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Theology from the Spring: A Review

Nature itself is a great teacher of theological lessons fore those attuned to notice, as the psalms of David demonstrate. Jacob A. Taggart attempts to do so, too, using as his teaching tool ichthyology, the study of fish. But he limits the scope of his lessons to one particular kind of fish–rainbow trout.

Taggart is not only a student of theology and a pastor and director of education in a Baptist church in Jefferson City, Missouri, but also an avid fly fisherman. He combines his love of theology and fly fishing in this book, sharing with readers important spiritual truths for both individual Christians and congregations of believers.

For example, we need to slow down, Taggart says, so we can see Nature’s “purity, peacefulness, and rationality.” Too often, however, we are too busy, and we mistakenly “substitute busyness for holiness.” He promises that he’s going to take us out to the stream and show us lessons about God, theology, and the Christian life. Although I’m not a fisherman, that promise attracted my attention!

Taggart organized his lessons in ten chapters divided into three parts: “The Creator’s Existence Found in the Spring,” “The Creator’s Immanence Found in the Spring,” and “The Creator’s Commission Found in the Spring.”

Conventional wisdom among authors is to attract readers with an alluring title and aesthetically pleasing book cover, hook them with a captivating opening paragraph, and reel them in with a first chapter that is so interesting they’ll keep reading to the end. Taggart does some of those things. His is an interesting title and appeals to outdoorsmen, especially fishermen and specifically fly fishermen. He includes important and interesting applications for Christian readers, including practical strategies for effective evangelism and church discipline. His description of slipping on rocks leaves one experiencing vicariously a bone-chilling and potentially life-threatening immersion in the stream.

Unfortunately, he does not deliver these gems of practicality until Chapter 7. I’m afraid that by then he will have lost a good number of readers who could not tolerate the sluggish pace and intellectually murky waters of the first six chapters.

What makes the opening chapters so laborious? They are the epitome of theological and philosophical jargon and intellectual verbosity. They read like a theological treatise written by an academic for fellow academicians. Some parts read like a literary exercise for which the student, holding a pen in one hand and an overused thesaurus in the other, searches endlessly for a less-common word with which to impress his teacher. It is so filled with non-sequiturs, rational dicta, attributes of aseity, extrapolations, formulations, syllogisms, and esoteric terminology that not even avid fly fishermen would want to continue. Taggart forewarned on page 47, “Prepare yourself because if you don’t have a migraine yet, you might get one now.”

Thankfully, Taggart redeems himself in Chapter 7 onward. Unfortunately, it might be too little too late for many readers.

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the book review program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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