Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: Theologian Trading Cards - Part 2

In Part 1 of my review, I wrote:

"Mr. Jeune presents each theologian in an unbiased, factual manner without much additional commentary. He also notes if an individual's particular ministry and/or doctrine was controversial. At first, I was a bit perplexed by some of the characters highlighted in certain "teams". Perhaps I was most puzzled by the "Contemporary teams". It appeared to me that the 26 important figures highlighted in this "team" had the tendency to come from a critical, liberal theological background. Furthermore, contemporary theologians from the Reformed camp, among others, were not mentioned. Men of great influence in our lifetime, such as: John Piper, R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, John Macarthur, D.A. Carson, Wayne Grudem, Sinclair Ferguson, G.K. Beale, and the like are not included. Instead, Jeune highlights: Rudolf Bultmann, James Cone, John Dominic Crossan, Martin Dibelius, James Dunn, Gustavo Gutierrez, Adolf von Harnack, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and others. The only two women mentioned are both staunch feminists. (It should be noted that Herman Bavinck, Abraham Kuyper, F. F. Bruce, A. A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, John Gresham Machen, and B. B. Warfield are included in other categories.)"

Finally, I noted that I had the privilege of dialoging with the author regarding the theologians that he chose to feature on the Contemporary teams. In this part of my review I share some of what transpired in an informal Q and A with Norman Jeune III.

How did you decide which theologians were influential for the Contemporary time period? What guided your decision-making process?

"Your question about the contemporary teams is a good one, and these cards are one of the things that make this set particularly unique. I will say first that the choice was not really related to doctrinal "camps", or my own doctrinal positions. I was actually trained in a conservative environment. I attend Biola University and Talbot School of Theology here in Southern California, which has its roots in evangelicalism and was one of the places where the fundamentalist movement was birthed at the turn of the century. Biola today remains a conservative and place and I hold those same commitments. For me, this was really about creating a tool that facilitated a first exposure to a wider group of people. In seminary you hear many of these names characterized in passing but never really get a first hand taste of what they're all about. I am by nature a curious person, so I wanted to learn about many of these folks. Consequently, when it came ot creating this set, which I first thought of while in seminary, part of my "wish list" if you will, was to provide a very brief introduction to many of these people. The second criteria, which was a bit more formal, was to choose people who are recognized on the world stage. This is not to minimize the importance of some versus others, but merely a recognition that some theologians are influential within their own groups, while others have achieved some recognition across doctrinal "camps"/denominations/etc., whether that be positive recognition or negative. Their are certainly many more people that could have been included but I was asked not to exceed 300 figures by the publisher when I began building the set, and had to immediately remove about 100 theologians."

Later, Jeune offered an explanation concerning how he went about naming the Contemporary Teams. Here is what he wrote:

"Naming the teams was one of my favorite parts of this project. The modern theologians were actually the most challenging to name. Most of the modern theologians can be found in one of two teams, with a few exceptions throughout the deck. Modern theology is obviously quite eclectic and varied, so any notion that modern theologians can be gathered into two distinct "teams" or groups should be immediately subject to question. Nevertheless, we needed some loose grid as a means of categorizing these figures to carry the baseball card pun.

The two contemporary teams or groups are the Berlin Aggiornamentos and the Jerusalem Resourcers. The underlying (very loose) references are to the terms Aggiornamento and Ressourcement, terms usually understood within the context of 20th century Roman Catholic theology and Vatican II. While these teams are not composed of exclusively of Catholic theologians nor do they make reference to Vatican II, you might think of them (again, very loosely) as comprised of those who are more forward thinking/progressive (Aggiornamentos) and some who might tend more exclusively toward traditional constructs (Resourcers). One of the faculty members from the Torrey Honors Institute actually suggested the use of these terms for a word play. Overall, stretching a playful pun like baseball cards to fit the contours of church history was challenging, and while I think the team concept actually enhances the learning experience, a bit of grace must be given for these two teams, remembering the playfulness of having teams is less than perfect. As I created these teams I kept feeling like no matter how I organized this varied bunch of modern figures, some would other ways of organizing them more satisfying."

For more information about the process of developing the cards, read Scot McKnight's interview with Norman Jeune III.

I found Mr. Jeune's responses helpful. Personally, I will probably put aside the "Contemporary teams" and some others until my children are older as they don't need to know about "form criticism" just yet. However, many of the cards will be relevant, and a helpful addition to, our studies. I'm looking forward to trying some of Shaun's game suggestions.

If you'd like to invest in these cards yourself, they will be available for purchase around November 20th, just in time to make a great Christmas gift for the church history "student" in your family. Amazon.com has them available for pre-order at the time of this posting.

*Many thanks to Norman Jeune III for sharing his cards with me in exchange for my honest opinion and for taking the time to answer my questions!! I, for one, appreciate the time and thoughtfulness that he has invested into their development. I'm sure many will be blessed by his labor.

