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Who Needs Theology?

Written by: on October 15, 2015

Who Needs Theology?

Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson in their book “Who Needs Theology?” show that there are popular and pervasive misunderstandings of theology. During the years that they taught theology, they recognized some of the students had a hunger for a deeper understanding of God and God’s ways. However, they also discovered that both lay people and pastors rated theological knowledge last out of five qualifications most important for a good pastor. That is why they felt the need to write this book, to see a renewal of sound theology and reflection among God’s children.

In My Experience

This book reminds me of the time I was heading off to seminary to learn more about this God I had just discovered – in other words to study theology. There were several people (Christians) who warned me about taking this path. They said that studying and reading the Bible should be enough. “Seminary is not the answer,” one man said.

Once I began in seminary, I recognized that everyone has a theology. One person believes in a Triune God; another (Buddhist) believes there a need for a god, but only a need for mindfulness and meditation; while another firmly believes that there is no God. In a unique way, they all are theologians. They all have a belief about who or what God is or isn’t.

A Good Theology

In chapter 7, the authors talk about Constructing Theology in Context. They write: “The question therefore isn’t, ‘Am I a theologian?’ Rather, we must ask ‘Am I a good theologian?’”

I learned that there is proper order to construct a good theology. In addition, I learned that the building blocks of theology are Scripture, Doctrine and Hermeneutics. Scripture of course refers to the Word of God. Doctrine refers to a set of beliefs. Hermeneutics refers to the science of interpretation.

In order to begin with a good, sound theology, we must begin with hermeneutics. Good hermeneutics begin with determining what your method of interpretation needs to be. The second building block is the Scripture itself. Finally, you will end up with the third building block, a sound or good theology. As Grenz and Olson quoted, we all are theologians. But that’s not enough for me. I want to be a good theologian.

About the Author

Anthony Watkins

8 responses to “Who Needs Theology?”

  1. mm Rose Anding says:

    Thanks Anthony for a great blog!
    I was critical thinking over your statement, “what is a good theologian? “Does it mean he always keeps his cool and doesn’t allow the polemics of others cause him to sacrifice his level-headed calmness? When correction is necessary tact is defined by gentleness. or perhaps we all need to ask ourselves, are we good theologian? Does practicing my religion make me a better person? Does it make us kinder, more loving, forgiving, and unselfish? Does it help one see his own spirituality and that of the people we meet and work with each day? Am I conscious each day that all of us are beloved by God? Thanks, it is food for thought. I enjoyed reading your post, thanks for being you!

  2. Hey Anthony. It is good to see you online. I missed you last week!

    In your last paragraph you give an order where hermeneutics is first, then Scripture, then theology. I read Grenz as telling us that theology is: Bible, Christian Heritage, then Context. Where do you see hermeneutics fitting in their steps?

  3. Aaron Cole says:

    Anthony, Good to see you! I really like your observation of chapter 7, where the question is not about being a theologian, but rather a good theologian. You commented that “building blocks of theology are Scripture, Doctrine and Hermeneutics” are there any other characteristics or traits that you see in good theology or theologians?

    Blessings
    Aaron

  4. Claire Appiah says:

    Anthony,
    Glad to see you back. Thanks for your post.
    But, I am confused about your discussion of chapter seven on “Constructing Theology in Context” in which you give hermeneutics a primary role in that enterprise. Can you please unpack that for us? According to Grenz and Olson, “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” (104). They point out that “good theology” connects or unifies irreconcilable theological differences.

  5. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Anthony,
    Thanks for your post. I am encouraged by your statement/desire that you want to be a GOOD theologian. That really spurs me on to be the same. I love the life-pursuit of giving our pure and perfect God quality in all of our offerings to Him

  6. Pablo Morales says:

    Anthony!!! I’m glad that you are back in the game! I missed you the past couple of weeks! It is nice to know that we have a common desire: to be good theologians. As the authors point out in the book, one of the ways of growing in our reflection is to be surrounded by godly Christians with whom we can reflect together. They said, “More important than any exercises is a commitment and determination to grow and mature in thinking through your Christian faith within a community of God’s people and in relation to your cultural context. If you choose to do this, you will inevitably become more effective as “salt” and “light” in the world where God has placed you.” I enjoyed the the opportunity in Hong Kong to engage with you in conversation and reflection. I look forward to the months ahead!

  7. Great observation, Anthony!

    I thought it was interesting that Grenz and Olsen sought to equip the church with the ability to question and delve into Christian theology. Their book not only discussed theology in layman’s terms, but even sought to present it in layman’s verbiage. They made it accessible to their audience. Would the church look differently if pastors engaged in theology? Would ministries be filled with more leaders than followers? Would the church be healthier? As I perused through the book, I couldn’t help but wonder what impact theology, or lack thereof, really has on the church. How many small groups are focused on a self-help book? They search for purpose without ever understanding God’s presence or their position in Christ. We center our ministries on productive outcomes, but fail to see that many men and women are trying to find God in the midst of projects, instead of finding God in His presence. It looks good, but so many are living incomplete. Grenz defined theology as, “seeking to understand with the intellect what the heart – a person’s central core of character – already believes and to which it is committed” (Grenz, 16). We have many committed followers who have no idea who they’re following. How can we change ministry and train up leaders who understand what they believe and who they believe? What do we need to do in order for Christians to know Christ?

  8. mm Phil Goldsberry says:

    Anthony:

    Thank you for a great post! Your statement, “…..they also discovered that both lay people and pastors rated theological knowledge last out of five qualifications most important for a good pastor.” That is alarming but in reality has a lot of truth.

    Grenz and Olson did give a balanced approach to what “theology” is and what it should be. But as you said, we need to be good theologians.

    Phil

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