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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Hitler was a Theologian.

Written by: on October 23, 2014

When picking up a book that includes “a very short introduction” in the title, one may expect to find a pamphlet of about a dozen pages or fewer. This is not the case with David Ford’s Theology: a Very Short Introduction, which is nearly 200 pages long. The ironic thing is that, given the immense scope of theology, it really is a short introduction. The fact that the field of theology is so broad may explain the reason why many people avoid studying theology all-together. I am reminded of the question raised by Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, “Who needs theology”.[1]

As I write this blog post, I am also preparing the message for my aunt’s funeral. My aunt was not a Christian and most of my family members are not Christians. This begs the question, why is it so important for them to have a Christian funeral led by a Christian pastor. I believe the answer lies at our very core. As human, we are spiritual beings who think about God, our relationship to him, and our future with or without him. Regardless of how one answers these basic human questions, the fact remains that they are asked. We really all are theologians and our theology will affect how we live.

Ford says that it is easy for both the Church and the academic community to ignore the that “religious and theological concerns are essential to many debates about politics, law, economics, the media, education, medicine, and family life.”[2] We are all theologians and our theology affects what we believe and what we do, both individually and as a society. No one is theologically neutral. Even Adolf Hitler was a theologian and he spent his life implementing his theological beliefs.

There is both an opportunity and a responsibility for Christian leaders to engage the church in the study of theology. The opportunity is found in the very nature within us that causes us to ask questions about God. The responsibility lies in the fact that people will live their lives based on their theology, good or bad.

Ford gives us some great tools to get people started. On a basic level, something as simple as teaching a person how to use a parallel Bible and a commentary will go a long way in helping a person to develop a greater understanding of scripture.[3] Ford also reminds us that we need to engage in church history and that “biblical interpretation has to be supplemented by looking at what Christians in the past have taught and what is being learnt in the church now around the world.”[4] He goes on to say, “If you learn the story of the first seven centuries you have met many of the theological positions which are continued or revived with variations in the following centuries.”[5]

Many people who shudder at the thought of studying theology may be very open to engaging in a Bible study using parallel translations and a commentary. In the course of these studies, bringing in relevant key events from church history would make these studies even more interesting. Without even realizing it, people could begin to progress in the discipline of theology. Rather than overwhelming a person with the immensity of the field of theology or making them feel guilty or embarrassed, why not walk alongside and help people take one step at a time. Who knows, maybe even a funeral message could be an opportunity to introduce someone to a more biblical theology.

 

[1] Stanley J. Grenz & Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology? an Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996, Kindle Edition),

[2] David Ford. Theology: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 2013), 17.

[3] Ibid., 83,129.

[4] Ibid., 60

[5] Ibid., 93

About the Author

mm

Brian Yost

Brian is a husband and father of three. He works with Free Methodist World Missions and is currently serving in Latin America.

8 responses to “Hitler was a Theologian.”

  1. Jon Spellman says:

    Brian, I am reflecting on your words: “There is both an opportunity and a responsibility for Christian leaders to engage the church in the study of theology.” I’m thinking that, while this is absolutely true, how can we truly do this if the lion-share of our energy is spent holed up in our studies, preparing to stand behind lecterns, so we can pontificate to our barely-engaged “listeners?” How much engaging are we doing when there is no place for conversation?

    People genuinely want dialog, I think. They want dialog, we give them monolog.

    J

    • Dawnel Volzke says:

      Jon…
      I like your statement, “people genuinely want dialog, I think. They want dialog, we give them monolog.” I think that is very true in most cases, but I’d also ask if this applies to all people. My grandparent’s generation loved to go and “hear” preachers and evangelists. I think back to the tent camp meetings where people would go to listen to the speakers for hours on end. This was the way that they engaged with their faith. Most younger generations avoid this type of a setting, as they want to be engaged in dialog versus being talked at. Could it be that we need to be better at diversifying our approach with dialog and monolog based on the communication preferences of the individual?

    • mm Brian Yost says:

      “how can we truly do this if the lion-share of our energy is spent holed up in our studies”
      Jon, I love to see the balance in Jesus’ ministry between teaching and “living with” the disciples.

  2. mm Dave Young says:

    Brain,

    Thanks for keeping it real, in regards to your aunt’s funeral and practical in regards to your suggestion about equipping people to begin to develop theological thinking. No matter how religious or irreligious people seem they are acting out their theology. You’re right it’s an awesome responsibility we have to influence. Thanks for the heart felt post.

  3. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Thanks Brian…Great thoughts and practical insights. You have done a good job thinking of ways to bringing theology to people without them even noticing. The tools Ford gives seem like low hanging fruit we can easily incorporate in our churches.

    Praying the funeral goes well.

  4. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Brian, I love your take. “As human, we are spiritual beings who think about God, our relationship to him, and our future with or without him. Regardless of how one answers these basic human questions, the fact remains that they are asked. We really all are theologians and our theology will affect how we live.” I think that is where we all were last week, but somehow Ford’s book shook us all up a little with the thought of heightened culture, academic and social engagement. Keeping it simple is the profound challenge, and wouldn’t it be timely and appropriate that the reality of of funeral could remind us of that. Great post bro! Praying for your heart and words with your family.

  5. mm Travis Biglow says:

    Wow Hitler was a theologian! It would have been nice if God had got in his heart. Here is where theology has to be more than doctrines. At some point our theology should match our practice. At APU we were reminded in a theology class that our theory and practice is what we have to work towards meeting each other. Either your theory has to match up with your practice or your practice has to meet up with your theology. For me a lot of times i have problems with this and I feel so let down. But I am using my faith in this because it is going to sometimes take a work of grace from God for our theory to match our practice!

  6. Mary Pandiani says:

    I’m beginning to see the “integrative motif” as necessary for all humans – we all want to be part of a bigger story. I think that’s what you discovered with offering a Christian service for your aunt. As you said, at our core, “[r]egardless of how one answers these basic human questions, the fact remains that they are asked. We really all are theologians and our theology will affect how we live.” We want to know we are part of something more than our one life, even if we can’t name it while we’re living. You offered a gift to your aunt and to the rest of your family. May God continue to weave His Word into all of their lives as living truth.

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