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A Little Exercise for Young Theologians

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  648 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
Introduction by Martin E. Marty

A veteran theologian and minister offers his wise counsel to beginners in the field on the difficulties of practicing theology in a church often skeptical of theological pursuit. Thielicke stresses the importance of maintaining one's spiritual health in the course of technical theological inquiry.
Paperback, 57 pages
Published October 5th 1962 by Eerdmans (first published November 30th 1961)
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May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really wish I'd had this book in college. And seminary. And every year from seminary until now.
May 17, 2007 rated it liked it
Talbot Course: Theological Research Method

Let me save you $$$ by telling you what this book is about in one sentence: Learning theology at the expense of your own spiritual health is never worth it.

It's an extremely short book. =)
Aug 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by 20th century, German theologican Helmut Thielicke several years ago, and at the time I understood its basic warning of not allowing theological study to puff one up with conceit (although in some quarters the student today probably also needs encouragement to see his endeavors as worthy and valuable tasks despite societal apathy, indifference or disdain towards theological matters). Upon reading it this time as one of the books recommended by my ...more
Jacob Wilson
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've read through this book at least 3 times during my college and seminary experience. It has shaped my understanding of the relationship between spiritual life and academic theological study more than any other book I've read. It was crucial for my own humility and spiritual development then as it is now.
Jon Patterson
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such an excellent and important short read for anyone studying theology. I was convicted several times in these 41 pages, Thielicke knows well the temptations of a student of theology and exposes them gracefully and effectively.
Jul 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, own
I like this little book. For me, it’s a good reminder not to use theology as a tool to shame others. I have seen (and personally experienced) too many instances of new theologians using cumbersome language and complicated ideas to silence those they don’t agree with. It is a kind of shaming that, especially when I had no understanding of the language, put me off to the idea of theology altogether. I can only imagine what it does to those who have already experienced so much shame from the church ...more
Adam Shields
Mar 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Short Review: This is a classic book of advice for a young theologian and pastor. I wanted to read it because it is the book that A Little Book for New Theologians by K Kelly is based on. This is a similar book of advice, but the chapters are shorter and the book as a whole is shorter. I think it is worth reading, but if you are going to read just one, read Kelly's new version. It is theologically richer (at least by my reading) and the slightly longer chapters have a bit more depth.

My full rev
Mayowa Adebiyi
May 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading for anyone who studies or intends to seriously study Theology. Otherwise the young Theologian remains in puberty, "fitted like a country boy with breeches that are too big, into which he must still grow up in the same way that one who is to be confirmed must also still grow into the long trousers of the Catechism. Meanwhile, they hang loosely around his body, and this ludicrous sight of course is not beautiful"

This is a short (41 pages), gem-of-a-text that I read for the first time in seminary and, subsequently, I have made it a practice to re-read it at least once a year for the last number of years. Cannot more highly recommend it as "advice" for young theologians of any age...
Vince Cancilla
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sobering little volume...a must read for all theology students.
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Helmut Thielicke, professor at the University of Hamburg, has written a wonderful preface to the task of dogmatic theology. Written primarily for freshmen, Thielicke points out all the all-too-familiar traps that young theologians fall into. They learn exciting, new, abstract concepts and theological jargon in the university classrooms and then bring that back to their bible study discussions at church only to dominate the atmosphere and make their less learned peers feel embarrassed.

Because of
Jun 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Book Review: A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke

“A bon voyage greeting to a person venturing for the first season into theological studies” begins the book titled, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke (vii). As a theologian and preacher, among other roles, long mature in his career, Thielicke offers advice to the budding theologian about to enter his or her seminary studies. The book, or exercise as he calls it, appears to be a warning to those who
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: seminary-reading
Though this is an old book, written about the practice of studying theology, it doesn't really read like one. Thielicke is definitely an intellectual, but he writes this in a way that is both humorous, sarcastic, and light, while gently convicting young theologians toward grace and a more complete and fully formed grasp of their faith. For anyone remotely interested in God, ministry, or just applying faith in daily application, I recommend this book. It's a quick, but very impactful read.
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Kelly Kapic's book and Andreas Kostenberger's books are better in my opinion. Of course they each cite this book.
Aaron Loy
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
ALEFYT (A little exercise for young theologians) left a bit to be desired. I had high hopes going into the book because of the praise it gets from many critics, and the fact that it’s a required reading for many seminarians (of which I will soon be).

Upon reading the introduction, I was faced with the stark realization that it A. It is written for a high reading level (of which I’m not a fan) and B. It’s not really a book; it’s the transcript from an opening lecture of a theological seminar by He
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
What an incredible little book and a definite must-read for both aspiring and practicing theologians alike. This book highlights a variety of challenges those who study theology can find themselves faced with: pride, legalism, infatuation, and using completely theological jargon which no one else understands. An excellent small manifesto for recognizing, addressing, and dealing with those problems while encouraging us to keep our focus on the real reason for the study itself - to grow closer to ...more
Brett Mclaughlin
Dec 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
This book receives top billing if nothing else based on its impact in proportion to its page count. At 41 pages in my English translation, it took me little time to read the book. That said, I read at least half of the sentences twice, trying to let them sink in and read me. Thielicke is a passionate advocate of a heartfelt, Spirit-filled theology. You won't often find more than a passing sentence or two on theology in light of the heart, yet Thielicke gives much more than that.

You could represe
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it

This is a fun and "convicting" little book -- and truly, "little" at a whopping 40 pages. Even so, it resists being a brief read, at least for me, because each 3-5 page "chapter" gets me thinking about various things . . . often my own faith, custodianship of theological tradition(s), and practice of ministry.

