Looking for something to give a seminary student or theology buff this holiday season? Norman Jeune III (’05, M.A. ’07) may have conceived the perfect idea for you: a box set of “Theologian Trading Cards,” released by Zondervan last month.
The set includes 288 cards, each highlighting an important figure in church history with “stats” about the theologian on the back of the card: where and when they lived, their contribution to the church and their enduring significance. Amusingly, the cards — patterned after the all-American baseball card — are categorized by “team,” with each theologian appearing on the roster of one of 15 theological or historical teams, such as the Orthodoxy Dodgers (heretics), St. James Padres (church fathers), Wittenberg Whistle-blowers (early Reformers and later Lutherans) or St. Pius Cardinals (Roman Catholics, primarily post-Reformation).
The theologians featured in the set are a diverse lot, ranging from John Cassian and Benedict of Nursa (part of the monastic/mystic themed “Munich Monks”) to Arminius and Zwingli (part of the “Geneva Sovereigns”) to contemporary scholars like Kevin Vanhoozer (part of the “Jerusalem Resourcers”) and Kallistos Ware (“Constantinople Hesychasts”). Biola’s own R.A. Torrey shows up in the deck with his own card, as part of the “Los Angeles Knights,” a team of evangelicals/fundamentalists that also includes D.L. Moody and John Gresham Machen.
Jeune first got the idea for creating the cards while he was a student at Talbot School of Theology in 2006.
“I was sitting in the student lounge and I overheard some friends talking theology, and I thought to myself, ‘We talk about theologians like they’re baseball players with stats,’” he said. “I laughed to myself that it would be funny to have cards for theologians that were like baseball cards. ”
Jeune was a teaching assistant for Bible professor Jonathan Lunde at the time, and showed the idea to him. Lunde encouraged him to pursue the idea and connected him with an editor at Zondervan, who loved the concept.
Over the course of working on the project, Jeune was aided by some friends from Biola/Talbot who wrote a few of the cards: Brian Asbill (’04, M.A. ’06) wrote the Karl Barth card; Matthew Wilcoxen (’08, M.A. ’10) wrote the cards for Aristotle, Plato, Plotinus, Heidegger and Kierkegaard; and John Dunne (’08, M.A. ’10, M.A. ’11) wrote the card for N.T. Wright (a member of the “Canterbury Monarchs” team).
The goal for the cards is that they become a helpful resource for students of church history seeking a memorable study aid, as well as for non-students who are simply interested in learning more about the key players in historical theology.
A large portion of the royalties earned by the cards will be donated to Biola’s Torrey Honors institute, said Jeune, who was a Torrey student and received much encouragement from Torrey professors as he pursued the trading cards idea.
“I want to give back to the university that gave me so much,” said Jeune.