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The Big “T”

Written by: on November 30, 2017

        In this ever changing world, it seems that nothing is stable anymore, including the very nature of theology itself. After all, how do you define something in a world that works so diligently to redefine everything? However, this is exactly what Stanley J. Grenz, a minister and co-author of  25 different theological books, and Roger E. Olsen, a professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary and author of a number of books,[1] attempt to do in their probing, intriguing, and perhaps even controversial book, “Who Needs Theology?” This work demonstrates the struggles that arise out of the study of theology as a result of not just the various interpretations of what theology, but also due to the fact that the authors believe that, “anyone who reflects on life’s ultimate questions-including questions about God and our relationship with God-is a theologian.[2] This topic and book study has prompted numerous book reviews as well as some independent opinions in pursuit of asking the same question. One of these articles was posted by Jason Dulle, on his website blog; in which Dulle writes, “Theology is for everyone. Although the study of God’s Word will be done on different levels in the body of Christ, it is the duty of every member of the body to study to show themselves approved to God. Theology is the heart of the Christian faith…” Herein lies the controversy; is theology a Christian discussion, or is it a universal discussion, regardless of religious views, opinions, or even lack of religious belief? According to Grenz and Olson, “In this general sense, theology is not uniquely Christian. It is rather a nearly universal human endeavor, of which Christian theology is a specific embodiment. The unique thing about Christian theology is that Christians seek answers to the ultimate questions by looking to Jesus Christ because they are convinced that “Jesus is the answer.”[3]

            The struggle with a study such as this one, remains that interpretation will always cloud an issue like this one; does interpretation get to alter the meaning of the a word…especially when the root words are so telling to the discussion. The word “theology” has two Greek words and one modern day definition of clarity. If at first we just identify that the two Greek words are “Theos”, which translates “God”, and the second being “logos”, which translates “Word.” However, by definition, we are taught fairly early on that the ending “ology” always means “the study of…” and therefore, we would tend to translate Theology as “The Study of God.” However, perhaps it is not that simple. The very fact that the word “logos” is used here makes a Christian take note of what Scripture says regarding the “Word.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”[4] This distinction gives motivation to translate the word theology as “Theology” (notice that the capital “T” was added to make a point). Throughout Scripture we see two different listings for deity; when referencing the One All-Power, Creator of the All, we use “God”, however if the Scripture is referencing false gods or pagan gods, there is never a capital used; in fact, in the Greek, it seems that whenever God is referenced, the Greek adds the article “the” to show that it is speaking of “The God.” So is everyone truly a theologian; maybe, however, not everyone would be classified as a “Theologian”; and in all fairness, should not be. Because the title of this particular work includes a sub-title of “An Invitation to the Study of God”, it is in error to believe that everyone is a student of the same God.

“The unique thing about Christian theology is that Christians seek answers to the ultimate questions by looking to Jesus Christ because they are convinced that “Jesus is the answer.”[5] This statement is the very reason I bring light to this discussion; the reality is that as Christians, we do not entertain the idea that there are other gods for discussion, nor do I believe that we should entertain that there are other religious views for consideration. Scripture teaches that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”[6] The authors wrote that “Theology’s constructive task is to set forth the unity and coherence of the biblical teaching about God, ourselves and the world in the context in which God calls us to be disciples.”[7] Though I agree with this statement, I also believe that God sets that context, not mankind. There are too many accommodations made to scripture by people who seek to define what God is, and what His Word should mean…especially when they determine that His Word should mean different things to different people. If “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever,” then why does the meaning and interpretation of who God is get to change simply because people define “theology” different? Can the problem be solved with a simple change from a “t” to a “T”, or is it the responsibility of true Christian Theologians to protect the Word of God? We have seen so many different things changed by society that God has never authorized; marriage, rights, and even sin itself; at some point, God’s people are going to have to take a stand. True Theology is the study of God and His Word; it should be presented as such.

 

 

Bibliography

Dulle, J. (n.d.). Who Needs Theology? . Retrieved November 30, 2017, from onenesspentecostal.com: http://www.onenesspentecostal.com/theology.htm

Grenz, S. J.; Roger E. Olson. (1996). Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. (Kindle Locations 56-57). Kindle Edition.

