Who Needs Theology by Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson is a basic overview of what theology is and is not. The essence of the book for me is summed up in two words: theological exploration. Grenz and Olson state: “…they (Christians) would do well to explore the meaning of God and try to get to know God as thoroughly as possible with their whole being – mind as well as heart.” (p.20)
The book is comprised of establishing theological basis. The first is that everyone is a theologian, since theology in its basic form is “any reflection on the ultimate questions of life that point toward God.”(p.13) Grenz and Olson spend quite a bit of time with the “great gulf” that exists between “Christians and theologians” especially in chapters four and five. They give a spectrum of theological thought from “folk” to “academic.” The ending of book is given to theological tools and outcomes.
For me the book was more a defense of theology rather than an explanation of it. I completely understand and agree with the authors on the tension that exists from “folk” theology to “academic.” However, I feel that although the argument was presented it was not fully answered. Quite to the contrary, to me this “gulf” between “Christian” and theologian is a contrasting criticism that is left unresolved.
For example, Stan opens chapter four with a personal story given by a dear saint in the church in which he is working. The saint admonishes him in his pursuit of theological training with the following advice: “Don’t let that theology professor destroy your faith.” (p.51) We in ministry have all been advised similarly by well meaning Christ followers. Instead of soundly defeating this Grenz and Olson give credence for it at the end of the book in chapter eight. “This doesn’t mean, however, that the theologian is necessarily a person of superior faith. (true) Assent to Christian doctrine is not faith. Faith is our personal response to God’s call on our life and this response entails an intellectual reorientation…So theologians are not necessarily persons of greater faith, even though we would anticipate that the study of theology would lead us all to greater trust in, love for and obedience to our great God and Savior.”(p.127)
My point is, that although I understand their perspective (theological training is good not bad) they actually confirm the concern rather than disproving it. In essence the older saint is by their own words on page 127 proven right. Great theology does not always equal greater faith. That’s what they wrote. This is a “termite in a yo-yo” conversation; it will continue to go in circles until there is nothing left.
In the end, I am with Grenz and Olson that theological training is good and needed. But there is a balance between head and heart. It is not an “either or” proposition but rather a “both and.” We can be fully theologically engaged with the head and not loose the faith that is sealed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. However, this danger is real and this tension must be managed lest we do destroy our faith in the process.