How to Read Theology Books if You Are Not a Theologian

I can offer no advice better than Montaigne's

If I encounter difficulties in reading, I do not gnaw my nails over them; I leave them there...I do nothing without gaiety.

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2 thoughts on “How to Read Theology Books if You Are Not a Theologian”

  1. Theology books are like any other texts they are a mixture of the good, bad and the ugly - the good do not have to be where you are at the moment - but you have to be open to their ideas. The bad - either have too much jargon or assume too much so do not help anyone except the writer either meet his writing requirement or his paper quota for his institution. The ugly can be rewarding but are often hard work to recover the diamonds from the grit. I have read too many piles of grit to be very patient with the ugly.

  2. RB, if someone I respect encourages me to read a book, I'll push through at least a third of it, even if it's putting me to sleep. If it hasn't grabbed me by then, it joins the big stack. My better half likes to skip around in books, reading chapters and sections entirely out of order. I'm reading far less theology, which tends to be reductionist and polarizing (there are many fine exceptions). More focused on practical ideas that are generative and empathic, inclusive and "intrinsic." I think my biggest shift is understanding "salvation" not in terms of some distant reward for having all the right religious thinking (in which theology is king), but in terms of here and now, just basic acts of empathy and care for hurting people. I refuse to project some "futuristic religious rewards standard" if I can't live a life that helps reduce human suffering today, now. And the more I learn of religion, the less I want to be a religious insider. Nor do I want to be an outsider. I think the best “theology” is that which releases us from transient identity, that breaks down artificial borders and dualities - both institutional and personal. I don't want to be known for my theology (or "belief system") any longer. I would rather be known for my empathy towards other people, which ultimately points back to the cross. Not a cross buried in reductionist exegesis, but a cross that embraces me and challenges me in the art of transforming real human tragedy into both physical and spiritual freedom.

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