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Trials of Theology

Trials of Theology [Kindle Edition]

Brian Rosner , Andrew Cameron
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Without the trials of theology' we remain on the surface of the statutes of God. May the Spirit of truth make this book a means of true thinking about God, deep affections for God, and beautiful obedience to God, through Jesus Christ who is God.' --John Piper, Senior Pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

If you know a young man who is hoping to study theology, or is already studying it, the gift of this book would be of great benefit. --Peace and Truth

This is the book that so many of us have been waiting for, a book that will be sure to grace the lives of students and pastors and their teachers in the years to come. --R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor Emeritus, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois

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Students of theology can find themselves strengthened and renewed while they study, but it can also be a time of trial. This reader shows how to navigate such trials as we study for and then engage in Christian ministry. It includes wisdom from voices past: Augustine; Martin Luther; C. H. Spurgeon; B. B. Warfield; Dietrich Bonhoeffer and C.S. Lewis. Several modern authors also show how to navigate various aspects of theological study successfully: D. A. Carson (Biblical Studies); Carl Trueman (Church History); Gerald Bray (Systematic Theology); Dennis Hollinger (Christian Ethics); and John Woodhouse (Seminary life). The book shows how we can move from being 'lost among words' as we study of theology, to being 'lost for words' in praise of God.

Brian Rosner teaches New Testament and Ethics at Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia.

Andrew Cameron teaches Ethics, Social Ethics & Philosophy at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia.

"If you know a young man who is hoping to study theology, or is already studying it, the gift of this book would be of great benefit."
Peace and Truth

"This is the book that so many of us have been waiting for, a book that will be sure to grace the lives of students and pastors and their teachers in the years to come."
R. Kent Hughes ~ Senior Pastor Emeritus, College Church, Wheaton, Illinois

"Teachers of the Scriptures need mentors so that we are refreshed by God's presence and power in our studies. I was consoled, convicted, instructed, and even ushered into God's presence by this book".
Thomas R. Schreiner ~ James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

"The theologians in this volume know that the study of theology has many pitfalls. Yet to know and love God has filled them with joy, and they want to assist you, just as they have assisted my co-editor and me."
Andrew Cameron ~ Lecturer in Ethics, Social Ethics & Philosophy, Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 349 KB
  • Print Length: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Christian Focus Publications (1 Oct 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005XE5BU2
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Becoming a Proven Worker in a Dangerous Business 20 Aug 2011
The Trials of Theology: Becoming a `Proven Worker' in a Dangerous Business

On the scale of dangerous jobs, I doubt if most people would rank the theologian or student of theology very highly. However, the process of studying theology is fraught with dangers that need to be faced and navigated. I seem to recall someone once saying that Bible College can be an experience that `freezes the soul rather than fires the heart' and I personally know more than one theological student who `lost the plot' as a result of their studies.

This book is primarily aimed at those engaged in theological studies but has a wider relevance to preachers and teachers and all who are serious about God and the truths of his word. The aim of the writers is to remind us that "the task of theology is to know the unknowable and to describe the unknowable" and to warn of the danger of "substituting intellectual stimulation for genuine spiritual experience".

The format of the book is `inspired'. Part One is devoted to selections from the writings of six "Voices Past", namely Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, Warfield, Bonhoeffer and Lewis. In Part Two we hear from five "Voices Present", namely Woodhouse, Carson, Trueman, Bray and Hollinger. I actually read the book by alternating between past and present voices, rather than from cover to cover and was left with the impression that I would have liked more of the older, to be honest.

The focus of thevoices from the past is more general than those from the present and maybe that's why I found them more helpful. I especially found Augustine's dread at entering the ordained ministry, aware as he is of his own shortcomings, perhaps the best chapter of the whole book, closely followed by Spurgeon on Frailty and the Grace of God.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Blessing for Students of Theology, Both Young and Old 20 July 2010
By paulregent.blogspot - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This portion of the review is borrowed from Justin Taylor's blog: Between Two Worlds:

John Piper on the newly released book The Trials of Theology, edited by Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner (Christian Focus, 2010):

When I began my theological studies in 1968 I devoured Helmut Thielicke's A Little Exercise for Young Theologians.

If I were starting today I would devour The Trials of Theology.