As such, it's quite valuable, and I recommend it to anyone in "the biz."

I reserve my 5-star ratings for things that are life-changing, though this almost deserves it for being something lik
Ken McGuire
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lutheranism
A beautiful love letter from a theologian of the church to the person entering a new stage in their life of faith - that of dealing with the great thinkers of the Church in academic theology.

I was lucky enough to see this at the campus bookstore when studying theology myself, and read it on my own back then, and reread it now - some twenty years later. Back then, it was nourishment for me. I could see that I was not alone in my confusion in, frankly being overwhelmed by the vastness of the whole
Ryan Linkous
Apr 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant little book (can be read in an hour) about the necessity of loving the church as one does theological studies. Perhaps the most brilliant analogy Thielicke gives to new students of theology is that they will be going through a "theological puberty" which isn't always pretty. I've been in theological study for nearly seven years now and wish I read this much sooner. This should be required reading for everyone entering seminary or studying religion/Christian studies at an unde ...more
Nathan Good
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a very short book detailing the dangers of theological study. Many of the thoughts are ones I have already had myself, but they were very good reminders and gave some reasons I had not already thought through. This is a book that will encourage you to pursue theology while always remembering that it is not knowledge in and of itself that you pursue, but rather God himself. It is easy to forget this, and so this is a book that I believe I should read at least twice a year going through se ...more
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A valuable reminder that dedicated lay people with no formal training may have a valuable sense about things that should not be dismissed as ignorant rantings. Theology, though valuable, can be misused, and often is, especially by inexperienced students. Another excellent piece of advice is that "people who pursue theological courses are spiritually sick unless they read the Bible uncommonly often." I have experience this myself. Theological study is not a substitute for personal reading of Scri ...more
Jennifer Grosser
May 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
LOVE this. Short and sweet, vivid analogies, and no beating around the bush. I confess I didn't expect a German theologian to be this readable. Thielicke prepared this as an intro for theology students, to alert them to the potential pitfalls of theological training, and to enjoin them not to take themselves too seriously.

Notable quote:

"I don't believe that God is a fussy faultfinder in dealing with theological ideas. He who provides forgiveness for a sinful life will also surely be a generous
Feb 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not so much an exercise in itself, but a pre-exorcise type thing. It is all information to keep in mind while studying God. God is love and He is truth, so e two naturally cannot be separated, yet we humans do it anyways. This book is a reminder of that fact. Also, it is a reminder of humility; knowledge is power and power corrupts, and one studying God must have extra humility, especially when his own thoughts and beliefs are challenged. God is truth, and if We're going to be studying it for a ...more
Dan De Leon
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent primer for "the young theologian" as well as a candid review and self-assessment for the more seasoned one. Each brief chapter reads as if it were a thought, a charge, a homework assignment for one to carry with oneself for the day (or even the week). To this extent it is a dialogical work where the conversation occurs between reader and book, reader and self, self and the Divine, rinse and repeat! As Thielcke remarks, "A theological thought can breathe only in the atmosphere of dialog ...more
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, religion
Este libro aunque pequeño, no llega a las 50 paginas, es muy denso. No estoy de acuerdo con algunas cosas que expone el autor, pero en general creo que es un gran libro.

"Thielicke argues that every minister of Jesus Christ must be both a disciplined theologian and a practicing churchman" p.xii

"...theology can never 'prove' preaching, but it has the same outlook as preaching; it is also a witness, only with other methods and means" p.25
David Lasley
Jul 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a gem. It is a welcome breath of fresh air for a young guy like myself in seminary. He writes of the pitfalls that come with in-depth Biblical study and gently challenges the young theologian to avoid these pit falls. This is a quick, excellent read. I wish I would've read it at the start of seminary, although I don't know if I would've appreciated it as much as I do now having experienced some of what he writes about.
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
A short and excellent explanation of what the theologian ought to be and how he ought to conduct his study. Thielcke shows that the theologian must be both intellectual and spiritual man, and cannot divorce his study from the experience of dialoguing with God. "We are working here as if we were in a mineralogical laboratory. But so far as the classification of knowledge is concerned, it is all wrong unless you yourself climb the mountains and breathe the air up there."
Tiffany Sartain
Well-written and practical, it is the sort of book that many of us need to read and revisit. It is the sort of advice that many of us need to heed.

Use gently, however, especially with those who have already experienced the silencing of their own voices, both literal and internal. Please be careful that this work does not become yet another bludgeon used to trample down those who have already heard that they have no right to their own thoughts, ideas, opinions, or space at the table.
Jen Sandoval
Sep 29, 2016 rated it liked it
The only reason this received 3 stars instead of 2 or 1 is because some of the things were indeed valid. I understand the dangers of possible pride and appreciate the bold approach at tackling it, but I found some of this a little pretentious, intended or not. When calling someone out on their pride it's important to come from a place of equality instead of condescension. But, overall the book had some obviously true things to say.
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“It is also possible to say precisely why. Truth seduces us very easily into a kind of joy of possession: I have comprehended this and that, learned it, understood it. Knowledge is power. I am therefore more than the other man who does not know this and that. I have greater possibilities and also greater temptations. Anyone who deals with truth - as we theologians certainly do - succumbs all too easily to the psychology of the possessor. But love is the opposite of the will to possess. It is self-giving. It boasteth not itself, but humbleth itself.” 5 likes
“My plea is simply this: every theological idea which makes an impression upon you must be regarded as a challenge to your faith. Do not assume as a matter of course that you believe whatever impresses you theologically and enlightens you intellectually. Otherwise suddenly you are believing no longer in Jesus Christ, but in Luther, or in one of your other theological teachers.” 5 likes
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