New Year, New Start

edited January 7 in All Saints
Original OP by @Bob Two Owls:

Years ago I started a theology degree with the Open Theological College which I enjoyed and found useful but had to drop after one short course due to the massive fee hike. After years of basically agnostic indifference towards all things spiritual I am in the mood to explore a bit more. To this end I am looking for pointers towards books or MOOCs that might help me on my way. I prefer a systematic textbook approach and have had one recommendation of the Exploring the Old/New Testament series published by IVP and including authors such as Wenham and McGonville. Has anyone seen this series, does it present a particular view of the Bible and is it any good? Any alternatives, middle of the road/vanilla CofE style preferred.

I did try my local church but I don't want to burden the already very busy vicar with lots of questions and no-one else could help. At present I am not sure what to start with, I read some of the threads on here and feel I miss a lot of the subtleties so I really want to improve my theological literacy. Are there any other good sources for studying theology, preferably at the cheaper end of the range?

Comments

  • Oh dearie me…. At the risk of being much less than helpful I’d first suggest prayer, to be guided in this endeavor. Then scheduling some time with your Vicar to fish for some suggestions. S/He may suggest some course or author who you may find helpful, or not. Your vicar knows you better than any of us here, I suspect, and if you are finding his/her preaching and teaching something you can understand (not necessarily like, but simply understand) you’ve got a good beginning and a personal contact.

    Aside from sermons I’d heard, my first entry into any focused theological education came through course work in the OT and NT. But my theological understanding came to greater inner fullness and understanding through reading and discussing with a few others an author I found I could (a) understand, in that he didn’t assume the reader knew theological code words, and (b) didn’t take himself all that seriously and would regularly interject something along the line that his understanding of God need not be anyone else’s. I found that light hand and breezy approach worked for me. Would that work for you? I’ve no idea.

    Ask around a lot, read what others here have to say, find folk you can chat with about this face to face. And let God guide you.

    To quote Auden:
    “He is the Way. Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness; You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
    He is the Truth. Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety; You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
    He is the Life. Love Him in the World of the Flesh; And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.”

    (No, I do not understand all of that! But I find it comforting and challenging, and that, at least for me, is the adventure of exploring theology.)
  • Hi Baby Wombat,

    I can't pray because at the moment I am not a believer, nor am I a churchgoer so my vicar hasn't a clue who I am. This has been my big problem, I can't believe in something I don't understand and when I read the Bible or listen to some of the discussions on here I just think "how can anyone find that a comfort?" I need to get to grips with some of the nuts and bolts, like Mulder's poster I want to believe but I can't do that until I know what I am believing in.
  • For what its worth, in my estimation your yearning is indeed prayer. No, it may not be focused now on a God or belief structure you understand, but that yearning is, I firmly believe, a response to God (or whatever word fits for you right now) yearning for you. So yearn in a way that feels right for you.

    I'm a clergy type, so I automatically think in clergy type terms, which indeed can get in the way. Find a gathering, a group of people, a place where you feel comfortable within that yearning. It may be a church, it may be a quiet meditation group that is non-denominational. (maybe a Society of Friends gathering?), it may be walking silently in the woods or on the beach, or digging you garden and sitting in it to see the wonder of dirt turning seeds into blossoms. Honoring your yearning is, again in my estimation, deep prayer indeed.

    I'm also thinking here in term of being hungry. There's time we are hungry but don't know what we want to eat.... so we try this, then that, over and over again until we find the place, the flavor that feeds us. Only you can tell what that is for you, but try. Yearn, try something, yearn again, try again -- for me that is all prayer, wordless prayer but true prayer, honest prayer, without words. And let those of us here who feel so inclined to pray for you -- in thansgiving you are, and that you are here, and that we journey together.
  • There is a course on Openlearn called "Studying Religion", it is free, it is backed by scholars from the OU and it takes the Religious Studies perspective. It might be a place to start.

    The granddaddy of all distance learning courses on theology I think is the BD at the University of London. By granddaddy, it is where NonConformist colleges used to get their students examined before modern validating options were available.

    I would imagine that the Aberdeen distance learning modules would be erudite and intellectually based but show a decided Reformed bias as you would expect from a University training CofS ministers.

    Nottingham seem to be doing an MA in Systematic and Philosophical theology

    There is plenty out there but that will do for a start.
  • Cheers, I'll give that Openlearn course a try. The other options are way out of my limited means unfortunately or I would have stayed with the OTC. Mind you if I moved back home I could afford the Aberdeen option but there are some sacrifices that I just can't make :-)
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited January 7
    Once when I was going through an agnostic period, I expressed my doubts to a good friend. His suggestion was to go to church. It is one thing to read books after books on Scriptures (ie Asimov wrote one of the best guides for his time through Scripture but he was an atheist) than to really experience the faith in other people and in action.
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    edited January 7
    I'm going to try to move this interesting thread to All Saints, as it more an advice thread than a debate thread. I have not done this before, so I hope it works.

    fineline - Purgatory Host

    ETA: It seems to be in All Saints now, but the OP seems missing. I will see if I can retrieve it.
  • There might be some resources in your public library that would be free or low-cost.

