In Who Needs Theology the authors make a strong case that everyone is already a theologian. The issue is not whether we are theologians but rather whether we are good theologians or poor ones. I think they are right.
Grenz and Olson offer a reliable model to constructing contextual theology with the use of the trialogue– the interplay between our understanding of Scripture, church history and our cultural context.This is a Venn diagram of sorts that moves us toward improved theology and is more robust than just using one or two of these categories.
The trialogue provides structure in order to answer the important question raised – ‘What integrative motif brings coherence to my Christian beliefs?’
This is a question I plan to answer with more certainty by the end of this LGP program. And I am using this model to assess where I currently stand with my own integrative motif. I still wrestle with the broadness of my research topic; it begins with the statement ‘God is not a user’. Perhaps I will find it better to state the positive affirmation of who God is. If God is not a user or exploiter of humans, then what or who is God? Why am I convinced of this truth? Is it good theology?
I will attempt to process where I am at with my personal research by using the trialogue and the questions it raises for me. The frame seems a bit wobbly now but I trust it will get sturdier in time.
While Scripture accounts many stories of God using people to accomplish things for the Kingdom of God, as I look deeper and broader there is much more there than just humans achieving feats. Is God only interested in Israel for what they could produce and achieve for God? In the tumultuous account of ancient Israel it appears that God is more relational than that. Sure, He wants to partner with Israel to be a blessing to the world but is there a deeper desire? Do we see this deeper desire in the incarnation of Christ? And in His death and resurrection? What about the promised Holy Spirit and the Church?
Throughout history we see men and women grapple with their theology and many have given us the gift of their recorded wrestling. My minor reading of contemplatives and mystics have helped to convince me that God is more lover than user. The little study I have done of the patristics have also added to this conviction. And upon studying a few of the great missionaries who achieved a great deal in their lifetime, I have found them to be deeply enmeshed with the love of God. How refreshing it has been for me to read so many through the centuries that seemed to operate from the paradigm that the chief end of man is glorify God and worship him forever.
How has the Church perceived of and experienced God throughout the centuries? How have church fathers and mothers integrated loving God and doing for God? What does our wider, longer church heritage espouse on why God loves us and what He cares most deeply about? What about my more specific heritage of pentecostalism?
Hurried and noisy are apt descriptors for western culture. Our culture is worn out and hustling like never before. All of our time-saving devices and efficiencies have not delivered like we thought. And yet Dallas Willard asserts that hurry is our greatest enemy when it comes to spirituality. We must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives and hearts if we are to follow God.And if this is true, it is a great challenge to overcome and to speak to. Are we harried? And if so, why are we worn out and burned out? What are we trying to prove? Is life on earth more than a rat race?
And while in some ways this is clumsy for me, I see how the trialogue of Scripture, heritage and culture are shaping my theological conviction that God is not a user. And all this wrestling, studying and questioning pleases God according to Grenz and Olson.How wonderful.
Grenz, Stanley J., and Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God.Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996, 111-2.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Philadelphia: Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1936.
Ortberg, John. Soul Keeping. Blink, 2014.
Grenz and Olson, Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God, 47.