Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Christian Theology

Written by: on October 25, 2013

When reading Christian Theology: An Introduction. Fourth Edition, by Alister E. McGrath, I appreciated how McGrath presents succinctly all the basics of Christian theology that one needs to know to understand the stages of development that Christianity has gone through.Despite the fact that most of the history of Christian theology in this book and others that I have been introduced to is very western I do believe that “Christian theology is one of the most worthwhile and exciting academic subject it is possible to study it.”[1] Because across the world wherever Christianity is introduced, a community of believers would have to deal with the theological issues in the cultural context. For instance, when the communist ideology was introduced to my country protestant Christians faced severe persecution by the government authorities who embraced the ideology. By God’s grace some survived but many gave their lives for Jesus. The military regime that supported the community ideology is gone but there are others who demand us to defend our theology (about the Trinity, Jesus divinity, the Holy Spirit and the list goes on.) For this and other reasons I appreciate McGrath’s approach in explaining, “the leading ideas, how those ideas developed and defended, basic vocabularies, key debates that influence Christian thinking and the leading thinkers who have shaped Christian theology down the centuries.” [2]

One of the basic words that McGrath defines is theology. It comes from Greek words: theos (God) and logos (word).[3] This word, as the author says, was used to refer to discourse about the Christian God but later on with the historical development of the idea “it became analysis of religious beliefs—even if these beliefs make reference to no god at all, or to a cluster of gods, as in the Hindu pantheon.”[4] This reminds me Grenz and Olsan’s definition of theology. They say, “theology is any reflection on the ultimate questions of life that point toward God.”[5] Their definition makes much more sense now after learning the history behind the development of this idea that resulted in a shift in the meaning of theology.

McGrath also defines Christian theology differently than the other two books we read before. According to the author, the systematic study of the ideas of the Christian theology needs to include the following: One is the foundations of Christian theology which includes the Christian Bible, tradition, reason, and experience.”[6] All these elements were very important in the key debates within Christian theology regarding the priority that must be given to each of them.[7] Apparently in my context the Christian Bible is the only source that Christians can learn from. There are not many resources available to help Christian understand the foundation of their faith. The intriguing part is that though we are divided over our doctrines we do not know much about its history. As a result there is competition among protestant Christians. Everyone thinks their Church is the best. We forget that we are a team who serve the same God. I think when we start to believe we are the only ones who knows the truth about the Bible it is possible that we undermine the experiences of others. I like the analogy of Christian theology as a “growing plant” which at times, it grows; at others, it needs pruning.[8] I believe churches need to work toward understanding the commonalities and relationships in their understanding of Christian theology. Otherwise we are failing to live out our mission which is to relate to other Christians, pray and worship with them, and exist within the world.[9] May the Lord have mercy on us!

[1] Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 103.

[2] Ibid.,xxiii.

[3] Ibid.,102.

[4] Ibid.,104.

[5] Stanley J. Grenz;Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God (Kindle Locations 54-55). Kindle Edition.

[6] McGrath, 101.

[7] Ibid.,101.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.,102.

About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

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