How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives
by Wendy Horger Alsup
When first I heard of Practical Theology for Women I knew I wanted to read it. My only question was, Who is Wendy Alsup? In addition to her responsibilities as a wife and mother to two small boys, she is Deacon of Women’s Theology and Training for Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. Those are a few of the roles she fills, but deep down she is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ who desires to see Christian women study theology and allow the truth of God’s Word to transform their lives. Instead of living the Christian life with a “desk calendar approach,” Alsup challenges women to pursue sound theology.
Practical Theology for Women is organized into three parts: What Is Theology?, Who Is God? and Communicating with Our God. In Part 1, Alsup offers a simple definition of theology and a defense for why she believes women should take seriously the study of God. In Part 2, she discusses God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, His attributes and how He relates to His children. In Part 3, she writes about how we can communicate with Him through prayer and the study of His Word.
Alsup begins with a preface sharing personal stories to demonstrate that “what God teaches about himself in his Word is of utmost importance to the issues of [her] personal daily life.” She understands that most women are intimidated by the thought of theological study. Many women, preferring to have a simple “nugget of wisdom” for the day, believe that the deep things of God are reserved for pastors and elders and seminary professors. Not only would Alsup disagree, she would say that a disregard for the deep things of God will ensure a mediocre Christian life. What we believe about God directly influences the way we live. Alsup writes, “Theology is the root, foundation, and framework for practical living that reflects wisdom and understanding.” Put simply, theology directly influences faith which directly influences behavior.
Several scriptures convey the truth that the ones who know their God will do great things. Every systematic theology I’ve ever picked up includes a lengthy chapter or two on God and His attributes, activity, and character. Alsup, though she does not offer systematic details, provides helpful commentary on key scriptures regarding God as our Sovereign, Compassionate, and Wise Father; our Saviour, Example, and Bridegroom; our Help and our Sanctifier. Near the end of each chapter Alsup asks probing questions to help the reader discern whether the truth about God is being lived in her daily life. For example, when considering the believer’s relationship with Christ and the Church, Alsup asks, “Do you identify Christ as the head of your body and live like he is the brains of your operation? Does your life reflect the supernatural connection you have to the rest of his body? Are you living in community with your brothers and sisters in his body or in isolation from other believers? Does your relationship with the church show that you believe that you are members of one another, or do you disobey Paul’s instructions by living as if you don’t need the other members? It is not enough to have a head knowledge of these doctrines. We must examine ourselves daily to see if we live out these teachings. If not, we must take our thoughts captive and make them submit to the truth of God’s Word.”
Finally, no study of God would be complete without some explanation of His Word and how we are to approach it. Alsup affirms that all of God’s Word is sufficient to teach us about ourselves, about Christ, and about Itself. Alsup also offers a few helpful clues for how to study and interpret the Old and New Testaments. These few short chapters served to remind me what a gold mine the Word of God is; treasure awaits those who take the time to dig deeply for truth. It is important to read good books, but Alsup reminds us to always make God’s Word the priority.
One of the marks of a gifted teacher is that he or she can take difficult concepts and explain them in such a way that others can understand. Alsup obviously knows what she’s writing about, but she must walk a line between writing to demonstrate her mastery of the subject and writing for women who may not have any previous experience with theological study. Alsup does this well. A good teacher will also point students to her sources. Alsup ends several chapters with suggestions for further study, which is what she hopes women will pursue after reading this book. It is appropriate for individual or small group use, from college aged women on up. I am happy to recommend it.