I have fond memories of collecting baseball cards as a child, but I never thought I’d get the card collecting urge again, especially in my mid-thirties. However, my long dormant passion for card collecting was suddenly awakened when I came upon the ad for the forthcoming Theologian Trading Cards in the Zondervan 2012-2013 Academic Resources Catalog. After seeing that catalog page, I was hooked and knew this was a product I just had to get ahold of. As it turns out, Theologian Trading Cards developer Norman Jeune was fond of collecting baseball cards as a child, just like me. He actually got the idea for the Theologian Trading Cards during his seminary days when he overheard other students talking about theologians, almost like they were baseball players with stats. This unique idea was dormant for a few years, but saw the light of day when Norman received an overwhelmingly positive response to some sample cards he had mocked up in photoshop. Once Zondervan got behind the project, Norman’s idea for theologian trading cards was finally on its way to becoming a reality. After five years of hard work, the cards are finally available to theology-loving card collectors worldwide.
The Theologian Trading Cards really do have the look and feel of a glossy baseball card. For example, here’s Martin Luther’s “rookie card” for the Wittenberg Whistle-Blowers.
The layout of the cards are pretty straightforward. The front of each card contains the theologian’s name (1), team name (2), and picture (3). The back of each card contains the theologians birth/death years (4), bio (5), and their significance (6). For various reasons, pictures were not available for some of the theologians featured in the set. In these cases, instead of the theologian’s picture, you will see a white silhouette with a big question mark in the middle. You can see an example of this in Oscar Cullman’s card (above).
In addition to the Wittenberg Whistle-Blowers, there are fourteen other teams. Below is a full list of the teams included in the set as well as their general description:
- Wittenberg Whistle-Blowers – Early Reformers/Later Lutheran Church
- St. James Padres – Church Fathers (Patristic Era)
- Avignon Crusaders – Medieval (excludes mystics and monks)
- Geneva Sovereigns – Later Reformed Church/Early Reformers
- Munich Monks – Hermits, Monks, Mystics
- Constantinople Hesychasts – Orthodox Church
- Canterbury Monarchs – English Reformers/Anglicans/Puritans
- Serampore Preachers – Missionaries
- St. Paul Cardinals – Roman Catholic (primarily post-Reformation)
- Los Angeles Knights – Fundamentalists/Evangelicals
- Orthodoxy Dodgers – Heretics
- Munster Radicals – Radical Reformation/Anabaptists
- Athens Metaphysicians – Philosophers
- Berlin Aggiornamentos – Contemporary
- Jerusalem Resourcers – Contemporary
When it comes to the Theologian Trading Cards, there’s one question all of us will need to answer after we rush out and buy a set. What are we going to do with them? Surely, it wouldn’t do them justice to sit in a box on a shelf. You could buy a big three-ring binder and some card protector pages, but that’s not much better than leaving them in the box. These cards need to be used, handled, and enjoyed. That’s precisely why I’ve come up with four recommended uses for the Theologian Trading Cards:
# 1 – Theologian of the Day – Every night at dinner time, a member of the family picks a random card out of the box, declares the namesake of that card as “theologian of the day” and shares the biographical and significance data with the rest of the family.
#2 – Homeschool Church History Card Collection – If you’re a homeschooling family like we are, you’re probably working your way through various stages of world history. You could incorporate the Theologian Trading Cards into your curriculum, rewarding your student with trading cards from the era they’re studying, helping them to interact with the material they’re learning in yet another way.
#3 – Church History and Theology Charades – Gather a group of 4 or more and sit in a circle with a box of Theologian Trading Cards. Each player picks a random card. Each player will act out their theologian in pantomime. The player who correctly guesses the theologian is awarded a point. The first player to get to 10 points is the winner.
#4 – Church History and Theology Quizzing – Find yourself a group of 4+ folks who are interested in learning about theology and church history. Each of you will need a set of Theologian Trading Cards. Work through one team a month, memorizing the biographical data for all of the “players.” Memorize the significance data for possible bonus points. Schedule a quiz meet at the end of the month. Players get points for word-perfect recitation. Plan on going out for pizza after your quiz meet. The quiz meet champion eats for free.
As you may have already figured out, I’m rather enthusiastic about these theologian trading cards. The reality of our day is that most people are used to taking in very small snippets of information. While many wouldn’t necessarily read an entire book on any one of these theologians, they’d probably be willing to take in the information contained on handful of trading cards. Hats off to Norman Jeune III and Zondervan for producing such a unique product with great potential to creatively introduce church history and theology to a whole new generation of learners. Those of us who still love to read long “boring” books will be lining up to buy these cards too. Not because we’re unwilling to read a more lengthy church history or theology volume, but for the simple fact that the Theologian Trading Cards are just so cool!
My rating for the Theologian Trading Cards is 5 out of 5 stars.
About the Author:
Norman Jeune III coordinates the provision of pastoral care to children and their families as the Lead Hospital Chaplain at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange, California. Norman also administers a field education program at CHOC Children’s for students of Fuller Seminary, and holds an M.A. from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. He is also the co-founder of the popular theological blog Christians in Context, which was recently ranked as one of the top one-hundred theological blogs and featured in Biola University’s alumni magazine. Norman and his wife Janice, along with their three children, worship at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Orange, California.
- Norman Jeune III on Twitter – @Norm_III
- Norman Jeune III on Facebook
- Bob Hayton’s review at Fundamentally Reformed
- Scott McKnight’s interview with Norman Jeune
- Danika Cooley’s review at Thinking Kids
- Video of my initial reaction
Where to Buy:
This product was provided by Academic PS and Zondervan for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
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