Interestingly enough, Grenz/Olsen revealed that Bethany College vowed never to have a theology department. This speaks to the complexity with how we interact with the understanding of theology. The bias (or ignorance) against theology understands theology to be superstitious, boring and irrelevant to real life. The authors state, “It is not a question of whether or not we will do theology, it is a question of whether we will do good theology.”
Do we approach theology intentionally or accidentally? Well, we know theology is pervasive because regardless of cultural influences, people form their view of God and religion. I know…their view is generally dogmatic but that is why theology is only as authoritative as the person’s source. Grenz/Olsen discusses the sources of theology: scripture, history and culture. Scripture is the primary tool, history represents the safeguard against doctrinal mistakes and culture represents the context in which we communicate theology.
I present to you Theology and Christian theology. The relationship between these two thoughts makes everyone a theologian.
When you think of a scientist and a poet, our minds immediately classifies the two as intellectual/smart (scientist) and gifted/average (poet). This is actually the relationship with theology and Christian theology.
Theology by itself can relate to any religion, be separated from scripture and even be secular. This is where scientists thrive as they try to infuse their research. Chapter 8 states, “Theology is the pursuit of wisdom. A central crucial goal of our theologizing is right thinking.” Scientists have been trying for years to sway our minds to their thought-process of theology but Grenz/Olsen gave the average person a platform for equality. “Being a Christian theologian at any level requires that a person be more interested in knowing God than amassing ideas about God.” We form our basic theology on faith, not as an attempt to dismiss information.
Christian theology is Christ centered, it is more “in faith” (not “about faith”), theological questions are intertwined with the church and accountability is to the body of Christ; theologians are merely intellectual people in the body of Christ (Christ is the Head). We also find the authors suggesting that community is a great-integrated motif in terms of contextualization of the biblical message. I was blindsided when they did not see classic poetry as an integrative motif in relation to systematic theology. “Let the Lower Lights be Burning” was used as an example of bad contextualization. My family still reads classical poetry that involves lighthouses and they may eventually want to visit an old lighthouse.
We should never overreact when we see these integrative motifs regarding theology in different cultures because the bible used motifs to help with understanding biblical principles. It was weird because the book states, “The biblical story always comes with meaning/interpretation of the events it narrates.” Theology comes from the biblical stories so we cannot ignore the varied motifs. The purpose of theology is not to discuss new ideas but to discover more unity in scriptures. Christian theology relies on faith and revelatory knowledge (caution needed) in understanding God’s truth.
This is a great book because it challenges its readers to renew their pursuit of God through their search for truth. It is clear that we must learn how to communicate Christ’s word with accuracy into our culture. The perceived intelligence of scientist (and scholars) sometimes causes us to disqualify ourselves from theological discussions. However, intelligence can never replace biblical truths; it works in harmony. Everyone is a theologian but we need good theologians.
“Good theologians discuss intellectual questions and concern themselves with academic debate because their chief concern is life. They want to know the truth not merely so that they might think properly, but so that they might live properly.” We live by faith…