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”.
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.” 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. 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.” 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.”
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.
 Stanley J. Grenz & Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology? an Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996, Kindle Edition),
 David Ford. Theology: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 2013), 17.
 Ibid., 83,129.
 Ibid., 60
 Ibid., 93