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

Thinking and Doing Theology

Written by: on October 18, 2013

Who needs theology? What is theology? How do we study theology? The weekly readings in the course of study on “Engaging Leadership Concepts” have attempted to stimulate our thinking as we consider these questions. What leaders believe is obviously important; equally important is to consider the basis and the source of belief. How leaders have established belief as the “dogma, doctrine and opinion” that comprise their theology?[1] Grenz and Olsen, in Who Needs Theology: An Invitation to the Study of God, portrays everyone who has questioned the meaning and existence of life as a theologian. Being a theologian in this sense does not make everyone a leader; the authors help us to understand, however, that all who accept a mantel of leadership fall on a theological continuum with their “level” being determined by the depth of theological study and the application of theological beliefs. The authors provide five different positions relative to the amount of “theological reflection” one is willing to do and how applicable the refection is in Christian living.

In his short introduction to theology, David Ford leads the reader through the process of what it means to “think theologically.”[2] Ford does this by presenting theology from the perspective of one’s traditions and historical heritage. There is great benefit in this approach for the leader. Ford does not present “good theology” but rather, he encourages the leader to know “the resources [available] to help them think more knowledgeably, deeply, and relevantly.”[3] The outcome is that the leader approaches theology from the perspective of one’s responsibility to the academic, religious, and social communities.[4] Thinking theological, then, is understood in the context of doing theology.

Similar to Grenz and Olson who cast the theologian on a linear spectrum, Ford introduces theology as falling into five types with a typical linear continuum. The difference is that Ford’s classification is about the approach or method of doing theology rather than the comprehensiveness or depth of reflecting on theology. Ford focuses his discussion on the framework of Christian theology; however, the different types of theology are applicable to all religious studies. Within Christianity there are numerous theological traditions; one’s willingness to listen to and be open to understanding traditions other than their own determines the approach to doing theology. Ford gives a practical application to this approach. He applies the concept to theological hermeneutics: it provides for discovering “richness of meaning” and allows for the individual to change through this discovery.[5]

The universal questions of life are asked by all theologies specific to a religion. The meaning of life, how god or God exists and is known, the presence of evil and suffering, and similar questions confront people of every religion. Ford presents theological considerations specific to Christianity. I particularly relate to the exploration of God and Jesus Christ. Knowing God and Jesus Christ, the Son of God is central to Christian theology. Other questions on humanity, sin, right living, suffering, evil and salvation, although significantly important, can only be understood clearly within the context of God’s love and mission as it is expressed in the incarnation of Jesus and the presence of God in the world as Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3 NIV). Knowing God as Creator, as historically involved in creation and reaching to save creation, as Ford notes, “cannot be fully grasped by our finite minds.” It does, however, give us the proper perspective as we understand “God is the ultimate framework and has the sole overview.”[6]

There are many methodologies that apply to doing theology within the contemporary social and cultural context. Ford presents an exceptional concept of how we relate to the world through the personal discovery of knowledge and truth specifically as it relates to biblical text and Christian heritage. The outcome of committing oneself is to know God as love and to come to love God in return.

Martyn Percy spoke eloquently to this concept. According to Percy, leadership ought “to be occupied with God.” Even more, true leadership will be “occupied with the cares and concerns of God.”[7]  The pertinent question we must ask: “Is it possible to be occupied with God?” Percy addresses the question by advocating the place of theology in the life of the leader as being expressed though the virtues of wisdom. Ford makes an agreeable assertion. It is the virtues of biblical wisdom that makes possible the application of theological understanding and knowledge. Ultimately, it is the leader’s only sure resource. Ford understands it to be a warning: “beware of any pursuit of theological information and knowledge that is not somehow in the service of wisdom.”[8]

[1] Grenz, Stanley J; Olson, Roger E;. Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God. Kindle. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996, Location 706.

[2] Ford, David F. Theology: A Very Short Introduction. Kindle. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, p 6.

[3] Ibid. 4

[4] Ibid. 18

[5] Ibid. 133

[6] Ibid. 42-43

[7] Percy, Martyn. “Occupation and Vocation: Leadership in the Church.” Global Leaders Perspectives Conference. London: George Fox Evangelical Seminary, Sep. 2013. 5

[8] Ford. Ibid. 165

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