After I finished at Ridley last year, I’ve been thinking back to the beginning.
There’s an art to studying theology—by which I mean, there’s an artistic side to the whole thing! From the great Bible stories to the multicoloured world of theology, there’s a creative dimension to everything that theological students are doing.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a painter or a poet but, as you begin theological study, here are 5 tips for being creative with your learning, expanding your horizons and staying spiritually fresh. Each tip includes a book or resource to use.
1. Get story • At Ridley, you study the Bible. A lot. In detail. At length. It’s always challenging, but sometimes mind-numbing—after all, it’s not exactly light reading! Be prepared for times when you can’t see the wood for the trees, especially when you’re doing exegesis. You’ll need to keep your studies in perspective and to keep yourself spiritually awake. So, why not step back from the details and get a creative window on the Bible’s big storyline: read the novelisation The Story of God, the Story of Us.
2. Get multifactorial • Christian theology isn’t a black and white sort of thing. Rather than neat rights and wrongs, it’s about perspectives and tensions. It’s multifactorial, as former principal Peter Adam is fond of saying! Across the Spectrum gives you a sense of how this plays out within evangelical thought. This book is an accessible primer, presenting more than 40 viewpoints on 17 different issues. Theology is a conversation and this book will help you to begin participating. Across the Spectrum is one of a kind and it’s heaps more useful than a systematic theology!
3. Get ‘the other half’ • If you’re a white guy, it’s easy to end up thinking like a white guy! It’s all well and good to say that men’s perspectives are just part of the picture, but they’re so dominant that they’re usually invisible. One step towards filling in the rest of the picture is the IVP Women’s Bible Commentary. This commentary is not just for women but is written from women to all of us. If you’re a woman, the IVP Women’s Bible Commentary will help you to think carefully without ignoring your gender. If you’re a man, this book will help you to see beyond the horizon you were born with—and you’ll be doing the whole church a favour!
4. Get Greek • Keep your Greek is probably the tiniest book I own, but I wish I had it when I first started college: it’s all too easy to lose your language skills after first year Greek! Bible software, for all its power, is of very little use here—don’t let yourself get caught with ‘all the gear and no idea.’ From day one, Keep your Greek will help you get your expectations right and make habits worth keeping.
5. Get devotional • You’ll be using your study Bible in class every week, but why should you limit yourself to that format? To complement your studies, change things up outside the classroom! Use an audio Bible. Use a more dynamic translation, like the NLT. Even more exciting, add a visual dimension with Anneke Kaai’s beautiful devotional paintings. Allow God to address you at every level: emotional, practical, intellectual!
Arthur Davis is currently completing intercultural training with CMS Australia.