The format of the book is a simple one. He begins with a brief biographical sketch. Then he offers some of that theologian’s main themes of that person’s thinking. He then zeros in on one of those themes that is distinctive to that thinker and examines it in some detail. He ends with highlighting several lessons that we can learn from the theologian. He also provides a short selection from the theologian’s writings (roughly 200 – 400 words) and a list of books for further reading. There are also questions at the end of each chapter for reflection and discussion. This would make an excellent small group study.
I thoroughly agree with him when he writes:
“Ignoring the great and godly minds of the church—who have been ruminating on God for thousands of years—when we have them at our fingertips through books and even the Internet seems to be a kind of arrogance and presumption. It ignores the biblical reminder that there is wisdom in ‘the multitude of counselors’ (Prov. 11:14 KJV).” (12)Just for fun I thought I would give you a little quiz from some of the autobiographical details McDermott provides to see if you could guess who they might be. I admit I wouldn't have gotten very many. Okay, probably none at all. Answers are at the bottom of the post. Have fun!
1) His parents were so set against him becoming a Dominican that they hired a prostitute to “blacken his reputation.” He chased her away with a burning brand from a fire.
2) His enemies spread rumors saying he dabbled in magic and accused him of killing a bishop and then cutting off the murdered bishop’s hand for use in special magical rites.
3) This theologian had such a great desire to be a martyr his mother had to hide his clothes in order to prevent him from appearing in public.
4) He loved to relax in a garden and “in defiance of the devil” delighted in flowers, especially roses, as God’s gift.
5) He said that wine is not only “very healthy” but is given to us to make us “merry.” He owned the largest wine cellar in his city.
6) Speaking of wine, this theologian knew enough about different wines that he could prescribe particular varieties to his children when they were sick. He also liked brandy, rum and he and his family were crazy about chocolate.
7) This theologian told the church it did not need to believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth or the second coming of Christ.
The book is a paperback from IVP Academic with 214 pages and sells for $20.00. Go here for a short Q&A with the author.
Answers: 1) Thomas Aquinas; 2) Athanasius; 3) Origen; 4) Martin Luther; 5) John Calvin; 6) Jonathan Edwards; 7) Schleiermacher.