Introductions For Biblical Essays

Introduction/Thesis A biblical worldview is how we see the world based on God’s truth, the Bible. This worldview should affect how Christians see the world and live their lives. To Christians the Bible is the infallible word of God and as such, the Bible serves as a guide to us on how to live our lives. In Romans 1 – 8 Paul is sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. This news is a game changer. We have done nothing to deserve it but by grace God sent his only son to die on the cross for our salvation. This, in my opinion, is the greatest news the Bible holds. The Natural World Christians know how the world was created. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) This first verse in the Bible tells everyone that God created everything. Christians do not dispute this because they believe God is the Creator. Many others in the world, however, do dispute creation. These people look for “logical” answers to things like creation. A secular worldview puts man as the center. The world and all that is in it revolves around mankind. We are the ultimate judges, not God. Paul addresses the natural world in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Theology professors may want to assign this new little book as required reading:

Michael P. Jensen. How to Write a Theology Essay. London: Latimer Trust, 2012. 78 pp.

Each of the twenty chapters (titles in bold below) ends with a bullet-point summary:

1. How not to lose heart before you start

  • The topics of theology really matter
  • The knowledge of God is not the preserve of the very clever
  • Starting to write theology is a challenge that can be fun!

2. What is theology in any case?

  • Theology is a species of reason, subject to the Word of God
  • Theology is a form of speech
  • Theology is evangelical: it about God and his deeds
  • Theology is evangelistic: it is an invitation to submit to the Lordship of Christ

3. What is a theology essay?

  • An essay is an invitation to persuade
  • The object of the theology essay is to say true things about God
  • The theology essay deals with ideas and concepts
  • It is not merely a summary of Scripture

4. The responsibility of theology

  • Theology is answerable to God and must be done with prayerful reverence
  • Theology is best done in service to God and his people

5. Choosing the question

  • Choose a topic that interests you, but look carefully at the question
  • Avoid a topic that is a contemporary church controversy where possible
  • Consider what others are doing

6. Analysing the question

  • What higher level task am I being asked to do, explicitly or implicitly?
  • Am I being asked to find a cause or a purpose, or trace a connection, or describe something?
  • What is the measure I am being asked to use, explicitly or implicitly?
  • Where is my question located in the context of the ongoing theological conversation?
  • Are there any extra features of the question that I have to take into account?

7. Beginning to think about it

  • Get your brain moving early on
  • What different ways of answering the question are there?
  • Do some preliminary quick reading to orient yourself to the topic

8. Brainstorming

  • Get everything you can think of down on paper in no particular order
  • What thinkers might be relevant? Especially look for potential opponents
  • What passages of Scripture might be worth investigating?

9. How to read for theology essays (and what to read)

  • Read to gain basic information
  • Read to gain nuance and subtlety
  • Read to develop arguments
  • Read to find stimulating conversation partners and ‘surprising friends’
  • Read to find out what the opposition says

10. Using the Bible in theology essays

  • You have to read Scripture as a whole to do theology biblically
  • Orthodoxy helps you to read Scripture theologically
  • Avoid prooftexting and word studies

11. How to treat your opponents

  • Treat your opponents with respect
  • Avoid cheap shots and caricature

12. Some advice on quoting

  • Use quotations sparingly
  • Quote if:
    • The author nailed it
    • You want to prove your opponent really does say that
    • You are expounding a view to learn from it
  • Quote SHORT
  • Quote faithfully to the author

13. Types of argument for your essay

  • Volume knobs, not on/off switches

14. The classic introduction

  • Your introduction should set the scene and frame the question
  • Your introduction should state your answer to the question
  • Your introduction should give an indication of how you are going to answer the question

15. Why presentation matters, and how to make it work for you

  • Presentation does matter
  • The essential principle: don’t distract your reader

16. How to write well in a theology essay

  • Be a reader of great writing
  • Don’t be afraid of metaphors
  • Learn the simple rules of English punctuation
  • Be clear, and avoid vague words

17. The art of signposting

  • Use headings
  • Use summative sentences
  • Use questions that flow

18. Bringing home the bacon

  • Your conclusion should add nothing new
  • Make sure you have fulfilled any promises you have made
  • If you do have some space, consider the implications of your essay for other areas of theology

19. What to do with it now

  • Don’t be shy about thinking of ways in which your essay could have a second life

20. A footnote about footnotes

  • Use footnote commentary sparingly
  • Don’t hide extra words in your footnotes
  • Take care that the footnote relates clearly to the text
  • Use footnotes to protect yourself by showing that you have read widely

Related: 10 Issues I Frequently Mark When Grading Theology Papers

Filed Under: Systematic TheologyTagged With: education, scholarship, writing

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