By Jon Boyd

Better Theology for [Your Job Here]

I love books that urge you to read more books — and I say that honestly as a reader, not just because I work for a publisher. One of our new titles, Toddy Holeman's Theology for Better Counseling, makes a particularly good case for reading more.

Here's her frank appeal:
My first goal in this book is to awaken in you a desire to drink deeply from theological wells so that you will be as well-formed theologically as you are clinically. To that end I encourage you to read broadly to become as fluent as possible in your own theological tradition and become as knowledgeable as possible about others (13).
To be sure, you (like me) may not be in professional mental health care. But bear with me, imagine that you're in her intended readership, and you'll grasp her point.
In many professions, we imagine that it's technical mastery and innovation in the field itself that we need most, but Holeman offers a book-length case that good theology is good professional development, to say nothing of excellent spiritual formation. As she says, "If one of my professors had told me that there [i]s nothing more practical than good theology, which they probably had, I had forgotten their exhortation" (10).
She certainly doesn't give short shrift to the importance of professional mastery. I'm reminded of a certain biblical scholar who once told me, "Piety is no substitute for scholarship, young man." (He was being cranky and dismissive, and he didn't seem to grasp that the reverse is equally true, and perhaps ultimately more important. Nor had I suggested otherwise — but that's another story.) Anyway, as Holeman writes,
The bottom line: Academic preparation provides a baseline for theological reflection and integration. Implication: To develop greater proficiency, counselors [and can you fill in your own profession here?] need to read theology after graduation… (21).
She owns up that this will be a challenge: "Few of us will instinctively become theologically reflective practitioners. You will need time and energy to develop eyes to see the theological threads woven into your clients' stories and to sharpen your ears to hear the whisperings of the Holy Spirit that nudge you to work in this or that way" (78f). The intentionality that it takes to invest that time and energy (and I'd add, in most cases, money and bookshelf space, too) is what sets apart the deeply integrated Christian professionals I've known. It's no accident.
At this juncture I will become liable to start plugging IVP books — but honestly, isn't this one reason why it's great that there are still publishers carefully making great books to keep stretching our thinking? My hat's off to our authors and my colleagues in Editorial who keep feeding our God-given appetite for "theology for better [your professional field goes here]."
If you need some reading recommendations for thinking theologically about your daily endeavors, let me know and I'm confident we can help, from among both IVP's and other publishers' books.
This was originally posted at Behind the Books, an InterVarsity Press blog.
About the Author

Jon Boyd leads the digital communications team at InterVarsity Press, where they love books (and talking about them). He blogs for IVP at Behind the Books, and you can follow him in many places online. He came to the Press after stints with North Park University, InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries, and, with a Ph.D. in history from Johns Hopkins. He reads (whenever left to himself long enough), keeps score at baseball games, and favors mid-’70s Grateful Dead shows.

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