Here is counsel from the proven dead and the wise living.

"Do we need theology"?

We may as well ask, "Do we need to know God?" Ten thousand times yes.

"Is studying theology perilous?"

Yes. But less perilous than ignorance.

"Will it be costly?"

Let the Bible answer: "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes" (Ps. 119:71).

Without the "trials of theology" we remain on the surface of the statutes of God.

May the Spirit of truth make this book a means of true thinking about God, deep affections for God, and beautiful obedience to God, through Jesus Christ who is God.

Here's the table of contents:

Foreword: "Lost Among Words"

Part One: Voices Past

1. Augustine, "Time out to Pray, Read and Weep"

2. Martin Luther, "Experience Makes the Theologian"

3. C.H. Spurgeon, "Frailty and the Grace of God"

4. B.B. Warfield, "The Spiritual Life of Theological Students"

5. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Becoming Real Theologians"

6. C.S. Lewis, "Inner Circles and True Inclusion"

Part Two: Voices Present

7. John W. Woodhouse, "The Trials of Theological College"

8. D.A. Carson, "The Trials of Biblical Studies"

9. Carl R. Trueman, "The Trials of Church History"

10. Gerald L. Bray, "The Trials of Systematic Theology"

11. Dennis P. Hollinger, "The Trials of Christian Ethics"

Afterword: "Lost for Words"

This part by me:

I enjoyed reading this book. As shown above it is a collection of variously themed essays by great theologians of both the past and present. Each essay stands well on its own and adds to the collective whole; it really is a unified work that covers many aspects of its theme. I also noticed that the more I read this book the more I get from it. It appears to have that value of a familiar friend that will remain close throughout your theological journeys and will only get better with age.

As the title of the book suggests, each essay highlights certain pitfalls that students of theology are prone to encounter. This gives a great advantage to those beginning to scale these mountains. You can hear the heart, wisdom, and wounds these men carry. Also I couldn't help but laugh as I heard men describe one of the things I love so much: theology. These men have been there; they've shared this passion; they've thought through what I am beginning to see. I couldn't help but be welcomed into a comradery, as most people I know don't always get theology, why it's important or why I pursue it as I do.

Some of the nuggets of truth hidden here are simply essential, some are a great encouragement, and some (for the student just starting anyway) are lifesavers and mind-blowers. I am thankful I got to read this book going into school as I can glean all this wisdom from people who learned it through experience.

Also, this book is one of the kind that can inspire you to read more by the various authors presented. I found some of what I enjoyed the most was from Spurgeon's "Lectures to My Students," as that is one of my favorite books. I look forward to delve deeper into the works of Lewis and Bonhoffer as well. While I have read some of their work, this inspires me to probe deeper and get to know the men behind these timeless messages.

In particular the essays by Spurgeon (as previously mentioned), Lewis, Bonhoffer, Carson, and Bray especially blessed me. Bray's words on systematic theology were golden to me as he described in warm and homely eloquence the need for systematic. I also enjoyed his wit and ability to make me see what he sees as far as the subject is concerned.

Well worth the $10. Also the book serves as a compliment to the book: "The Consolations of Theology."
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book to learn how good Christian theology leads to worship and obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 Dec 2011
By Dave J. Jenkins - Published on
Theology is dangerous business. Many people think they can just study theology with it having no effects on their lives. To some people theology is the "words of God," or at least they respect it as man's thoughts about God. Other people reject the word theology because it means dead orthodoxy, and in some churches, theology has taken the place of Christ and the Bible. To others, theology is equated with liberalism. Still there are some who attack theology because they feel it will stifle their soul-winning zeal. The word theology comes from the Greek compound theologia derived from two roots, theos (God) and logos ("word" or "idea"). Theology originally meant an idea concerning God. The original term fell into two categories. Theology could be the sayings about God, or the actual sayings or discourages by God or the gods.

Theological study is dangerous business as the writers demonstrate in The trials of Theology Becoming A `Proven Worker' precisely because of the nature of theology. Bible College and seminary is a time to consume much from the Word of God and other disciplines, but there are dangers in such study including pride and false humility.

