A ‘Down and Dirty’ Guide to Theology by Donald McKim

A "Down and Dirty" Guide to TheologyTakeaway: A unique, and useful overview of what theology is about.  More of introduction to the study of theology and Christian thought than introduction to theology itself.

It is a rare book on theology that includes a section on theological jokes. I have to admit that while I thought some of them were fairly funny, my wife and some friends that I told a couple of the jokes to, were not as amused. It was probably that I am the world’s worst joke teller.

This is a very unique introduction to theology. There is nothing in this short book that I thought was extra or could have been cut, but it was not what I thought of when I thought introduction to theology. This is a quick book. I read almost all of it on a plane ride. In the end it is really about 100 good pages of content with a little bit more in the appendix and introduction. When I think of an introduction to theology I primarily think of a short systematic theology. That is probably not the best way to introduce someone to theology, but that is what I think of.

I think the most useful section to me (someone that has read a lot of theology and went to seminary) was his section on who theologians are and what the purpose of theology is. Here are a few quotes: “We should never think that one particular presentation, expression, or system of theology says it all for all time.” and “…one never gets to the end of theology; there is always more to come. This points to the nature of theology itself. Theology is not an attempt to once and for all say everything there is to say about God, the world, humanity, Christ, the future, and so forth. First of all, that would be impossible. Second, it would deny that there could be any more truth to break forth from God through God’s Word!”

There is a strong bias toward everyone being a theologian (which I fully agree with) and that no matter what, we can never really capture who God is in our human language. That is not to say we should not study theology, but that we should always be humble in our expression of theology because we can never really describe God.

I also was very impressed that such a short book could really hit so many important points. Theology, much to the chagrin of some academics, should always be a servant to the church. Theology that does not lead to the proclamation and living out of the gospel is worthless. It is simply knowledge. Barth went so far as to say that “proclamation is essential, dogmatics [theology] is needed only for the sake of it.”

I am always encouraged by the old theologians that seem to start with scripture and prayer. I know that it is not healthy to have too generous a view, but I think there is something very much lost when the theologian does not start with scripture and prayer.

This is a good summary of the book, “There is much more to question, consider, learn, and bring into one’s life by way of theological study. The benefits will be many! And the joy will be in the journey. Through it all, none of us will ever really “arrive” as a theologian. We will always be amateurs. Yet we push on to explore the great treasures of Christian theology, and beyond those to obtain the “riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom. 11:33).”

Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition


This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for purposes of review.

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