The Study of Dogmatics with Prayer – Helmut Thielicke

Helmut Thielicke (1908-1986), professor of theology at the University of Hamburg, Germany, wrote a short treatise for young, aspiring theologians: A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. In it Thielike gives sage advice for those in the process of learning theology, but in reality, the book ought to be revisited by those who have long left the halls of theological education.

Chapter XI entitled, The Study of Dogmatics with Prayer is especially convicting:

The man who studies theology, and especially he who studies dogmatics, might watch carefully whether he increasingly does not think in the third rather than in the second person. You know what I mean by that. This transition from one to the other level of thought, from a personal relationship with God to a merely technical reference, usually is exactly synchronized with the moment that I no longer can read the word of Holy Scripture as a word to me, but only as the object of exegetical endeavors. This is the first step towards the worse and most widespread ministers’ disease. For the minister frequently can hardly expound a text as a letter which has been written to him, but he reads the text under the impulse of the question, how would it be used in a sermon. . . .

Essentially, theological method is characterized by the fact that it takes into account that God has spoken, and that now what God has spoken is to be understood and answered. But it can only be understood when I recognize that what has been said is directed to me.

Indeed, God has spoken – and it has been directed to me!

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