The Trials of Theology Becoming A `Proven Worker' In a Dangerous Business Edited by Andrew J.B. Cameron and Brian S. Rosner explores the thoughts of men from the past such as Augustine, Luther, Spurgeon, Warfield, Bonheoffer, C.S. Lewis, and in the present Drs. Woodhouse, Carson, Trueman, Bray and Hillinger. The topics this book covers are vast from praying to experience to the grace of God and becoming real theologians who understand the Bible, church history, systematic theology and Christian ethics.

As I read this book I was struck by how I wished I had read it much sooner, but then I realized it was only published just last year (2010). If there is one thing I have learned in my time during Bible College and Seminary is that pride is ever lurking at the door waiting to bait me into believing that because I've been a Christian and studied theology for so long that I somehow no longer need to study the Bible any longer. The structure of this book combats the idea of "knowing it all" as does the contents of the book. By focusing on dead theologians the authors have done the Church a great service by emphasizing that dead men have much to teach Christians today about what it means to be a good theologian. By selecting men who are highly respected in their fields today the authors give attention to men who have proven themselves model theologians in their respective fields.

Theology is difficult work because it has consequences not only on the students' life but on the lives of others around them. Theology has consequences for churches also because if local church's move away from biblical Christianity they cease to be a New Testament church. As you can see theology is dangerous and difficult work, but it is also intensely practical work. The student of theology is either a good theologian or a bad theologian, which means that all study of theology should result in growing in godliness. The goal of studying theology should not just be growing in knowing sound doctrine, but should have as its aim growth in godliness as a result of believing sound doctrine.

I recommend you read The Trials of Theology: Becoming A `Proven Worker' In A Dangerous Business because doing so will console, convict, instruct and usher you into the presence of God. This book will help you to see how you to move from being "lost among words" to being "lost for words" in praise of God. The study of theology should lead to not only knowing biblical doctrine, but to being humbled by the greatness of God who has chosen to reveal Himself in His Word to His people, so that His people may spread His fame and joy to the nations. May the Lord Jesus use this book to awaken Christians to draw deeply from the well of church history, theology and the Word of God in order to stir up deep affections for God, and obedience to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Title: The Trials of Theology Becoming A 'Proven Worker' In a Dangerous Business

Author: Edited by Andrew J.B. Cameron and Brian S. Rosner

Publisher: Christian Focus (2010)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Christian Focus Book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting theological education into perspective 18 Feb 2013
By Darren Cronshaw - Published on
Theological study is a dangerous vocation. One would think this listening to advice sometimes given to young adults “If you go to college, especially ‘that’ one, you might lose your faith.” “They don’t call it theological cemetery for nothing.” “If you do study, make sure you go to ABC school and not XYZ college.” These comments arguably reflect ignorance and fear as much as astute awareness of what colleges actually do. But they also reflect that colleges do deconstruct previously held assumptions and beliefs to helpbuild a coherent and hopefully relevant theological framework for contemporary faith and ministry. Theological education, at its best, is dangerous. It is meant to stretch and challenge, form and reform, train and equip the people of God for Christian life and ministry, which is in itself a dangerous business.

What is theological study about? Who needs it? How has it been viewed in history? How doits different fields hang together? What advice would help theological students today? The Trials of Theologygrapples with these questions.

Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner compiled and framed the book while teaching at Moore Theological College. Their choice of topics and contributors comes theologically from their conservative Reformed framework and pastorally from their teaching and supervision of students. Cameron teaches Ethics and is Director of The Centre for Christian Living. Rosner is now Principal of Ridley College in Melbourne, and his teaching expertise is New Testament.Their focus is to encourage students to come to theological study with a diligent attitude to study, an eagerness to grow in the knowledge and love of God, and an understanding of where certain theological disciplines fit in the curriculum and how they enhance pastoral ministry.

Cameron and Rosner have collected chapters with six voices from the past (mostly long excerpts with brief commentary from the editors), and five other voices from the present.

The reader learns from Augustine and his desire to take time out to study (to “pray, read and weep”) so that he would not do ministry badly: “nothing is easier, pleasanter and more likely to win people’s respect than the office of bishop or priest or deacon, if it is performed negligently and with a view to securing their approval; but in God’s sight there is nothing more sorrowful, miserable, and deserving of condemnation” (pp.20-21). It is interesting, however, that while Augustine wanted to retreat from ministry for study, it was in the midst of ministry and challenge that he learned significant and enduring lessons. I will return to this point at the end of my review.

