Keith L. Johnson is Associate Professor of Theology at Wheaton College. Johnson has an M.Div. from Baylor University, a Th.M. from Duke Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Johnson has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Karl Barth and the Analogia Entis (T&T Clark, 2010), and published numerous articles related to various theological topics. Most recently, Johnson has published this timely and important volume, Theology as Discipleship (IVP Academic, 2015), that seeks to build a bridge between the study of theology and the Christian life.
Theology as Discipleship argues, “that the discipline of theology and a life of discipleship to Jesus Christ are integrally related because the practice of theology is one of the ways we participate in the life of the triune God” (p. 12) The goal of Theology as Discipleship is to show how the study of theology actually enriches the Christian life and how faithful obedience to Christ rightly enables the learning of theology. Thus, it is a reciprocal relationship that functions best when both aspects are equally involved.
Johnson rightly recognizes the contemporary dilemma that characterizes most Christians today. For Johnson, the study of theology has become so divorced from the everyday endeavors of the Christian life that it has become difficult, even for intelligently committed Christians, to figure out how the two relate. Accordingly, Theology as Discipleship opens with an important chapter that helps the reader identify what went wrong and how it can be effectively reconstructed. It is this reconstruction process that dominates the following chapters of the book.
As an educator in the context of the local church, I understand that the problem that Johnson seeks to address in Theology as Discipleship is more prevalent than many are willing to admit. In fact, I actually just taught a six-week course that aimed to address the very issue raised by Johnson here, and I wish I had his book prior to that endeavor for a number of reasons. First, Johnson is consistently Christ-centered in his approach and application. Second, his approach does more than provide a hypothetical solution to the problem. Third, his approach and solution are beneficial to both scholars and students.
Theology as Discipleship concludes, appropriately so, with nine characteristics that distinguish the life of the Christian who practices theology faithfully within the context of God’s saving work in Christ and the Spirit (p. 156). For example, Johnson rightly argues, we practice theology as disciples, “when our thinking stays within the limits of our faith in Jesus Christ” (p. 158), and, “when we pursue both truth and unity” (p. 176). This last chapter practically and carefully shows the necessity of theology for the Christian life, and why as Christians we should be quick to engage frequently in theological dialog and thinking.
It is difficult to correctly articulate the importance of Theology as Discipleship by Keith L, Johnson. Not only is the book well-written and engaging, but the content is challenging and intentionally aimed. In fact, to say that this book is necessary for the contemporary church would run the risk of being an understatement. Johnson has produced a timely and important volume that exemplifies a personal pursuit of faithfulness in the discipline of theology. If you are a Christian educator, pastor, or simply a Christian seeking to live faithfully in all aspects of your life, Theology as Discipleship is a must read book—sooner than later.
I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. 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.