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Theology as a Way of Life

On Teaching and Learning the Christian Faith

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What difference does Jesus Christ make for the way we teach the Christian faith? If he is truly God and truly human, if he reveals God to us and us to ourselves, how might that shape our approach to teaching Christian theology? Without a compelling theological vision of theological instruction and without a clear awareness of its unique goals, challenges, and temptations, our teaching will be out of joint with the subject matter, and we will waste valuable opportunities.

Drawing on the work of Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Adam Neder offers a clear and creative theological and spiritual reflection on the art of teaching the Christian faith. This concise and engaging book offers a wealth of fresh insights and practical suggestions. While addressed to teachers in academic contexts, the approach is broad enough to include anyone involved in teaching and learning Christianity.

1. Identity
2. Knowledge
3. Ethos
4. Danger
5. Conversation


"This is the book I wish I could have read when I started teaching theology over thirty years ago. Ironically, much literature on theological pedagogy these days is woefully bereft of theology. Every page of this book takes its ultimate cue, materially and formally, from the Christ-shaped gospel itself--in all its disturbing and heart-wrenching glory. At the same time, the text is jargon-free, utterly honest, and obviously born out of years of classroom experience. It is simply superb."

Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Distinguished Professor of Theology, Duke Divinity School

"Adam Neder has written a beautiful book. It is also a profound book, one which will reward multiple readings. What comes to expression here is the 'impossible possibility' of teaching theology, and the kind of theological existence the teacher must herself reflect if she wants her students to know that this human impossibility is nonetheless, by God's grace, possible. This is a book that stands in favorable comparison with Barth's Evangelical Theology. Surely, a book for our times--and for all times."

Bruce McCormack, Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Neder's book has as its central claim that you cannot know Jesus from a safe distance. Yet as he makes clear, theologians are tempted to make it safe to follow and think with Jesus. Neder does not make that mistake, which is why this is such a challenging and constructive book."

Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law, Duke Divinity School

"Informed by careful engagement with an array of important voices past and present, this honest, realistic, yet deeply encouraging handbook for Christian theological educators is brimming with wise practical principles. But those who love to teach and learn about God--whether in the academy, the church, or the home--will find in this book more than a collection of clever pedagogical insights. They will themselves be taught and inspired by a vision of the task of Christian theology and the nature of the Christian life grounded in the glorious reality of God's work for us in Jesus Christ."

Han-luen Kantzer Komline, assistant professor of church history and theology, Western Theological Seminary

"Neder has written an incisive, wise, and wonderful book on teaching theology. There are many things to praise about this book, and I wish that it had been around when I began teaching. Theology as a Way of Life is the first book I would give to aspiring or newly minted teachers of theology. It should be required reading."

Kimlyn J. Bender, professor of Christian theology, Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University; author of Reading Karl Barth for the Church

"This is a beautiful page-turner of a book, a must-read for all who engage in teaching the Christian faith. Whether you are in the church or the classroom, just embarking upon your calling or have been teaching for decades, Neder's powerful, grace-bathed theological reflections on teaching the Christian faith will impact why and how you do what you do. Guided by the conviction that Christian theology ought to make a difference in ordinary life and rooted in the belief that as disciples we are all called by God's reconciling grace to become who we are in Christ, Neder invites us to see our teaching role as helping others listen to God's Word and respond to God's call in their own lives and callings. Neder's wise, convicting words call us to reflect on ways that our lives and teaching point to the subject (God) rather than ourselves as he rightly reminds us that formative teaching depends on God's activity in the classroom, not ours."

Kristen Deede Johnson, dean and vice president of academic affairs, Western Theological Seminary

"Here is a volume of warmth and wisdom on teaching theology. Drawing heavily on the insight of figures like Barth, Bonhoeffer, and Kierkegaard, Neder points us to lived theology that is personal and vibrant, honest and faithful. Encouragements--and warnings--bounce off the pages as Neder provides tried and tested counsel on good teaching and healthy classroom practices, all done with and before the triune God: we have much to learn from him!"

Kelly M. Kapic, professor of theology, Covenant College; author of A Little Book for New Theologians

"What does it mean to be 'in Christ'? Neder wonders what it means to teach 'in Christ.' For those of us in academia or pastoring a congregation, this comes as both a challenge and a gift. Neder joins Barth's ever-present call to 'theological existence' in which not just the content but the praxis of our teaching is changed by the person of Christ. Prayer, personal integration, humility, and even publishing are discussed in this light (with the help of World Cup and Radiohead analogies). As Neder says, 'Teaching Christianity is an act of love.' So is this book."

Julie Canlis, Whitworth University

"The person you meet in this book is a deeply serious, self-critical Christian gentleman, who is passionately discipled to the person and work of Jesus Christ and who yearns for the discipline of theology to be taught compassionately, intelligently, and engagingly. If Neder were to write a comprehensive account of Christian theology, I would be as eager to read it as I once was to read Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics."

Frederick Dale Bruner, Union Theological Seminary, Philippines, and professor of theology emeritus, Whitworth University

The Author

  1. Adam Neder

    Adam Neder

    Adam Neder (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is Bruner-Welch Professor of Theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, and the author of Participation in Christ: An Entry into Karl Barth's "Church Dogmatics." He has been voted...

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