Book Critique on Charles Sprugeon
Template for Theological Critiques
The purpose of a theological critique
In preparing a critique the student is expected to come to a book or other type of resource with a critical eye to thoroughly interact with the author’s theology and worldview. Since the student is not considered an authority it is important that personal references, opinions, attitudes, values, etc. be withheld from this process—except where suggested below.
(cf. Turabian Manual for more details)
Since this is a graduate level course, papers must be written to a near-thesis standard. That is, minimum format standards must be met, as defined below. English grammar, idiom, and spelling must be up to graduate level. Qualities valued include clarity, succinctness, and precision.
Your paper must include the following
• Cover page
• Table of Contents: should show a clearly defined outline that will also be visible throughout the paper
• 1″ margins top, bottom and sides
• Double-space (approximately 3 vertical lines per inch, 27 lines per page)
• 12-point Times New Roman
• Indent paragraphs 5 spaces or 0.6 inch (our thesis standard is 5/8 inch)
• No extra line-feed between paragraphs (Just indent the paragraph as shown above)
• Underline (or Bold) section headings (should follow Table of Contents)
• Page numbers
Breakdown of a critique
I. Introduction (Half a page maximum)
• It should be a single but strong paragraph that reveals what you intend to show to the reader. This is your “thesis statement.”
• It should include a brief review of background data about the book, the author, and (where relevant) the topic under discussion in the book.
II. Brief Summary (a page up to a page and a half: should not be more than 20% of your critique)
• The idea is NOT to state what every single chapter is all about; instead, you should capture the main idea(s) of the book along with the underlining subtopics and themes.
• This should be a brief overview of what the book is all about, the issues, themes, and solutions that the author is setting forth.
• This section gauges your ability to identify the main thrust of a book and differentiate between central and peripheral ideas
III. Critical interaction with the author’s work (2 to 4 pages that is, around 70% of your paper)
• The point is NOT whether the student agrees with the author’s point of view, but whether the student recognizes what the author was up to and what theological issues might be at stake.
• It is important that the student document their assessment of the author throughout. If a judgment is made with respect to the author’s opinion, then there should be an example given along with a footnote to designate where this can be observed.
Your critique must deal with the following questions:
• Where is the author coming from and what are the theological and biblical perspective from which he/she approaches the subject?
• What is the writer’s goal?
• Does he/she prove their point? How? Why? Why not?
• What are the strengths/weaknesses of the author’s arguments?
• Are there any published reviews of this work? What are they? Did you observe any relevant issues or questions raised by these reviews? Explain. What important works have been written on this same subject? How does this author compare to others in terms of content, approach, style, etc?
• Finally—and this is where the student’s perspective might be admissible—how might a person (e.g. pastor, therapist, lay reader, scholar) appropriate the ideas conveyed in this work? For example, if the book relates to the doctrines of man or sin, how do the ideas “fit” with the real world of ministry or relationships? Or, if it were a more scholarly work, how/where would it be useful?
IV. Conclusion (Half a page maximum)
• This is where you bring together all your interactions with the book and wrap up your critique by conveying how well you think the author achieved his/her goals and to what degree the stated purpose was achieved.
If the reviewer comes from a different theological persuasion, i.e. the author is “Calvinist or Arminian, Dispensationalist or Covenantist …” and the reviewer is not, how does the author conflict with the reviewer’s preconceptions? Does the book make you think? In what ways? Does the writer leave you with any questions? What are they?