Scott, C. L. (2013, July 25). Review of Who Needs Theology? Retrieved November 30, 2017, from Christopherscottblog.com: http://christopherscottblog.com/review-of-who-needs-theology-by-grenz-and-olson/

Who Needs Theology . (2009, May 4). Retrieved November 30, 2017, from Intervarsity Press: https://www.ivpress.com/who-needs-theology

 

[1] Who Needs Theology . (2009, May 4). Retrieved November 30, 2017, from Intervarsity Press: https://www.ivpress.com/who-needs-theology.

[2] Grenz, S. J.; Roger E. Olson. (1996). Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. (Kindle Locations 56-57). Kindle Edition.

[3] Ibid, Kindle Locations 322-324.

[4] John 1:1-2.

[5] Grenz, S. J.; Roger E. Olson. (1996). Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. (Kindle Locations 323-324). Kindle Edition.

[6] Ephesians 4:4-6.

[7] Grenz, S. J.; Roger E. Olson. (1996). Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. (Kindle Locations 1038-1039). Kindle Edition.

About the Author

Shawn Hart

6 responses to “The Big “T””

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Shawn,

    I had the same conundrum as you with the definition of Theology being “the study of God.” That is the exact definition I was taught. Then you fleshed it out, and I believe rather poignantly, in a way that I really appreciated. Well done my Brother.

    Thank you as well for including the Bible as the foundation for growing in Theology. I wonder how many people in my church do not crack their Bible from Monday to Saturday? How about your church?

  2. Greg says:

    Hey Big “S” from Big “G”. Sunday afternoon and I am cracking myself up:-)

    I don’t have any problems with even separating big and small “t” discussion on theology. I like to image that people that are searching for Truth and having these theological discussion before they realize that they are talking about God. I like that the author did distinguish the levels of theology, recognizing that there are levels at which we are able to talk about and understand who God is in our lives. I do know that not all discussion about purpose and meaning of life lead to God or even a belief. I do like that the author wanted to help theology not be a bad word for the church. I do think a discussion about our Theology is crucial so we don’t water down or keep moving the yard stick on our faith.
    How do we make Christ and His Theology accessible without the fear of losing what making it essential?

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I always appreciated the diplomacy that Paul used when he entered Athens and noticed all the idols for false gods…I mean, considering how blunt could be at times, I loved the “I see that you are very religious” comment he made before for politely picking polytheism to pieces. It was like putting whipped cream on a mud pie and convincing them it was good enough to eat. My point being is that there always seems to be a way in the Bible to deliver the gospel effectively while still connecting with the people. My concern is that we have become so worried about offending or hurting feelings that we have stopped preaching the gospel and instead we have started preaching something else.

  3. mm M Webb says:

    Shawn,

    Good use of ethnography and connecting the Peanuts cartoons to your review of Grenz and Olson. I wish we could insert attachments into our comments, but I will use a Peanuts image and describe it with words. This is where I would insert Snoopy, as a pilot on his flying doghouse into my comments to your post.

    Imagine Snoopy on a diving strafing pass to shoot holes in a big purple theology banner hanging in the parking lot of an unoccupied church. That is what I imagine the authors are trying to do, to zero in on the theology target, put some holes in our religious paradigms, and make it accessible to humanity.

    I hear your “traditional” approach and have likewise struggled seeing the impact of the slippery slope of declining morality, subjectivity, and loss of absolute truth. We cannot fix this problem, it is eschatologically inevitable. We can however, like you state, take a stand, and stand firm in Christ and reflect His image and love to a suffering world.

    M. Webb

  4. Hi Shawn,

    You wrote: “If “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever,” then why does the meaning and interpretation of who God is get to change simply because people define “theology” different?”

    My response would be to suggest that the meaning and interpretation must change with every new generation and with every varied culture. At the same time, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is our frail human interpretations that need altering when brought into the light of a new culture or the experience of a new generation as they meet Jesus in their own way. This might appear on the surface to be subjective or relativistic, but at a deeper level there is a conviction that Jesus is Lord, and that will not change.

    How do you see it?|

  5. Shawn Hart says:

    Mark, I just believe that there is a difference between relating scripture to a change world than changing scripture to a non-conforming world. I can read verses in the Old Testament and the New Testament that seems to show the state of mankind and its sinfulness had not changed in 2000 years, and yet, God’s Word was able to be related to the struggle. However, today, the problem is not with God’s Word, it is with our willingness to accept it; ironically, that has always been the problem. Too much changing scripture and not enough changing for scripture.

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