Christ in the Centre of the Classroom

Review of "Theology as a Way of Life: On Teaching and Learning the Christian Faith"

This small book can be read in one sitting but will take a long time to digest. Adam Neder’s Theology as a Way of Life is neither an introduction to theology nor to pedagogy (although it contains helpful elements of both). It’s a personal meditation by a professor who has long struggled with what it means to teach Christianity in a manner consistent with its centre: Jesus Christ. 

Neder relentlessly follows the path blazed by the radically Christocentric theologians Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and ends up in the classroom. Because God has reconciled the world to himself in Christ, the purpose of teaching is to prayerfully help students become their identity, i.e., who they already are in Christ. This means making clear to learners that “knowing” Christianity involves a personal response to the God who encounters us in Christ, in addition to cultivating a classroom ethos where students can grow not into their teacher’s image but the image of Christ, with all the freedom, risk, and responsibility that entails. 

In an outstanding chapter entitled “Danger,” Neder brilliantly sets up a classroom dialectic where the unconditional acceptance of each student through God’s electing love in Christ creates a safe context in which to think, question, and follow God into a life of insecurity and unpredictability, which is the life revealed by Jesus for his followers. Rarely have I come across a book like this: brimming with practical wisdom yet bristling at the sheer strangeness of teaching Christianity. “Anyone who doesn’t find it strange that he or she should be the one to stand in front of group of people and talk about God is either deluded or hasn’t thought very deeply about what is happening.”

Educators, elders, pastors, chaplains, small group leaders or any person called to teach the faith will benefit enormously from the challenge laid down in Theology as a Way of Life to reflect on teaching Christianity Christianly.

  • Todd is the Christian Reformed Campus Pastor at the University of British Columbia-Okanagan.

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