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.