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The Importance of Theology

Written by: on October 15, 2015

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Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson open their book with a fundamental question. They state, “Many Christians today not only are uninformed about basic theology, but even seem hostile to it. What has brought about this appalling lack of interest and frequently open hostility to theology among Christian laypeople, students and even pastors (Kindle Loc 27 of 1541)?” This fundamental question sets the stage for a systematic explanation on of theology, its importance, and then cleverly explains how theology is practically done where it is life giving and not a draining task. After all, for the authors, theology is not a rigorous academic pursuit (although it is for many practitioners), but an opportunity to explore the richness of God, the vastness of his character, and his inexhaustible mercy and grace.

Grenz and Olson make a point to highlight the fact that all people do theology in their life when they begin to ask the ultimate questions of life. So for them, a Bible expositor and the anonymous letter writer are engaging in theology. I would go even further. In the age of social media, people who have a computer and a cause are engaging in theology even though they may not recognize it as such. The authors state, “No one who reflects on life’s ultimate question, can escape theology (Kindle Loc 51 of 1541)” In other words, everyone will engage in it. With this thought, it is truly perplexing why theology matters so little to so many.

The authors point out that theology is not a rigorous profession although it can be for some. Theology is inescapable for every Christian, which is their primary focus. They state, “Because Christians are people who believe in God and also believe that God relates to them in special ways, they 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 (Kindle, Loc 141 of 1532).”

Reflecting upon the text and as a Pentecostal, it is easy to see what the authors are driving towards in this book. Often times within my tribe, I have heard pastors tell people to turn off their minds. A few short decades ago, a higher education was not cherished in our denomination, but ridiculed. Even more recently during a national meeting discussing the need for continual education for ministers (which is common for most professions), some ministers stood up and stated that they felt that education, study and growth were contrary to the call of God in their life.

The sad reality is that many people do not engage God any longer with their minds. The great commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Our pursuit of God must engage the intellect and stimulate thinking as well as stir up emotions. The way I think about God affects every other thought about life. It changes how I view his creation, commandments, and Christ. It informs my view on life and the sanctity of a newborn, and it allows me to see people not trapped in some space that determines their life as Gil Valentine would have us believe in her book Social Geography, but rather helps us understand that a former murderer can repent and become a pastor, a broken down prostitute can repent and become a worship leader, or a long time racist can repent and run a homeless shelter for those who do not look like him.

Theology, true theology transforms our mind into the mind of Christ. Our thinking affects our practice. Olson and Grenz do a marvelous work in making theology important, but not only that, they make it approachable. Everyone needs theology in order to understand, love and serve a God the claim to know.

 

About the Author

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Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

10 responses to “The Importance of Theology”

  1. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Jason, I can really relate to your blog, I brought in a Pentecost environment, my father was pastor of three large churches and I experienced some of those same views. It was believed but not spoken that theology was for Professionals- Oooooh, does this one get under my skin. Theology is for “EVERYONE”, not just pastors and smart people! James contends that churches often discourage women from learning about theology because they do not qualify for leadership. “This leaves the vast majority of Christians without an incentive to know God at the deepest level. Women’s ordination may be a much debated subject; the question of a woman’s need for theology should never be debated.” Why? Theology simply means “the study of God” or, “to know God.”

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Jason. For me, one of the greatest gifts Pentecostals have contributed to world christianity is the emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. You so clearly express that aspect of your tribe. Very cool!
    I like how you say the book makes theology approachable. I think that is key. It reminded of the Miniature Critical Thinking Book and the How to Read a Book. The Mini CT book made critical thinking so much more approachable than Elder makes reading a book. I think there is something to be said. I would also say, having spent so many years traveling to Uganda, Pentecostals have made the Holy Spirit so much more approachable than other denominations.
    I don’t recall Valentine saying people are stuck and therefore discounting the power of the Spirit to transform lives. I might have missed that. What I like about Valentine’s work is that I feel like she just simply explains and names some of the barriers that the Spirit must breakthrough. For example, that prostitute, that racist, etc…why were they like that in the first place? If makes me think about the social-geography Paul was raised in that made him go around and hunt christians.

