Book Review: Practical Theology for Women
Author: Wendy Horger Alsup
Title: Practical Theology for Women
Publisher: Crossway Books
Reading Level: Moderate
While deep, abiding relationships require work and effort, those who have cultivated them will heartily tout their worth. Cultivating such a relationship with the Creator of the world is at the core of theology’s definition, and the basis for Wendy Horger Alsup’s book, Practical Theology for Women (hereafter PTW). Drawing upon life experience and personal interpretation of the Bible, Alsup encourages women to “grow in [their] understanding of God’s character and attributes (p.22).”
Divided into three parts, PTW begins with a short biography of Alsup, focused on life events that led to practicing theology. Part One “What is Theology,” is full of scripture references and personal stories emphasizing faith. Part Two “Who is our God,” unwraps the roles and distinctions of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Part Three “Communicating with Our God” looks at the practice of prayer and interacting with scripture. Much of Alsup’s definitions throughout PTW are of the English word translations, helpful perhaps for immediate application, but lacking the strength found in wrestling with the original text. Overall, PTW expresses sound biblical truth (albeit wholly reformed with no acknowledgment of other, differing though orthodox, views) with convicting questions of practical application.
In a wonderful section on the difference between punishment and discipline (chapter 8), Alsup dissects these actions that skew our understanding of God when lumped together. While discussing the Christian’s identity in Christ (chapter 10), Alsup pulls no punches about what that means in our practice toward other believers, “we cannot serve the head [Christ] and ignore the rest of his body (p.103).” The Lord’s Prayer serves as the text on prayer (chapter 13), with fluid and enlightening scriptural cross referencing as the explanation.
My major contention with PTW is the charismatic undercurrent of professing the Holy Spirit as the only need for Biblical interpretation. While I can agree with Alsup that we have “the same access to the presence of God as the wisest and most godly spiritual leader you know of today” (p.26), I would not treat the biblical interpretation of a spirit filled believer lacking knowledge of the original language, a sense of the historical setting, and a unified hermeneutic (to name a few distinctions) equal to that of a believer invested in those things. Common among evangelicals today, this emphasis on the Holy Spirit without a balance of scholarship is frightening.
Encouraging women to pursue a relationship with God, Alsup openly shares her heart, experiences, and knowledge with her reader. She champions theology as a correct and attainable study for women, and gives them an accessible book to whet their appetite.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”