What kind of theologian are you?
Who Needs Theology: An Invitation to the Study of God by Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson
The key theme of the book is that every thinking person is a theologian because universally all thinking people are reflecting on and asking the same ultimate questions about life. Is there a God? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Is there an afterlife? This is not a novel concept; many books on theology approach it from this perspective. However, this book makes it clear that everyone is not on the same level as a theologian. In fact, five different levels of theologians are identified. This book incorporates some of the themes of previous readings on theoretical matters or subjects from other disciplines. Some of the same terms appear here: engagement, culture, contextual, global/universal, reflective/critical thinking.
The book initially provides a basic etymological definition of theology. The thesis of the book can easily be summarized by one of the later definitions of Christian theology. “Christian theology is reflecting on and articulating the God-centered life and beliefs that Christians share as followers of Jesus Christ , and it is done that God might be glorified in all that Christians are and do.” 1. In striving to be a “good theologian” the Christian operates from the high standards and framework of Christianity. The critical task of theology is to research beliefs about God to see if they cohere with the witness of the Bible. The constructive task of theology seeks to unify biblical doctrines about God in a way that they have meaning for the contemporary culture. The authors present their line of reasoning without any special proofs outside of their biblical interpretations.
This book more than any other I have encountered on the topic of theology has presented more comprehensive and broader contours of theology than I could ever have imagined. The section of the book that really captured my attention is chapter six, “The Theologian’s Tools” because of the immediate application it offers all Christians in their theologizing endeavors. It brings a new perspective to my thinking in the DMIN program; I sense a greater demand on and higher standard of my performance if I am going to make a significant difference in the world.
In doing Christian theology, the authors list three essential tools that provide the resources for theological construction and that establish theological norms. The biblical message of Scripture is the primary tool as the foundational book of Christianity regarding God’s revelation. The theological heritage of the church is the secondary tool and produces continuity in the orthodoxy of Christian theology throughout the generations. When reading this, I couldn’t help thinking what theological legacy will this contemporary generation leave for succeeding generations? With the final tool, the thought-forms of contemporary culture, Christian theology is biblical, Christian, and relevant in the contemporary context. The authors make a bold statement about interaction with the culture that at first glance seems counterproductive and risky until one hears their whole argument. They state, “In our theologizing, therefore, we borrow the ‘language’ of contemporary culture. We take seriously the way people today think. We draw from the cognitive tools of today’s world so that we may express Christian beliefs in an understandable—that is, relevant manner.” 2.
1. Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson, Who Needs Theology: An Invitation to the Study of God (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 69.
2. Ibid., 99.
Grenz, Stanley, and Roger Olson. Who Needs Theology: An Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press,1996.