May 13, 2009

Who needs theology?

For many, the term theology brings to mind the image of an old bearded scholar sitting in a dusty library pouring over ancient texts and quibbling over minute doctrinal points such as how many angels can dance on the point of a needle.

However, this view is anything but Biblical. Jesus said, "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the one true God, and the Son whom you have sent." (John 17:3) The word "theology" comes from the Greek words for God (theos) and words/knowledge (logos). Theology is, simply put, knowledge of God. And since Christians all claim to have a relationship with God including thinking thoughts about Him and saying things about Him, all Christians are by definition theologians. The question is not "Do we as Christians need to do theology?" Rather, the question is "Are we as Christians doing good theology or bad theology?"

Theology should permeate the everyday life of any Christian. The choices we make, words we speak and even thoughts we think are all based on our varying degrees of knowledge of God. Does this mean that every layperson is required to read the great theological works of the past two millennia? No (although it most certainly would benefit one if they do!). Rather, the Christian should live every day of his or her life with a conscious effort to more fully know God.

Of course in order for those in the pews to realize this those in the pulpit must encourage it! More than that, the Pastor should be a model theologian within his or her the church. Pastors should set the example of what it means to live theologically and should make a conscious effort to demystify and destigmatize theology from the pop-notions and urban legends that have unfortunately been attached to it. For when it comes down to it, a pastor has little chance of being effective in ministry without a firm theological ground upon which to stand. This is one of the reasons churches in general--mainline, evangelical, and Catholic/Orthodox alike--are in such a state of theological disarray. For without knowledge of God, how can one share such knowledge with others? Pastors must strive to build a theological framework with which to operate...and it must be one based upon Scripture if they truly desire to speak the Word of God to their congregation. By framework, I mean a comprehensive view of God based upon his entire revelation throughout the whole of Scripture. Upon such a framework can he or she lay out a theological vision for the church that can be put before the congregation. Such a vision then becomes a means by which they as a church are guided as they strive to be the Body of Christ in this world and fulfill the great commission. Theology is not a nice idea or side-hobby. It is at the core of the Church's life!

One thing must be clarified, however. The pastor is still called to shepherd the flock. Therefore, balance must be maintained between study and other pastoral responsibilities. For example, though Jonathan Edwards is known by many as the greatest American theologian, he does not have that same reputation as a pastor. Rarely did he visit or interact with his congregation. He was too busy in his studies for such duties. And he is but one example of such imbalance among many, unfortunately. (Of course I would argue that there are many more who fall on the opposite side of error--pastors who are excellent at interacting with people, but completely lacking in solid theological grounding!). All of this serves to illustrate and important point: The pastor should not be looked upon to be the sole theologian within the church! Such a burden no pastor could bear! Rather, churches should be FILLED with passionate followers of Jesus who seek to honor Him as much as they are able with whatever means God has given them. There is no reason why any curious and dedicated believer should not be encouraged and guided in a deeper study of God by the pastors and leaders of his or her church community. With the abundance of high-quality FREE resources available in this day and age, anyone can have access to a wealth of knowledge that even the greatest theologians of the past could never dream of having.

This brings us back to our original point: ALL who bear the name "Christian" or "Follower of Jesus" must do theology. It simply won't do for a person to say, "I dont need theology, just give me Jesus!" For what this statement actually says is, "I dont need knowledge or understanding of God, just give me the benefits!" This is not only intellectually lazy, it's completely selfish. Imagine telling someone you love, "I don't want to know very much about you or tell people about you; I just want to enjoy having you love me!" Would any of us dream of doing this to someone we truly loved? Why then do so many of us do it to God every day? We are called above all to love the LORD our God with all our "heart, soul, mind, and strength" (Mark 12:30)

If one rejects theology, one is actually rejecting Jesus. For He and He alone is the true "Logos" of "theos.


For those wishing to do theology but don't know where to begin I recommend the following online resources:

I also recommend the following books for beginner theologians (i.e. anyone wanting to know God better!):

"Basic Christianity" by John Stott

"Simply Christian" by N.T. Wright

"Christian Theology: An Introduction" and "The Christian Theology Reader" by Alister McGrath

"Questions to All Your Answers" by Roger Olson

1 comment:

Becky said...

This is a great post. Thanks for sharing! I'm currently pursuing seminary as well, and I find your writing authentic and refreshing. Not to mention, I love martial arts as well!

Thanks again!

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