Termite in a Yo-Yo
Who Needs Theology by Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson is a basic overview of what theology is and is not. The essence of the book for me is summed up in two words: theological exploration. Grenz and Olson state: “…they (Christians) would do well to explore the meaning of God and try to get to know God as thoroughly as possible with their whole being – mind as well as heart.” (p.20)
The book is comprised of establishing theological basis. The first is that everyone is a theologian, since theology in its basic form is “any reflection on the ultimate questions of life that point toward God.”(p.13) Grenz and Olson spend quite a bit of time with the “great gulf” that exists between “Christians and theologians” especially in chapters four and five. They give a spectrum of theological thought from “folk” to “academic.” The ending of book is given to theological tools and outcomes.
For me the book was more a defense of theology rather than an explanation of it. I completely understand and agree with the authors on the tension that exists from “folk” theology to “academic.” However, I feel that although the argument was presented it was not fully answered. Quite to the contrary, to me this “gulf” between “Christian” and theologian is a contrasting criticism that is left unresolved.
For example, Stan opens chapter four with a personal story given by a dear saint in the church in which he is working. The saint admonishes him in his pursuit of theological training with the following advice: “Don’t let that theology professor destroy your faith.” (p.51) We in ministry have all been advised similarly by well meaning Christ followers. Instead of soundly defeating this Grenz and Olson give credence for it at the end of the book in chapter eight. “This doesn’t mean, however, that the theologian is necessarily a person of superior faith. (true) Assent to Christian doctrine is not faith. Faith is our personal response to God’s call on our life and this response entails an intellectual reorientation…So theologians are not necessarily persons of greater faith, even though we would anticipate that the study of theology would lead us all to greater trust in, love for and obedience to our great God and Savior.”(p.127)
My point is, that although I understand their perspective (theological training is good not bad) they actually confirm the concern rather than disproving it. In essence the older saint is by their own words on page 127 proven right. Great theology does not always equal greater faith. That’s what they wrote. This is a “termite in a yo-yo” conversation; it will continue to go in circles until there is nothing left.
In the end, I am with Grenz and Olson that theological training is good and needed. But there is a balance between head and heart. It is not an “either or” proposition but rather a “both and.” We can be fully theologically engaged with the head and not loose the faith that is sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. However, this danger is real and this tension must be managed lest we do destroy our faith in the process.
11 responses to “Termite in a Yo-Yo”
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Great blog with profound title Aaron C ,
Some people think of theology as dry and academic, as opposed to passion and simple heartfelt love for God and people. God is a person, not just a system of ideas.. What our heart loves, our minds will ponder and our wills will pursue. Unless training gets to the heart level, it fails. Lots of training is exclusively for either practical training or filling people’s heads with information. But real change begins with our desires, so we concentrate on heart-level issues like worship and idolatry, love and hate, gospel and slavery. Great theology doesn’t mean great faith until it reaches the heart level. You gave us something new to think about! Rose
Rose, thank you for your kind and encouraging words! blessings, Aaron
Are you sure you’re not with the Vineyard Churches?
Your blog could have been written by any number of Vineyard pastors, especially the “head and heart” argument.
Welcome to my tribe my brother.
I interpreted the parts of the book you quoted as challenges and motivations to get people to recognize that wether they know it or not, if you’re a christian, you’re doing theology.
What has been your experience, the secret of your success, in balancing head and heart?
PS. As soon as you referred to him as Stan I couldn’t get that Eminem song out of my head. Thanks a lot!
you make me laugh! Especially the Eminem reference. Thanks for welcoming me to your tribe, that is quite a complement. I think. As for how I find balance from heart and head, I look at it as a “both and” not an “either or”. I think that theology can be both sound in the head and resonate in the heart. They don’t have to complete (head and heart issues). The place where they align, that is the sweet spot. its’ like the salvation experience, it’s the sweet spot where law and grace find alignment.
Aaron “Slim” Cole
Aaron, completely agree that is both head and heart. The frustration is that people seem to make you choose either or….at least in my experience. Let’s make it personal. How do we go about in our tribe emphasizing education while at the same time engaging the Holy Spirit? Is it just our life speaking volumes or their something we can practically do or teach?
I think in the AG we lean to the side of heart over head. I think we must show by example how we can do both. And how doing “both” is actually better than just one. When our AG brothers see that, it’s a game changer.
The connection between the “head and heart” is the difference in academic arrogance and “flying by the seat of your pants”….neither one is enough. Totally agree that there must be a connection between “knowing” Christ and having a “knowledge” of why I know Him.
Aaron commented on it being Vineyard. It may be that this is more than a “wave”. It possibly could be the bedrock of where real truth is understood and experienced.
“Theological Exploration:” what a wonderful phrase.
In my post I mentioned a book called, “Delighting in the Trinity.”
What is a favorite book of yours that you have enjoyed in theological exploration?
Systematic Theology by Dr. Hart
I believe after having Dr. Hart, who so clearly brought theology to the everyday man, that you are correct. There was not a clear conclusion from this book. I rewrote my blog about 10 times because I didn’t want to fully blast the book but I found holes in their conclusion because of there perspective. Thanks for gently doing what I would have so harshly done.
There has to be a balance for those of us who have been raised in the “folk religion” but among the folks there have been miracles and there have been things that only happen by faith. Period. Striking the correct balance is where the future of the church rests.
Thanks for your words.