Product Review: Theologian Trading Cards - Part 1

Theologian Trading Cards
Upon hearing about "Theologian Trading Cards" by Norman Jeune III, I was intrigued. Of them, the Publisher writes:
"Patterned after the all-American baseball card, Theologian Trading Cards provide essential information about the major teachers, leaders, and trouble-makers throughout the history of the Church. At a glance you will have access to information regarding 288 important figures in church history, including when and where they lived, their contribution to the church, and enduring significance.
Each figure has been placed on the roster of one of 15 “theological” or “historical” teams; this aids readers in discovering the practical, chronological, and theological connections between figures. Examples include the Orthodoxy Dodgers (heretics); St. James Padres (Church Fathers of the Patristic Era); and the Wittenberg Whistle-blowers (Early Reformers and later Lutheran Church).
Theologian Trading Cards are perfect for students taking a church history course who want a memorable study aid to help them retain important information about select individuals in the church, as well as non-students who just want to learn or want to begin a hobby of card collecting."
The "nerd" in me thought that Theologian Trading Cards look really cool! I could see how they would be beneficial to those studying church history by helping them retain more of what they are learning and giving them a concise overview and/or study guide. I could also see how they would present the opportunity to glorify the Creator who faithfully works through man to accomplish His purposes.

I didn't investigate the cards further until some friends asked me if I had seen them and what I thought of them. As a result, I requested a review copy to explore the matter more thoroughly. The author and publisher graciously agreed to send me a galley copy, as well as, a "team" pack of missionaries. My children (nine and under) were delighted with the glossy, colorful baseball-type cards. The format is definitely appealing. Cards of this nature are just right for hands of all sizes.

As one would expect, the information contained on each card is in succinct snippets which makes it great for holding short attention spans. Since these were primarily designed with university/seminary students in mind, the vocabulary is fairly developed and, at times, the author takes for granted an understanding of certain terminology/concepts. Some of the cards were easily understood by my young children, while others, were beyond my grasp. As I shared these thoughts with the author, he responded: "The nice thing, I think, is that most of the cards that would fit for younger readers are probably those cards that one would be more inclined to want a younger reader to learn- (i.e. the church fathers)." I would absolutely agree with this statement. The cards have certainly piqued our interest to study select topics further and have served to develop our vocabulary.

Furthermore, one could easily come up with a number of games to play with the set. The first game that came to my mind was a variation of "Guess Who?". A set number of cards could be divided between players. The card holder could choose  select facts to share with one or more players. Players could take turns or race to identify the theologian based on the information divulged. There are many more possibilities, and I can't wait to hear what others envisage. (Shaun @ Bible Geek Gone Wild has already listed a few helpful suggestions. ;)

As for the content, Mr. Jeune presents each theologian in an unbiased, factual manner without much additional commentary. He also notes if an individual's particular ministry and/or doctrine was controversial. There are a wide variety of theologians from which to choose: some common, others, not so common. Among them are influential men such as Augustine, Athanasius, Calvin, and Luther. There are memorable missionaries such as Amy Carmichael, Adoniram Judson, and David Livingstone. There are also many folks of whom I have never heard: Bartolome de Las Casas, Alopen, and Henry Muhlenberg.

At first, I was a bit perplexed by some of the characters highlighted in certain "teams". Perhaps I was most puzzled by the "Contemporary teams". It appeared to me that the 26 important figures highlighted in this "team" had the tendency to come from a critical, liberal theological background. Furthermore, contemporary theologians from the Reformed camp, among others, were not mentioned. Men of great influence in our lifetime, such as: John Piper, R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, John Macarthur, D.A. Carson, Wayne Grudem, Sinclair Ferguson, G.K. Beale, and the like are not included. Instead, Jeune highlights: Rudolf Bultmann, James Cone, John Dominic Crossan, Martin Dibelius, James Dunn, Gustavo Gutierrez, Adolf von Harnack, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and others. The only two women mentioned on the contemporary team are both staunch feminists. (It should be noted that Herman Bavinck, Abraham Kuyper, F. F. Bruce, A. A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, John Gresham Machen, and B. B. Warfield are included in other categories.)

I had the privilege of dialoging with the author regarding the theologians that he chose to feature on the Contemporary teams.  Visit Part 2 of my review to read some of what transpired in an informal Q and A with Norman Jeune...

To view a sample of Theologian Trading Cards, visit the Publisher's website and/or the author's blog.

To read more helpful reviews visit: Danika @ Thinking Kids, Bob Hayton @ Fundamentally Reformed and/or Shaun @ Bible Geek Gone Wild.

If you'd like to invest in these cards yourself, they will be available for purchase around November 20th, just in time to make a great Christmas gift for the church history "student" in your family. Amazon.com has them available for pre-order at the time of this posting.

*Many thanks to Norman Jeune III, Ms. Varner @ Academic PS, and Zondervan for sending me a complimentary set of these cards in exchange for my honest opinion!!