Grenz and Olson’s book, Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God, was an interesting read. I like the fact that they are attempting to demystify this concept of theology and help the average Christian realize that they are more of a theologian than they realize. The authors say they “want to close the gap by showing that everyone-especially every Christian-is a theologian and that every professional theologian is simply a Christian whose vocation is to do what all Christians do in some way: think and teach about God.” Most Christians do not think of themselves as theologians, but I would have to agree with the authors in that many people engage in the activity of thinking and asking questions about God and the meaning of life. This strikes a chord with the work I do every day with clients in my counseling office. Many of them end up in my office because they have a broken relationship with either God, themselves or others (I will expand on this later).
The following statement by the authors describes this process of my clients practicing theology beautifully: “So you-like everyone else-need theology, because, insofar as you are a thinking person who at least occasionally reflects on life’s ultimate questions and a Christian who seeks to understand and apply God’s Word, you are doing theology. Theology is not, as many wrongly suppose, a kind of esoteric knowledge possessed by a few superior intellectuals. It is simply faith seeking understanding. And insofar as ordinary Christians seek answers to questions that naturally arise out of faith, they are already doing Christian theology.” It is an amazing experience to have a front row seat while people seek out the answers to life’s toughest questions and understanding to their confusion. If I told them the authors of this book consider them to be theologians by this practice, they may hesitate to engage in it. This is often because people have a negative view of theology and theologians. Like the authors state, “we hope that once you see that you are a theologian, you will resist messages from even pious Christians who try to tell you that theology is something bad or just a “head trip” or a threat to true faith. It does not have to be, and at its best it never is.”
Often women in churches are thrust into the position of a theologian in order to defend their right to lead alongside men and define what God really says on the subject. They end up questioning their purpose in the church and society and get confused about their relationship with God. Women also turn to studying more about the nature of God to gain an understanding of how they fit in with the family of God. Because they are often marginalized in the church, female leaders end up questioning the church’s theology and their own theology in order to find a place to serve that fits their giftedness and fits their understanding of scripture. As Lay Theologians, they often feel ill-equipped to take on the commonly controversial, misunderstood passages of the bible on this subject with most Ministerial Theologians. Pastors often rely more on tradition than on sound theological study of scripture to arrive at their position on women in church leadership. I have talked with countless women whose faith has been rocked to the core as a result of hurtful conversations with pastors or church leaders who have told them they do not have a place at the leadership table. This causes them to question why they are Christians and why they attend church at all, which ironically, are questions of the theologian.
I often take clients through the process of evaluating their three primary relationships with God, themselves, and others because it becomes crucial to their healing. My wife and I like to refer to this process as taking life to the third power (Life3), referring to these three primary relationships. This regularly becomes an intense process of people asking themselves the tough questions of: Who am I?; Do I love myself?; Who is God?; Does God love me?; Who is important to me?; Do the people in my life care about me? I often see clients struggle to receive God’s unconditional love if they don’t love them self, and as a result, struggle to love their “neighbor”. I often tell them they can’t give what they don’t have, and they can’t receive what they don’t think they deserve. This personal theology process is similar to the authors’ definition when they state, “In the broad sense theology is the attempt to reach below the surface of life and gain a deeper understanding of God. Theology seeks to understand God’s being, God’s nature and God’s relationship to the world. It answers questions such as: What is God like? How does God treat us? What does God do?” These questions are healthy and I see people every week benefiting from the wrestling of these questions in their own lives. I look forward to affirming them as real live theologians J!
In researching various reviews of the book, I came across the following statement that I thought was worth including:
“Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the work, though, comes from the categories the authors erect to distinguish between, what otherwise could be termed, vocational theology and non-vocational theology. By their assertions, Grenz and Olson further the division between laity and clergy, between academy and marketplace. The authors’ assertions involved in defining ministerial theology, in the way that they have, would deny laity any meaningful study of theology. Not only is the division between laity and clergy exacerbated by the work, but also on the other end between clergy and the academy, the false division between applied theology and all other supporting forms of theology.”
The author of this response has a valid point in that lay people can be made to feel like their study of scripture and theology cannot be meaningful. It also could create a further chasm between the professional minister and the lay minister, which I believe has often paralyzed the progress of the church at large. Overall, I enjoyed the book and the concept of everyone being a theologian resonated with me and helped to demystify the term.
 Travis Matt-Bond Epstein Reems, Response to Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God. 2015. http://www.academia.edu/23736740/RESPONSE_TO_WHO_NEEDS_THEOLOGY_BY_GRENZ_AND_OLSEN