By Suzanne Day
Approaching the Study of Theology introduces the reader to the complex nature of studying theology, providing an excellent introduction to key people and ideas. This book was designed for students of theology, and is an excellent resource for learning. It is well-structured and provides a springboard for future reading and learning.
Thiselton introduces the study of theology by outlining the landmarks in the study of theology, beginning with God’s self-revelation as the foundation for all theological study and moving through the history of theology, including church fathers, the medieval era, the Reformation and the modern period. The bulk of the book is divided into three parts.
Part 1: Approaches addresses nine different approaches to theology: biblical, hermeneutical, historical, moral, philosophical, political, practical, systematic and theology of religions. For each of these approaches, Thiselton gives a historical overview of the developments in that area, referring to key writers. While this section was dense with many different names and concepts, this section effectively shows the variety of approaches and methods in theology.
Part 2: Concepts and issues contain discussion of twenty key concepts in theology, alphabetically ordered from Atonement to Trinity. Thiselton introduces the reader to key debates and authors, often making comments about the practical relevance of these concepts.
Part 3: Key terms is a helpful glossary containing 158 key theological terms. The strength of this section is that for each term, Thiselton not only gives a succinct definition, but often also points the reader to relevant theologians for that topic.
I found this book to be a helpful reference to different theologians and terms. The book is well structured and the timeline, contents and indices make it easy to find specific information. Its compact size (209 pages minus indices and bibliography) means that it does not cover every topic and must treat topics with less depth. However, this makes it an excellent introductory text and the many references to theologians from all parts of history make it a good starting point for more in-depth study. This book is most heavily weighted towards theologians from the Western church, within few references to theologians who are not male or European. This is particularly evident in the timeline of key thinkers. However, there are minor sections on Eastern Orthodoxy, feminist theology and Pentecostalism in the global south.
I recommend Approaching the Study of Theology especially to those who are new to the study of theology, though it is a good reference tool for those who have already begun their study. Be encouraged to learn from the witness of the church throughout history as you use this tool as a springboard for your further learning in theology.
Suzanne Day is an MDiv student at Ridley College.