knowledge through the observation of natural phenomena, science explores Gods self-revelation in creation to better understand and communicate theological truth. CHAPTER 8: THE GENIUS OF THE ARTIST Arts and culture contribute to a better understanding and articulation of God, his works, and his ways as particular means of revealing the image of God through human creativity. CHAPTER 9: THE LABOR OF THE MINISTER Practical Christian living and ministry contribute to theological reflection by applying it in the arena of experience, resulting in a better understanding and articulation of theological truth. CHAPTER 10: THE VOICE OF THE HISTORIAN To gain wisdom and insight from pastors and teachers of the past, the historian contributes to theology by a study of history of doctrine, history of interpretation, and church history. CHAPTER 11: INVITATION TO THE TABLE All believers, from every field, are invited to the task of theology: the discourse concerning God, his works, and his ways.

About the Author

Glenn R. Kreider (Th.M., Ph.D.) is Professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is editor, collaborator, or author of several books, including God with Us: Exploring God's Personal Interactions with His People Throughout the Bible (P & R, 2014), the Exploring Christian Theology trilogy (Bethany House, 2014-2015), and Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches (Kregel, 2016). Michael J. Svigel (Th.M., Ph.D.) is Chair and Professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is author of several books, including RetroChristianity: Reclaiming the Forgotten Faith (Crossway, 2012), the Exploring Christian Theology trilogy (Bethany House, 2014-2015), and The Center and the Source: Second Century Incarnational Christology and Early Catholic Christianity (Gorgias, 2016).


A Practical Primer on Theological Method is no dull look at how we do theology. It is an entryway into the multi-dimensional conversation at the heart of reflecting on theology with clarity. Bringing a tone of humility and conversation to the task, it will lead you to reflect on how you think about God, Scripture, culture, and the fullness of the creation we live in, and invite you to enjoy the Table of voices it takes to help us grow in our appreciation of God and his world. * Darrell L. Bock, executive director of cultural engagement and senior research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary *
There are many books on systematic theology, but not many that could be considered genuinely appropriate for a beginning student. This book fills that need by introducing the study of theology in a way that is accessible, interesting, and winsome. It does not come from an eccentric viewpoint but tries to be open to many streams of orthodox Christian theology. This means it will be useful to students who don't even know yet what tradition they identify with. And there are many such students in today's Bible colleges and seminaries. If you are looking for a book to give a young, aspiring theological student, this would be a wise choice. * Craig A. Carter, professor of theology, Tyndale University College *
A Practical Primer on Theological Method is an accessible and well-informed introduction to the study of theology. Though designed as a text for introductory courses in theology, it could profitably be read by adults in a Sunday education program as well. It will be particularly useful for students in Christian colleges who often wonder how the study of Scripture and their faith relates to all the other subjects they are studying. * William A. Dyrness, senior professor of theology and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary and author of Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism *
This book concerns a critical subject---how to think through the wildly different theologies on offer today. It shows the perils of thinking that sola scriptura could be solo scriptura where we ignore the weight of the church's consensus on doctrinal and moral issues. To the extent that this book points toward that great tradition, I recommend it. * Gerald McDermott, Anglican chair of divinity, Beeson Divinity School *
Kreider and Svigel have achieved that almost impossible via media, a primer that is neither too technical nor too easy, a theological text in which all strands will find a welcome. With visual signposts and digestible prose, they invite readers into the broad and beautiful world of theological method. This text prepares students to enter the theological conversation with knowledge that cultivates confidence and breadth that encourages humility. I'm eager to put this into the hands of the burgeoning theologians in my classroom. * Amy Peeler, associate professor of New Testament, Wheaton College *
Theology matters for every Christian. In recognition of this basic tenet of the faith, A Practical Primer on Theological Method offers an approach to biblical teaching and Christian belief that is both fresh and sound. Blending lively prose with robust doctrine, this volume is one I will recommend widely and enthusiastically for years to come. * Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books and founding member of The Pelican Project *
This well-crafted handbook is full of solid, wise, and practical Christian guidance for Christian students in theology. I hope and pray that it will encourage many earnest disciples of Christ to pursue, study, and practice the knowledge of God in his Word and in his world. * Douglas A. Sweeney, dean and professor of divinity, Beeson Divinity School *
A Practical Primer on Theological Method flouts the proverbial social wisdom not to discuss religion during dinner and instead encourages us in Table God-talk. Theology is discourse about God, and a good conversation will include voices from a number of disciplinary fields, each of which has a seat, and a voice, at the Table. Doing theology also requires table manners, virtues that keep the conversation appropriately critical and constructive. So pull up a seat as Glenn Kreider and Michael Svigel set the Table for a nourishing meal. Watch and learn as they serve up the various sources, norms, and tasks---the main courses of which the feast of theology consists. * Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School *
I am very excited about the work Glenn and Michael have done here, and for its potential to help Bible-believing Christians to think through and discuss theology in a meaningful and impactful way. Their integrated method and structure of content is accessible without being shallow and deep without being esoteric. * Todd J. Williams, president, Cairn University *
Theological investigation often fails to reflect on the methods utilized or to acknowledge participants in the pursuit. For those considering theology anew, Kreider and Svigel provide a much-needed reminder that God's pervasive revelation compels discourse from all corners of creation. Even more, their strategic metaphor of fellowship around the Table casts a vision for how this discussion can be constructive by drawing on the strengths of multiple perspectives. This book is a gift to the guild, and every aspiring and practicing theologian needs this text as a (re)orientation to the foundational ideas of sound theological method. * Mark M. Yarbrough, professor of Bible exposition, vice president for academic affairs, and academic dean, Dallas Theological Seminary *
The passion of Glenn Kreider and Michael Svigel is for evangelicals to pursue theology with excellence. A Practical Primer on Theological Method successfully engages the novice by treating theological method as a conversation between eight characters. On the basis of their discussions of virtue, science, or art alone, one would be required to grant this book high marks. But these wise and humble teachers have a great deal more to say. I cannot recommend this volume highly enough---take up and read! * Malcolm B. Yarnell III, research professor of systematic theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of The Formation of Christian Doctrine and God the Trinity: Biblical Portraits *

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