“Let’s face it; most theology is boring.”

Why am I reading a book that begins with that sentence?

Because I agree with it. Because I’m guilty of it. And because I want to do something about it in the one person I can influence. Me.

But if you’re also interested, and you “want to buck the trend of boring theology and help move talk about God back to the heart of everyday life,” then why don’t you pick up Expressing Theology: A Guide to Writing Theology that Readers Want to Read.

Remember, this isn’t a challenge just for authors, pastors, and academics. If you’re involved in teaching the Bible in any capacity, whether it’s in Sunday school, a Bible Study, or a small group, then you too can learn from this book about how to make your teaching more enjoyable and edifying.

Let’s start with the author’s stated aim in chapter one:

I want to spark a revolution that transforms how theologians from all walks of life and traditions express theology. I believe theology should be engaging, compelling, and beautiful.

So, what makes for “bad” theological writing? The authors identify three problems:

1. Poor writing skills

  • Incorrect grammar, confusing sentence construction, common usage and punctuation mistakes.
  • Wordy, fat sentences that are held together by weak verbs.
  • Choppy repetitive sentence construction.
  • Unclear, boring prose that commits to nothing.
  • Writing that lacks personality and fails to draw the reader in through examples such as stories and illustrations (usually the result of writers trying to sound “academic” and in the process losing their personality and voice.

2. Shallow writing

  • Words spewed on the page without purpose or direction, integration, or reflection.
  • Summarizing multiple sources without ever reflecting on or discussing the material or trying to bring it together.

3. Fear

  • Fear-based writers believe they have nothing worth adding to the conversation.
  • They hide behind infinite strings of long dense quotes and Scripture verses with barely a sentence or two of their own thought between them.
  • Scared of being thought of as stupid, they’re terrified of exposing their thought for public consumption.

Questions: What other problems have you come across in theological writing? Are any/all of these problems found in preaching?

  • Brad

    “Anything said of God in the third person is inauthentic.” Hans Joachim Kraus

  • Scott Melhuish

    The best theology is devotional. If it’s just academic or too cerebral, the danger is that we think about God as a topic to study, rather than worshipping him as our Lord. I think the style of theological writing is important in this regard.

    “The Christian’s Reasonable Service” by à Brakel is a great example of theology blended with devotion: