Theology as Discipleship, By Keith L. Johnson
Theology as Discipleship
  • Length: 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: November 09, 2015
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 4034
  • ISBN: 9780830840342

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First Things' Year in Books

For many people, the word "theology" evokes something dry, academic, irrelevant and disconnected from the everyday concerns of life. We surely would not say that about God, so why is our talk about God any different?

In this engaging and accessible introduction, Keith Johnson takes a fresh look at theology. He presents the discipline of theology as one of the ways we participate in the life of the triune God. Without suggesting it should be removed from the academy, Johnson argues that theology has to be integrally connected to the traditions and practices of the church. If academic theology is to be genuinely theological, then it has to be carried out in obedience to Jesus Christ and in service to the church.

Unlike other introductions, Theology as Discipleship avoids the usual overview of doctrines according to the creed, which traditionally move from the Trinity to eschatology. Johnson instead explains the content of theology by describing the Christian life—being in Christ, hearing God's Word, sharing the mind of Christ. Theology not only leads to discipleship, but is itself a way of following after Christ in faith.

"This is theology that is saturated with Scripture, humbly centered on Christ and the gospel, and earnestly intended for God's people. This is theology for discipleship, and it is truly theology as discipleship. I learned much from reading it, and I was edified and challenged by it. It is a gift to us all."

Thomas H. McCall, associate professor of biblical and systematic theology, director, Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"This book is the prescription for all Christians who doubt theology's relevance for Christian living—and for all Christians who wonder what theology is about and how it works. Keith Johnson has 'nailed it' with this fine introductory work on the practical relevance of theology for Christian discipleship. Readers with an appreciation for theology will benefit from reading it as well. The chapters on Scripture express an enlightened evangelical approach to the Bible as the living Word of God."

Roger E. Olson, Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, Waco, Texas

"In Theology as Discipleship, Keith Johnson invites readers to inhabit a rich theological landscape as followers of Christ. Johnson's book overflows with wisdom and joy as he shows how Christians of all vocations are called to live in union with Christ, being reshaped by God's Word through the Spirit. This refreshing book is a wonderful theological companion for disciples of Jesus Christ."

J. Todd Billings, Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, MI

"Keith Johnson rightly understands that the practices of theology and discipleship are woven together; here he offers wise reflections on how to go about the task under the Word and Spirit and for the sake of the other. He ably points us in the right direction."

Kelly M. Kapic, author of A Little Book for New Theologians

"Keith Johnson has done a great service not only for the academic study of theology but for the church. In a time when the church's proclamation of its faith and the academy's reflection upon faith seem to be deeply divided, Johnson builds a bridge across the chasm. He shows not only why theology is necessary for the church but also why it can only find its true meaning when joined to the church's life as a form of Christian discipleship. Drawing upon the riches of the church's past yet grounded solidly in Scripture, this book expounds and reflects upon the gospel as the mystery of God's will that was foreordained in Christ and does so in a way that is not only deeply learned and careful, but also caring and clear. For those wondering why they should bother with theology at all, they will find here a wise and compassionate answer. For those who turn theology into a practice of intellectual theatrics or point of pride, they will find here an incisive and needed corrective. This book is, in short, a wonderful and exemplary primer to the task of theology that deserves many readers."

Kimlyn J. Bender, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

"Johnson has given us a gift with this work. I highly commend it both to theological educators looking to introduce their students to the theological task, as well as those looking to be reminded of their own call to discipleship."

Derek Rishmawy, Themelios, August 2016

"The heart of Johnson's thesis is that theology is vital to discipleship because it trains us to rightly hear, understand, and use words about God which inevitably influence our religious practices. . . . He closes the book with a gem: a list of nine ways that theology must be practiced in order to serve the church and act as a practice of discipleship. If I were the dean or chair of a confessional school, I would have this list framed in the office of every theologian I employed."

Mike Skinner, Cruciform Theology, December 1, 2015

"It is difficult to correctly articulate the importance of Theology as Discipleship by Keith L. Johnson. Not only is the book well-written and engaging, but the content is challenging and intentionally aimed. In fact, to say that this book is necessary for the contemporary church would run the risk of being an understatement. Johnson has produced a timely and important volume that exemplifies a personal pursuit of faithfulness in the discipline of theology. "If you are a Christian educator, pastor, or simply a Christian seeking to live faithfully in all aspects of your life, Theology as Discipleship is a must read book—sooner than later."

John Kight, Sojourner Theology, December 30, 2015

"This fine, little book would be ideal for undergrad theology courses, as well as congregational adult classes and book-study groups. It would also be quite fitting and beneficial to hand a copy of Theology as Discipleship to the ministerial candidates in your church, your favorite seminarian, and your pastor. And while you're handing out copies, snag one for yourself. You'll be glad you did!"

Michael Philliber, Deus Misereatur, January 16, 2016

"Theology as Discipleship is an excellent work that will help thoughtful students beginning theological studies."

Justin L. McLendon, Journal of Biblical and Theological Studies, Vol. 2, Issue 1

"Here is a book that should be read by every church leader, in whatever role. It is a book for every lecturer in theology, and one that could be introduced with profit to church members. This reviewer highly commends it."

Raymond J. Laird, Evangelical Review of Theology, Vol. 41, No. 2, April 2017



1. Recovering Theology
Concerns with Theology
What Went Wrong?
Rebuilding the Discipline

2. Being in Christ
Reframing Reality
God?s Eternal Plan
Theology by Participation

3. Partnership with Christ
The Pattern of Partnership
Life with Christ
Theology with Christ

4. The Word of God
God and Human Words
God and Written Words
Christ and Scripture
Test Case: Jesus and the Pharisees
Reading with Christ

5. Hearing the Word of God
Reading in Love
Hearing with the Church
Test Case: Circumcision
Theology of the Word

6. The Mind of Christ
The Pattern of Christ?s Mind
Imitating Christ
Thinking After Christ

7. Theology in Christ

Subject Index
Scripture Index


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Keith L. Johnson

Keith L. Johnson (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is associate professor of theology at Wheaton College. His research focuses on systematic theology, including the doctrines of the Trinity and Christology and the relationship between Protestant and Roman Catholic theology. He is author of Theology as Discipleship and Karl Barth and the Analogia Entis, and he is the coeditor of Bonhoeffer, Christ and Culture. An ordained Baptist minister, he and his wife, Julie, have one son.