DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Who needs theology? – a review

Written by: on November 9, 2016

Peanuts-sound theology

 

One of the leading theologians of the denomination to which I belong reflected that our movement has traditionally preferred exclamation marks to question marks. This has certainly been my experience. I feel like I have grown up in a church full of exclamation marks, that has focused very much on experience and the heart, but has not always been good at asking questions, or been overly developed in matters of the mind. The whole concept of “folk theology” that the authors referenced is something that I recognise and very much concur with.

Folk theology “encourages gullibility, vicarious spirituality and simplistic answers to difficult dilemmas that arise from being followers of Jesus Christ in a  largely secular and pagan world.” (29)

This book therefore resonated very strongly with me and actually reflects my direction of travel with my research into the origins, foundations and beliefs of my 100-year-old denomination and how these speak to the culture that we live in today.

“start with your own church’s founder(s). Where did your denomination originate? Why did it begin? What theological impulses shaped its beginnings? What about today?” (144)

These are very much the questions that I am asking.

The book takes us back to that word again: “reflective”, as the authors encourage us to triangulate the three areas of biblical teaching, Christian heritage, and current culture. Good theology will marry the three and address the concerns of each of these sources. It is true to the biblical source and provides an integrative framework of understanding. It takes into account the rich heritage of the church and hundreds of years of Christian thinking, theological debate and creedal statements. And it speaks to the culture and context in which we live and move today. This is not easy, but it is vitally important, as we develop an approach of thinking and theologising critically and constructively.

I found the conceptual and historical overviews in the book helpful and insightful, I enjoyed the consideration of the different categories of dogma, doctrine and opinion, and I appreciated the challenge to live out our theology in everyday life and ministry.

In a denomination that leans heavily on experience and feeling, I particularly agreed with the need for rich and substantial theological understanding to anchor us in our faith when the feelings are absent and tough times abound. The artesian wells of biblical truth and good theology in our lives are absolutely vital at such times, and I want to develop and nurture those wells in my own life, and in the life of those that I lead or influence.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Geoff Lee

8 responses to “Who needs theology? – a review”

  1. Well-said! “In a denomination that leans heavily on experience and feeling, I particularly agreed with the need for rich and substantial theological understanding to anchor us in our faith when the feelings are absent and tough times abound.” I enjoyed the visual of theology being an anchor that grounds us. Thank you for that!

  2. Geoff coming from a Charismatic Pentecostal background I am familiar with the elevation of experience over theology. Once I was able to study theology, I found that my experiences in life with God had deeper meaning. I know that some denominations are shifting to more theological basis in teaching and in encouraging their communities of faith to study. Holding both theology and experience in tandem is the best balance because I have learned that there are somethings about God that could never be studied or taught that have to be experienced 🙂

  3. Jim Sabella says:

    Geoff, what a great point!

    “In a denomination that leans heavily on experience and feeling, I particularly agreed with the need for rich and substantial theological understanding to anchor us in our faith when the feelings are absent and tough times abound.”

    Hear hear! From your AoG colleague and brother. To experience is wonderful, to understand is divine. Great post!

  4. Geoff,
    The church touches your emotions to get the response they believe God want you to have. They call it assisting you into the presence of God, another look would be manipulation.
    This statement “authors encourage us to triangulate the three areas of biblical teaching, Christian heritage, and current culture” is truth. Our lives should reflect Jesus’ life walk. Our culture is in a face-off because many of us say we are Christians but our biblical teaching is heresy at times or maybe just messed up.

  5. Mary Walker says:

    Geoff, I may be in the minority here. I am from a Reformed background that stresses theology.
    A few years ago though I began to realize that our church, unfortunately aptly nicknamed the “frozen chosen”, was really missing something.
    “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Cor. 13:1).
    I still go to a Reformed Church because I still think that a strong Biblical theology can keep us grounded. But we can’t just do our catechism and think we’re just fine now.
    And so, I am now a “Penta-Calvinist”. In my study of women of the nineteenth century I naturally encountered the Holiness Movement and a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit. So I have a more developed theology of the Holy Spirit than many in my church. I think there should be a balance. And it fits in so nicely with what Grenz and Olson said – our theology should go from head through heart and out of our hands and feet.

  6. mm Katy Lines says:

    I am intrigued to follow your process of offering a deeper theology to your denomination. I’m also curious to see how those in leadership and in the pews will respond to suggestions to begin asking questions (rather than exclamations) and to dig deeper.

  7. This is a great post, Geoff. I too grew up in a tradition of exclamation points rather than questions, but with very little emphasis on experience and feeling. In fact, I don’t think anyone after Wesley was supposed to indulge in the idea of being “strangely warmed” in my tradition.
    I think this is where I struggle with evangelicalism as a whole. Questions are scarce, doubts are discouraged, and challenges to the status quo are borderline heresy. I too appreciate the authors’ focus on the three key areas because it is too easy to lean on one of the three and ignore the other lenses.
    Thanks for this measured, thoughtful post!

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