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Review Essay, Keeping the Balance

Keeping the Balance, with its wide-ranging essays offering pertinent, practical advice and sound philosophical reflection, should help prepare evangelical students in the body of Christ to approach their studies wisely. If you are thinking of taking theology or religious studies at university, or perhaps know of someone who is, I would encourage you to get hold of a copy of this book. The Church needs good, bible-believing theologians, and bible-believing theology students need good, biblically sound advice, if they are to keep their balance!

A few comments on my summaries

As someone who is contemplating taking a theology degree—if not now, then perhaps some time in the future—my attention was immediately arrested when I came across Keeping Your Balance at my Christian bookshop. I already had some idea of the state of theology as a university discipline in the United Kingdom (and in general), but apart from a hazy awareness of critical problems with the university course’s content, which I knew would need supplementing and counteracting with solid evangelical teaching, I was not nearly so enlightened about the problems with a secular course’s context, or how to deal with it, which Carl Trueman explains so earnestly in the last essay of this informative volume. The modern university “has divorced theology from its proper place in the life of the church”, and this raises some more profound practical and intellectual problems for the evangelical theological student at university than the more obvious evils of higher criticism and liberal theology. The whole practical side of staying “spiritually healthy” was yet another area that I had given comparatively less thought to, and I was grateful for the authors’ insights here as well.

Knowing that a theological degree would probably entail 3-4 years of study, I decided not only to read Keeping Your Balance more than once, but also to index and summarise its contents, to help me get the most out of it and provide myself with a quick-reference containing many of the main points from each essay, which I could come back to again and again. Having created a book study forum, where books (and their individual chapters) can be reviewed, I decided to submit my summaries to the site when I had finished. It occurred to me, however, that a wider audience might benefit from them. Many Christians wonder whether or not to take a [widely] creditable theology degree at some point in their lives. Some are put off by fears and anxieties (and not, I think, without reason!), whilst others march headlong into the theological minefield with plenty of confidence, but not enough wisdom. Many Christians think theology ought only to be attempted in a private Bible college or evangelical seminary (there are no evangelical universities in the UK), whilst others point out that the evangelical church needs theologians with degrees from world-class universities and the Christians must be salt and light in the secular academic world too. In fact, retreating into our own “evangelical world” has really helped to pave the way for many of the problems committed Christians encounter at the university today. Clearly, the situation is complex and all of us can benefit from further information and advice. Keeping Your Balance, whilst it may not offer the reader any absolute answers of where (or whether) to study academic theology for certainly aims to offer them assistance in conducting their studies properly. In fact, most of and much of what it teaches is beneficial to any Christian who is simply carrying out his or her Christian duty to improve their understanding of Christian theology through extensive reading and study—even if that simply means one good book a week (or whatever you can manage), curled up in an armchair by the fire.

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Category: In Depth, Spring 2006

About the Author: W. Simpson, PhD (University of St. Andrews, Scotland), is a physicist and writer with an interest in theology, currently engaged in scientific research in the middle-east.

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