Martin Lutherelevates trials as a welcome part of education and formation. He counsels using a studytriad prayer, meditation and temptation: “I didn’t learn my theology all at once. I had to ponder over it ever more deeply, and my spiritual trials were of help to me in this, for one does not learn anything without practice” (p.26).

Charles Spurgeon warns against “unconverted ministry” and urges the development of the inner life and self-awareness: “It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or organise societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself”(p.35).

Benjamin Warfield advocates maintaining discipline in communal seminary worship and in not becoming overfamiliar with God, in order to grow in learnedness and godliness: “A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly” (p.51).

Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls theologians to a confident pride in the gospel and critique of local culture, especially to confess Christ in time of crisis. Writes Bonhoeffer: “The work of theology consists not of the individual’s passions, nor of a monologue or even a religious self-actualisation, but instead it consists of responsible hearing and learning, of paying attention to the word of God in the midst of a hostile world”(p.71).

ForC S Lewis Andrew Cameron diverts from the pattern of a large excerpt of the theologian’s words and offers an essay on Lewis’ obscure warnings against the desire to belong to an inner circle: “Of all the passions … passion for the Inner Ring is most skilful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things” (p.78).

It is ideal for beginning theological students to read about their study task in the original words of some of the key theologians they will be learning from. The second half of the volumeis full of counsel from contemporary teachers across the “core” curriculum.

John Woodhouse, Moore’s Principal, maintains the purpose of theological education is to grow in the knowledge and love of God. He cautions teachers and students against anti-intellectualism, preoccupation with grades, and any feelings of superiority.

Don Carson, regarding biblical studies, urges integration of critical and devotional reading, and learning alongside godliness. He warns against working not enough with the Bible or growing workaholic with the task, and temptation to manipulate Scripture either to be accepted by your church tradition or the critical academy. He also offers counsel for scholars with their writing, encouraging academic and popular writing, and not letting small writing tasks distract from your most important projects. I appreciate Carson’s high view of biblical studies: “The mark of true growth in the study of Scripture is not so much that we become masters of the text as that we are mastered by the text” (p.117).

Carl R. Truemansimilarly espouses the value of Church History to help us navigate our present contexts for ministry by learning from our tradition’s past. Trueman just says beware of both naïve idealism and relativism.

Gerald L. Braydiscusses how theology can become speculative abstraction or dangerous apostasy, and argues for the place of overall guiding theological study in the curriculum.

Dennis P. Hollingeroutlines models of ethics and the unique contributions of a Christian worldview: “The Christian gospel brings unanticipated and badly needed news to a struggling world. The study of theological ethics shows how the gospel applies in the cut-and-thrust of everyday life” (p.186).

There is a limitation in the volume with lack of diversity. The first half represents a long stretch of history, and the second half is a spread of theological disciplines. Given the tradition of the editors, the choice of authors has an understandable Reformed preference. But there is also lack of diversity in gender and cultural background. The editors acknowledge the lack of women writers, and encourage women to showcase what is missed (p.13). Of the five present voices, all are Western intellectual men. The first is their own Principal, John Woodhouse, the only other Australian voice. The other four are North American male professional theologians. I would love to read perspectives by women, Non-Western educators, perhaps a pastor with an interest in theological education or someone championing the ministry of the whole people of God. (Moore College students are perhaps an exception, but most Australian theological colleges have a majority of students equipping themselves for faith and ministry in their everyday lives, not necessarily pastoral ministry. Moore is focused on training people for vocational ministry, so the contents may be more relevant for colleges with that focus.)

A second limitation is lack of practical theology and mission perspectives.Perhaps the assumption is that students can focus on “core” disciplines and work out the integration and application later. But the mission of God ought to be a key organising principle, and missiology have a central place, in any theological studies. And the growing field of practical theology offers an integrating and practice-focused framework for reflecting theologically on issues of ministry in contemporary contexts. Contextualization got a nod in the Church History chapter, and Christian ethics necessarily begins with ethical dilemmas in society, but I remain curious what other contributors see as the place of context in theological studies. Woodhouse, as Moore’s Principal, elevates partnership in the gospel and mission as what theological education exists for: “everything done here, from introductory Greek grammar to the mundane tasks of administration, is a partnership in the gospel. We are a department of mission” (p.105). But where do and how do students learn the practical frameworks and practice being leaders shaped by mission?

