Sunday, June 05, 2005

What I like in a good theology book

I read a lot of theology books. Mostly dealing with pastoral issues.

Now, some of you may be wondering what theology has to do with pastoral ministry. I can understand why you would wonder, since a lot of pastors don't care for theology, and are willing to downplay it. Myself, I find that a frightening state of affairs. I certainly am not one who defends "doctrinal detailism", but it is important for pastors to be well grounded in the how, why, and what of theology.

For instance, one of the hot button issues today is the role of women in ministry. I am of the opinion that a pastor should have reasons for holding a position that are based in the Bible first, and personal conviction second. Granted that every pastor would say they do that, I think it is prima facie true that all people also go looking for ways to have the Bible say what they want. I do not exclude myself from that.

That's why I like theology books that deal with these kinds of issues that follow a certain format. I am thinking particularly of Zondervan's "Counterpoints" series at this point, but there are books that follow this kind of format:

All sides are represented. Each side makes its best case, and has a chance to rebut all other contributions. The interaction is, I think, vital. When we read something we agree with, we think the arguments that support that position are unanswerable. It is valuable to see how they in fact can be answered. It keeps us humble. It seems to be too often the occurrence that a person will offer a point or argument in a way that suggests they think it has no answer. That has the effect of making the person offensive, and hence harming relationships. That has to be paramount since no discussion or debate should degenerate to the point where relationships are sacrificed on the altar of being right.

Another, related effect, is that it is likely that the argument will not get addressed. When you as a person offend, then your argument's merits are never considered. That may not be right, but it is how human nature works, and it is important to make that admission, or, if you prefer, that condescension.

So I highly recommend this format in theology books, particularly on contentious issues. It will help you gain a better respect for the people you disagree with, and their arguments.

1 comment:

Kim said...

Ok, for instance what about women in ministry. I was getting ready for the complementarian:egalitarian debate here and low and wasn't. So sad for me.