A review on “A little exercise for young theologians”
Helmut Thielicke, in the book “ A little exercise for young theologians,” starts off being really harsh on young theologians to get his point across. At first my reaction was to think he was being a little too critical. I understand that in the process of learning you are not always going to get everything right. I also think that sometimes it is a process of trial and error. While you do not want to go around making up your own interpretations I believe that theologians will constantly be learning until the day they die. It does not necessarily make them wrong; it just means they still have more to learn. Early on in life there is usually more enthusiasm, which can be a great benefit to learning. I do not think the fire needs to be quenched, just put under control.
On the other hand, there are many people that just try to impress people with big words. They think if they sound smart people will believe them and be amazed. The problem with that is that most people do get scared away. As Thielicke put it, they feel helpless. One part in this book that really stood out to me was on page 19 when Thielicke talks about a certain type of minister and how he “operates not to instruct but to destroy his church. And if elders, the church, and the young people begin to groan, if they protest to the church authorities, and finally stay away from worship, this young man is still Pharisaical enough not to listen one bit...my empty pews testify on my behalf". This really stood out to me because I had a minister come to the church I grew up in and destroyed everything the church stood for, all the while not seeing that he was the problem. Since I was involved first hand in a situation like the one described in the book it made it a little easier to understand Thielicke’s view of young theologians. It is very easy to become prideful when learning and understanding theology. That can cause a big problem in churches and may very well be a major cause for problems in the church.
The way he uses the term “spiritual disease” is very interesting to me. It implies that it is something that is “caught” by young theologians, not only that but disease usually implies death. It is possible for everyone to become prideful. Theology can make a young theologian vain and cause pride, which are the first signs of the “spiritual disease”. Thielicke says that truth and love are not usually mixed, which is usually the cause for the spiritual disease. Truth gives a joy of possession while love is self-giving.
Up until the last chapter Thielicke did not seem to answer my question of when is it ok to speak and how young is too young. I believe that it is very important to get the basics down first. It is crucial to know what you are talking about before you try to teach it to someone else. I think it is vital to the ministry and the individual’s life to study as much as possible and learn from elders, as far as preaching goes. I was not sure that I would agree with Thielicke when I started reading, and I should say that everything he said was not clear to me, but I would agree with his argument that young theologians should remain quiet during the “adolescent years” to use it as a learning experience. However, we may have a differing opinion on when the time comes for a theologian to speak.
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