Everyone is a theologian. I have heard this before and believe it insofar as people think about God they are theologians. But I don’t think everyone wants to be a theologian. With all that is happening in our world today (North Korean nuclear progression, the endless outing of male sexual misconduct and the potential removal of the Johnson Amendment to name a few of so many current threats to life and the church in the US alone) many people seem to bury their head in the metaphorical sand of work, family and day to day routines. This does not negate the need for people to think theologically. In actuality, the urgency for all people, not simply ministerial or professional theologians, to think critically and theologically is essential. The reality is our theology determines how we live. As distant as we would like to make conversations about God with regard to topics such as the recent #metoo movement, they are not separate at all. What and how we know of God determines how we interact with the women and men around us. It may seem like a jump but as Grenz and Olson note in their text, Who Needs Theology, “our goal is to articulate our fundamental beliefs about God and the world for the sake of living as Christians in our contemporary context”.
In a land of introductions, Grenz and Olson’s book is an introduction to the who, what, why, and how of theology. Though no critical reviews and no similar books to Who Needs Theology are easily found, much has been written on the introduction of theological topics throughout the Bible and beyond. This text is written specifically to the reader about how to understand and approach theology. The authors offer a gentle encouragement with a strong case for why people should engage in matters of theology along with a specific set of practices including utilizing the Bible, theological heritage and contemporary cultural context.
As I read Grenz and Olson’s text I began to think of questions I would need to ask myself or anyone considering theological reflection, such as ‘Where is the ultimate authority for my theology: the Bible, my presuppositions, elsewhere?’ ‘Am I willing to let my mind be changed by what I learn about God?’ ‘If I do come to a new perspective about God, how might this affect my worldview?’ ‘Will I be honest with myself on whether or not I am willing to change my actions based on new belief?’ These questions are important as they determine if I will actually do theology, “faith seeking understanding” at a level beyond a folk or lay level as the authors propose.
One limitation of Who Needs Theology was within the section on “The Theologian’s Tools”. The Bible is stated as the primary tool and authority. This is of key importance although there is no explanation of or clue within the section to the author’s perspectives on the inerrancy or infallibility of the text. This may be intentional as an introduction to the authority of Scripture but my hunch, from the background of both authors as conservative evangelicals is that the deliberateness relates more to their own theological position. Although both views believe the Bible to be authoritative, inerrancy or the lack of any human error will lend toward a more literal reading of Scripture while infallibility purports the ‘Bible will not fail in its ultimate purpose of revealing God and the way of salvation to humans.’
These two theological terms inform the very reading of the primary theological text at hand informing the reader about the God in whom they believe. It would be helpful for the authors to have at least created a footnote, endnote or appendix with information for theologians to engage in study of these and other important terms related to Scriptural authority.
As this post is more of a reflection on Grenz and Olson’s book, I write with the mind and heart of a pastor who is focused on helping Christians, and indeed non-Christians as well, to think more deeply and critically about who God is and the implications of God’s reality in our lives. Too often, I hear statements from well meaning Christians that belie the theology they affirm. My hope is that I might do in many ways what Grenz and Olson have done in encouraging a thoughtful and growing Christian reflection through preaching and mentoring those in my congregation and leadership scope. Studying theology, or at least engaging in thinking theologically, matures us as Christ followers so we might love God with our whole selves. As we are transformed by the theological renewing of our minds we will not be blown around by every wind of opinion or doctrine the world has to offer and thus will be able to, as the Apostle Paul’s says, “discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
As I research discipleship and its implications for the future of the church, theology under-girds the belief and action of every disciple, including how their character is shaped, the principles they live by and the people they influence. In analyzing each of these aspects of discipleship, I will be focusing even more keenly on the theology at play, as it will determine the final outcomes in the life of a disciple.
 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology: An Invitation to the Study of God. InterVarsity Press:Downers Grove, 1996. 98.
 Grenz, 24.
 Grenz, Stanley J.; Guretzki, David; Nordling, Cherith Fee. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, 2012. 66.
 Ephesians 4:14 and Romans 12:2 (NRSV)