The most common definition of theology is that it is “the study of God”. Sounds simple but nothing about theology is really simple. Many within the christian faith including myself, often pretend that we know all the answers to questions people asking. We trend to over simplify our answers as in the local proverb, “ones size fit all”. In the book,’Theology: a very short introduction’, the author David Ford dis-spelled any notion that theology is simple. As he stated “The world’s religions have millions of practicing members who try to apply their minds to their faith and its implications. Issues come up all the time which have no ready-made answers” kindle edition p4. This observation is true of christianity also. From the inception of the church, the followers of Jesus have struggled to fully understand and interpret the ways and sovereign purposes of God. just think of the agonizing discomfort suffered by some of the apostles when it came to preaching the gospel to the gentiles.It took the conversion of an unlikely pharisee to open the eyes of those who had walked with Jesus, sat at his feet while he taught the multitudes, and and eat bread with him. How come? they were so close to Jesus yet never got it. All it took was for Paul to grasp the manifold wisdom and plan of God for all mankind, was one single encounter with Jesus.
AS I read this book, I was reminded of my favorite teachers; he is now with the Lord. Professor Vincent. I entered bible college as he was beginning his tenure. His favorite word was, “grapple” , his way of challenging us to become critical thinkers. We were encouraged to debate, to question long held believes, argue, critique, and to get outside the box. As we studied church history we came up the account of the crusaders. Learning for the first time a side of our faith that we never new existed. As twenty three young minds pondered what we were reading, I can still recall Dr. Vincent’s caution. These were men of there times. This was his mantra whenever we were confronted with these historical aspect of theology that were challenging to explain. Even the furious debate that arose between Paul and Barnabas, these were men of their times he cautioned, do not remove them from their historical context.
Ford talks about how christian have raise texts for the scriptures and use them to justify what can be described as evil. Think of the role of christians in apartheid, slavery, and even racial segregation in the United States. We have to conclude that these christians were victim themselves of a culture that had shape their theological perspectives. They interpreted the scriptures with cultural biases that blinded their eyes to the revealed truths of God. The counsel of Ford would have been helpful and can be helpful to us, that is the need for high quality studies and discussion among faith communities on issues relevant interest Kindle ed. p19. There must also be a crusade to a train a new generation of theologically literate believers. Failure to do can result in the repeat of past mistakes.
What a grave responsibility placed on the current generation Christ followers. In the midst one the most revolutionary shifts and far reaching social upheaval the Church has experienced in its 2000 years existence. We are called to stand at the cross roads of culture and spiritual decline. Charged with the responsibility of not just holding to, but advancing the values of a kingdom that sets us in conflict with culture. It there a place for biblical orthodoxy in the current cultural environment? Ford seem to think so and see change in our attitude to the disciplines of study and scholarship and the practice of intelligent faith as imperatives. Should we then be rethinking how see theology and how we do church. Before becoming a christian, I almost got swallowed up the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I can still recall the level of discipline to study I saw being exhibited by the Witnesses with whom I affiliated. In fact, it was this that turned me off. I became concern about the amount of time that was spend studying the awake magazine and the focus of the study. Week after week it was all about proving that Jehovah’s Witnesses was the only true religion. I have often lamented the difficulty faced in an attempt to bring this level of discipline study to the scriptures and the doctrine of the christian faith, to the religious culture of which I belong. Ford is correct, there are devastating consequences to our our negative attitude toward study and scholarship. Church become again what the apostle made it, a place where we gather to study the scriptures rather than a place where come to be entertained. This is how Jesus will find faith when he returns.
The time has come for theology to become a focal part of our worship. The discipline must be about teaching discipline study and application of the scriptures. Perhaps authors like Ford and sparking a renewal to the whole concept of christian education.