Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Practical Theology for Women - Pt 1

Is this the book for me?

If you are anything like me your time in each day is almost completely spoken for before you even get up in the morning. So reading a serious book is something of luxury and if you are going to invest time into a book you want to know what you might get out of it. With this in mind, I’ve written this introductory post to our discussions on Practical Theology for Women to help you make up your mind if you are still deciding whether to read this book. I’m hoping it will give you a sense of what the book is all about and how it might be of help to you and I as we follow Jesus.

This is a short book. The chapters are short. Wendy gets to the point quickly and moves through the material speedily, using headings to break up the material. If you are hesitating about this book because the title sounds turgid, don’t. It’s a snappy book.

The book is also relational. That is, we get to know Wendy a far bit in the book. She introduces herself at some length in the introduction and shows how her theology has grown and profoundly affected her life. As we go through the book we bump into lots of application and Wendy is keen for us to join her as she applies the truths she is teaching to her life. This is a relational book, as far as a book can be.

This book seeks to be practical. Wendy aims to apply all the different aspects of theology to real life, specifically to make us better at loving God and loving those around us. So this is a challenging book as Wendy asks us to examine our lives and our hearts and think carefully about whether we need to change to conform to the image of Christ more closely. And Wendy has some brilliant moments in helping us apply the Scriptures to our lives. One of my favourites is her comments that ‘God must be big in our minds’, which is crucial to living a life fearing God and trying to please him. If anyone else is ‘bigger’ in our minds we will fear and please them. This observation is so helpful in moving us from believing that Jesus must have first place in our lives to putting it into practice. Some of the hardest things to apply to our lives relate to the way we think rather than what we do, and Wendy’s book is helpful to us in challenging our thinking as well as our practice.

All short books come with the difficulty of not covering everything. I don’t think it is Wendy’s intention to cover everything to do with theology or even to cover everything about some of the topics she’s chosen. So she tends to focus on part of a topic. And I think this was the only thing about the book which made me feel a bit uncomfortable: often she starts from a dictionary definition and understands things from there. Sometimes this means that we seem to miss out on how this or that topic relates to the Lord Jesus. But I think her purpose is to get us thinking about God and his Word and taking it seriously and we all need to hear that call. This book is a taste of theology really, and having whet our appetite on it we are to go on chomping down substantial theological food rather than settling for bite sized portions every now and again.

And it’s great to realise that this book isn’t trying to be Practical Theology for Women Which Covers Every Single Part of Doctrine Ever Discussed or Considered in the Western and Eastern Church Since the First Century. That would be a much longer book. With much longer chapters, one suspects. When we realise that it isn’t trying to be comprehensive, we can be much better readers of this book. We can look out for things where we think Wendy might have added something more if she’d had space. We can be asking ourselves, ‘What else does the Bible say about this?’ and other similar questions. We can ask, ‘How does knowing Jesus, that he came, died for our sins and rose again — how does this affect how I think about this topic?‘ For that reason, I think this book is ideal for a book club or to read with a friend. It is easy to read and what it has to say is good and challenging, prompting us to follow Jesus and live for him. And it is easy to discuss because there is always more to say.

Interested? Come along for the ride. Easy to read, short chapters. Practical. Helping us to know and love God better and be better ‘neighbours’. How could you resist? :)

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