    I don't know if you can get them in other countries, but in the US, there's a series called The Great Courses. It's sort of like taking a semester-long lecture class on a particular topic - they basically set up a camera in the lecture hall as a well-known professor gives one of their courses. (Their New Testament course is given by Bart Ehrman.)

    They cost money normally, but my library has a subscription and any cardholder can get them for free, either on DVD or streaming. Maybe your library has something like that too?
  • Sorry Fineline, my aim is as good as ever, thanks for moving it to Heaven.

    Antisocial Alto, that's more like what I am after. I have bagged one of the courses on sale to give them a try (Lost Christianities). Unfortunately libraries are not what they used to be here in the UK, my local has fewer than 300 books and most of them are Dan Brown or 50 Shades. Its enough to make a bibliophile weep.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    :bawling: :heartbreak: Sorry for the tangent, I know this is true, when I first read about it I thought that the barbarians have truly won. :rage:
  • Unfortunately libraries are not what they used to be here in the UK, my local has fewer than 300 books and most of them are Dan Brown or 50 Shades. Its enough to make a bibliophile weep.

    I am so sorry to hear this. I follow some UK authors on social media and have been hearing about library cuts, but didn't realize it was this bad. Can nothing be done? Usually in the States when governments try to cut library funding there's a popular uprising - it's one of the only public services our public will actually stand up for.

    (My own county went through a legal attack on our library funding a few years ago - thank heavens a higher court found in favor of the libraries!)
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    I may be misunderstanding you, @Bob Two Owls, but I'm guessing that (for the moment anyway) your interest is more towards academic study than a vocation? Will that have a bearing on the type or length of course you choose?
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    When I reached this stage (several years ago) I looked at options available at my local Adult Education Centre and came across the Exeter University Certificate in Theology. It was a two year course and recommended for those seeking theological study out of personal interest as well as for those planning to become Lay Readers or ultimately seeking ordination. We had a great time, listening to lectures and having animated discussions. The essays were only compulsory for those using it as a vocational course, although I did them anyway, they were a challenge but ensured that I did much more reading of theology text books than I would have done otherwise!

    So I would recommend looking at your local university (and outpost courses similarly accredited), to see if a similar Certificate of Theology is available.
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    Hmmm, I have just read the OP again and saw you wanted 'at the cheaper end of the range', the Theology Certificate was unfortunately not cheap. Maybe you would do better to enquire whether any churches in your vicinity offer The Pilgrim Course, which studies the basics of Christianity in a small group, such as is offered by the church I attended until I moved out of the area. The introductory blurb states that it is suitable for people who are not already signed up to the Christian faith as well as seasoned churchgoers. http://www.pilgrimcourse.org/
  • Slightly mischievously, but I saw this Future Learn course Introducing Humanism tonight, which is a free course from the OU, which led me to Religion and Conflict from the University of Groningen and The Quran between Judaism and Christianity from the University of Nottingham. The first two courses are available now or soon, the last doesn't have a date.
  • Bob Two OwlsBob Two Owls Shipmate
    edited January 8
    @Piglet yeah definitely academic. I need to deal with the nuts and bolts of anything before I can live with it. That's why I have a Raspberry Pi and not a Mac.

    @Chorister the Pilgrim Course looks interesting, I'll keep an eye out but I haven't even seen an Alpha course for years.

    @Curiosity killed I did the Religion and Conflict course when it came out. Good but I wish it could have been a bit meatier.

    I am really looking for something like a good textbook suitable for self study, a graded reading list or something like that. With no bookshops other than The Works, it is difficult to find a suitable book unseen.

    And thanks to all who have given suggestions so far.
  • PriscillaPriscilla Shipmate
    System, if you want to find out more about Christianity and have a forum to ask questions, have you considered an Alpha course?
  • Yes, I have done an Alpha course or two, if there was something similar on a regular basis I would be there.
  • BabyWombat wrote: »
    To quote Auden:
    “He is the Way. Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness; You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
    He is the Truth. Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety; You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
    He is the Life. Love Him in the World of the Flesh; And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.”

    (No, I do not understand all of that! But I find it comforting and challenging, and that, at least for me, is the adventure of exploring theology.)
    Nothing to add to the OP I’m afraid, but I did want to say how much I enjoyed seeing Auden quoted here. This is one of my favorites. I first discovered it when it was sent to music in our 1070s-era hymnal.

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