The most valuable contribution of the book is its appeal, in different ways, to maintain passionate spirituality alongside intellectual endeavour, and communal worship alongside individual study efforts. Rosner concludes with this enticing invitation to enjoy what theological education:

“A potent danger for students of theology … is of substituting intellectual stimulation for genuine spiritual experience. Studying theology without arriving at wonder is like growing a rose bush and producing only thorns and prickles. It is all voyage and no destination. It is like travelling to Arizona, pondering the geology of the Grand Canyon, memorizing its dimensions, editing the tourist video, but forgetting to take a look. It is like struggling all the way to the goal of our theological study is not to figure out God, but rather, to arrive at awestruck incredulity and joyful confidence in God” (pp.190-191).

The Trials of Theology is good reading for students and teachers of theology to help put the overall task of theological education into perspective. Students and teachers need the intellectual rigour and passionate spirituality the book advocates, but to be a ‘proven worker’ they also need this integrated with mission theology and practical ministry engagement and reflection (or head, heart and hands).

A condensed version of this review was originally published in Australian eJournal of Theology Vol 19:3 (2012).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful Compilation by Past & Present Theologians 1 Sep 2011
By HER Impressions - Published on
A caution light is not what one might expect to see as they begin to journey down the path of theological study. Yet there are many dangers and stumbling blocks lurking for those who immerse themselves into a study of God and His relation to the world. Pride, theology as an idol and heresy, just to name a few.

The Trials of Theology contains words of advice and warning by theologians of the past, such as Spurgeon, Luther and Augustine, and theologians in our present age: D.A. Carson, Carl Trueman, John Woodhouse and others. Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner compiled this book using selections based on those who helped them study "theology well." The two themes of the book is protecting our affectionate attachment to Christ and continuing our participation in a loving community of others. (pg. 10) Our affectionate attachment to Christ seems most difficult to maintain when embarking on a study of theology. It's too easy to forget why we are studying in the first place and some are prompted by motives that are not entirely God-centered.

The book is only 191 pages long and the short chapters make for excellent readability. Some of the idioms and wording found in the first section are a bit more challenging, since language has changed over the last several hundred years. My attention was captured and I would have certainly enjoyed a lengthier book. After reading this I am interested in reading Cameron and Rosner's previous work, The Consolations of Theology. I would recommend this book to anyone pursuing a formal or informal study of theology.

Disclaimer: Christian Focus Publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book to me. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Reminder for the pastor, student, and theologian 27 Aug 2011
By Gregory Dietrich - Published on
Andrew Cameron and Brian Rosner have edited this helpful little book about "becoming a 'proven worker' in a dangerous business." The book complements a previous book that Rosner edited, The Consolations of Theology.The book's goal is to demonstrate that a dichotomy exists between the head and heart of most theologians. It is one thing to be a student of the Bible; understanding the language, words, sentences, paragraphs, but it is entirely another thing to know the Bible. One of the main things I took away from looking at this book was the idea of not getting lost among words when studying the Word.

The target audience of this book is clearly the theological student, scholar, and minister. Though others can certainly benefit from it, the target lies with the mentioned group. The book is broken down into two sections; voices from the past and voices from the present. The first five chapters compose articles written by respected men from yesteryear on how the study of the Word should impact the theologian. Articles in this section are from Augustine, Martin Luther, C. H. Spurgeon, B. B. Warfield, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and C. S. Lewis.

The articles presented from present voices are from John Woodhouse, D. A. Carson, Carl Trueman, Gerald Bray, and Dennis Hollinger. Each man in this category supplies an essay that is relevant to the discipline they are in (biblical, systematic, historical, etc.).

As a professor in a university and an assistant director of a graduate school I sense the dichotomy of the head and the heart myself. I know that what is true of myself in this situation is also going to be true of any of my students as well. While reading this I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 8:1-3: "We know that 'we all possess knowledge.' But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God."

Cameron and Rosner have done the academy a great service in providing this collection of essays. They are helpful, convicting, and useful for today's theological student, scholar, and minister.
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