A “Down and Dirty” Guide to Theology (McKim)

A “Down and Dirty” Guide to Theology (McKim) July 14, 2011

When I saw WJK’s new A “Down and Dirty” Guide to Theology (D.K. McKim) as a new release, I thought this might be the right book for my freshman theology students. Now that I have read it, I admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the great little reference book that it is, but it is more about the discipline of theology, than it is an introduction to Christian theology. I don’t blame McKim for this – I simply misunderstood what the book contained.

In any case, what a delightful book. Essentially, McKim is using his many years of teaching, editing, and writing to help students dip into the disciple of theology. Additionally, he got the great cartoonist Ron Hill (who illustrated the For Armchair Theologians books) to contribute his humorous drawings as well. It does not work as well in this book as it does in the biographies, I think.

So what is in the book? Very briefly (about 160 pages), McKim introduces the definition of theology and its goals, major theologians, the history of the study of theology, the relationship between theology and the church, the relationship between theology and the academy, the methods of theology, and “big questions” of theology. None of this is done in much depth, but McKim stuck to the “down and dirty” simplicity of a very short guide.

I appreciated the “Personal Touch” section of the book which offers inspiring quotes from a number of theologians, some of their memorable “last words,” and finally some cheesy theology jokes and anecdotes.

The book finishes with definitions of some common Latin and German phrases in theology.

I guess this book would be helpful to have more for fun than anything else. I will draw from some of McKim’s definitions and he has a great chart of the flow of the protestant church movement (which apparently he took from Wikipedia!).

I leave you with this joke McKim offers (p. 127-8)

Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, and Paul Tillich are fishing together on Lake Geneva. They are having a lovely time, smoking their pipes and chatting idly. It’s hot, however, and they are getting thirsty. So Barth gets up, steps out of the boat, walks across the water to the shore, gets some beer, and returns. But on such a hot day the beer doesn’t last long. Barth tells Tillich, “Your turn, Paul.” Tillich gets up, steps out of the boat, walks across the water, and fetches some beer.

It is getting really hot now, and the beer is finished once again. Bultmann is beginning to sweat profusely, so Barth says, “Come on, Rudolf, your turn now.” With a slight tremor in his knees, Bultmann gets up, steps out of the boat and sinks like a stone. Fortunately, he is a good swimmer, and he drags himself back into the boat and sulks at the far end.

Tillich turns to Barth and say, “Do you think we should have told him where the stepping stones are?”

Barth looks at him in astonishment and replies, “What stones?”

"Hey Criss. Good to hear from you. Boundaries are important, but I agree, trying times."

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