The Need For New Approaches

A Theology of Christian Education, by Lawrence Richards (Zondervan, 1975, 324 pp., $8.95), is reviewed by Edith Tinder, Arlington, Virginia.

Church renewal! A common slogan these days, but certainly with no common meaning. Some Christians welcome changes, or at least the idea of change. Others in effect turn away from any suggestion that we need to do things differently in the churches today. However, no matter what one’s attitude, reading Richards’s A Theology of Christian Education is a stirring and thought-provoking experience.

Richards is one of the most widely known writers in practical theology today. He admits that he has only gradually and recently changed from a “traditional” Christian educator and churchman to one who is convinced that we not only can but must do things differently. However, he does not try to provide all the answers to the problems confronting the Church. His is simply a theology. He hopes to stimulate many readers to discuss and debate his ideas. To encourage this he concludes each chapter with a “probe” section that has case histories, discussion questions, thought-provokers, and resources. These make the book very valuable as a textbook.

The title may be misleading, suggesting that the book is too academic or theoretical for practical use. Only the first third deals with theoretical matters, such as various understandings of the Church and their implications for Christian education. The remaining two-thirds discusses the implementation of these concepts in the life of the local congregation. Richards seeks to live up to his conviction that “theology isn’t the stuff of ‘impossible’ dreams. Theology is instead completely practical, the very stuff of reality.”

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