On choosing a theologian

In response to my earlier post On training as a systematic theologian, DTKLeven asked:

How would you recommend one go about choosing which master to apprentice under?

I don’t think there is one definitive answer to this. Here, though, are my initial thoughts based on the model of training in systematic theology outlined previously (that prior to writing one’s own constructive systematics, there is much worth in a period, as a PhD student and early career academic, spent interpreting the works of another established theologian): Continue reading “On choosing a theologian”

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On theology and language learning

Theology, done well, addresses the whole person: body, soul, affections, desires, virtues, faults, history, present and destiny. It also addresses all of human life and culture. It was only with hindsight that I began to see the shape that theology itself gave my own studies while a seminarian. In learning to be a theologian, I learned to be a historian, a constructive systematician, a reader of ancient texts (in their original languages), an interpreter of those texts and a translator of those languages, a preacher, a pastor, an analyst of culture(s), a writer, and many other things. Or at least, I started trying to learn those things. Continue reading “On theology and language learning”

How should theologians speak?

Theologians spend a great deal of time considering what they have to say. How should we give account of particular doctrines, their distinctive content and relationships to each other? A separate issue, one that receives far less attention, concerns not what theologians should say, but rather, how they ought to say it. The particular tone of voice used by the theologian in speaking theologically is an area quite distinct from the positive content of theology itself.

Continue reading “How should theologians speak?”

On training as a systematic theologian

I’m currently writing a (now long overdue) review essay of Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology for the Expository TimesOne of the book’s more unusual features, within the realm of systematic theologies at least, is the author’s frank admission that he is not a systematic theologian by training.

Another confession that I have to make is that I am not by speciality a systematic theologian. I cut my scholarly teeth in the realm of biblical studies. I’ve worked in areas as diverse as the historical Jesus, Synoptic Gospels, the life of Paul, New Testament theology, Second Temple literature, and textual criticism, and I have even written a commentary on 1 Esdras based exclusively on codex Vaticanus. Not exactly the standard training ground for a systematician, who is supposed to do a mandatory PhD on Karl Barth and thereafter write a postdoctoral tome on something like divine aseity and divine freedom, enhypostasis versus anhypostasis, or sexual repression in Augustine’s sermons (not my bag unfortunately).

– Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology, 25.

In comparison to this, I suppose my training in systematics has followed a more conventional path: as a seminarian I watched in awe as Donald Macleod constructed a living systematic theology before our eyes. Then followed the ‘mandatory’ systematics PhD (albeit not on Barth), a monograph based on my dissertation, a postdoc at a continental European university, and now my current lectureship, with its ongoing research and teaching.

Continue reading “On training as a systematic theologian”