    • AP,
      I know this is not a critique on Valentine, but in her book she is coming from a secular view. Her view of space is important. I was just juxtaposing the two books. Valentine which is secular views people are who they are as a product of their space. Grenz and Olson’s book stresses theology which leads us to recognize the fall of man, sin, and depravity which sometimes leads people to their “space.” While Valentine does not specifically say people are stuck, she does seem to indicate that we are products of our space which we are not. We are products of our sin. Again, I was trying to emphasize more the reason theology changes our world view. Thanks.

  3. Aaron Cole says:

    Jason,
    Great writing! quick question how has: “true theology” that “transforms our mind into the mind of Christ. Our thinking affects our practice.” in a practical visible way affected your behavior? from where I stand you need some help! 🙂

    blessings,

    Aaron

  4. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Jason,

    Thank you for bringing in the real-life transforming power of good theology (and the Gospel). We live in a world dying to hear and know this message of hope.

    I had a youth pastor on my staff for a few years who grew up in a Pentecostal environment, and in that world, as he engaged Christianity vigorously with his mind, he was once counseled to “cast out the spirit of intellectualism.” If you had overheard that comment, how would you deal pastorally with both parties in the conversation?

    • Mark, good question. If I was to over hear such a statement, I would imagine it would receive a strong rebuke from me. After all, Jesus said love the Lord with all our hearts, mind and strength. To forsake loving God with our mind is to disobey. While I would lovingly address the person who said such a statement, I would remind them that the Apostle Paul was not shy using his mind when he addresses the Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, etc. God created him with a powerful intellect, so we should not avoid it.

      When it comes to the Youth Pastor, I would remind him of the same things, but also make sure he understands that theology and growth in the intellect is never for superiority, but rather a way to grow in the knowledge of God. He is our pursuit in theology and not intellectual prowess. I would remind him that while he is engaging his mind, he must engage his heart (emotions) as well.

      Thanks Mark.

  5. I like your line ” thinking affects our practice.” The perspective of our Pentecostal roots is definitely based on the “folk theology” side of the tracks. But I struggle with the idea that I can become so intellectual that I am truly a Christian. I still have to hold to the fact that I am a Christian by faith and not knowledge.

    I know that the authors balanced that thought process out as I continued to read their book, but I kept referencing the students that I have had every year that I have been in youth ministry, that without a miracle, their understanding and knowledge is not going to grow. They accept Christ by faith but to move beyond that is humanly not possible.

    So everyone is theologian but some will stay at the faith end of the spectrum while others have the ability to move into the professional realm of theology. I want to be one of those people but I also want to balance that with a strong faith.

    Thanks for your thoughts. It made me think. I agree with you about our denomination needing to embrace education as much as they do the infilling of the Holy Spirit. So I go back to your statement, “thing affects our practice.”

  6. Good thoughts, Jason!

    You stated, “After all, for the authors, theology is not a rigorous academic pursuit (although it is for many practitioners), but an opportunity to explore the richness of God, the vastness of his character, and his inexhaustible mercy and grace.” Why do you think theology is difficult for many practitioners? Do you think it has to do with personality or expectation? Theological perspective affects all aspects of our ministry and also our interactions.

    For example, if we believe that God is truly good and that God is healer, then how is our theology affected when God chooses to allow an individual to remain unhealed? Is our faith tested or our theology? Our faith in Christ may remain resolute and unquestioning, but our theology is shaken. We asks God why and our questions lead us to seek Him more closely. Our concept of God’s goodness is not questioned, but our understanding of His goodness is questioned. If God is ___ then why?

    Do you believe it’s more difficult for Christian leaders to delve into theological questions, because it’s seen as doubting God’s Word? How do we as pastors create an environment where other pastors can come with theological questions and not be judged? What needs to happen in order to create that safe environment?

    • I think we must allow for open dialogue. After all, God did. Job questioned and questioned and questioned. I think many times we must always explain or excuse God for what has happened. But, I think when we give quick answers it does not make God easier to understand, but it makes Him harder to understand. I think many Christian leaders do get afraid of allowing those questions because they doubt God sovereignty.

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