Thursday, September 20, 2007
HOW TO BE A GOOD THEOLOGIAN
God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. The gifts that he gave were that some should be... teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity... We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness... But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up. Do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults. Therefore let us go on... leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation... Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the work of truth. I want their hearts to be united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown : when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold. O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes. With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth. I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances at all times. Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. Put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me your law. I run the way of your commandments, for you enlarge my understanding. Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life. I shall walk at liberty, for I have sought your precepts. I revere your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end. I am your servant; give me understanding, so that I may know your decrees. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law is the truth. Your decrees are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live. My eyes are awake before each watch of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
1 Corinthians 1:27; Ephesians 4:11-15; 1 Corinthians 14:20; Hebrews 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:15; Colossians 1:2-3; 2:6-7; 3:1-2, 16-17; Mark 4:14-20; Psalm 119:6-7,12-16,18,20,27,29,32-25,40,45,48,66,73,93,105, 112,125,130,135,142,144,148.
'Theology' comes from two Greek words - theos, God, and logos, word, thought. Theology is about God, and how God's will is to be done on earth as it is in heaven. 'Every Christian is called to be a theologian' (Karl Barth): it isn't a specialized, abstract discipline reserved for academics (Luke 10:21). Indeed the best theology doesn't come from 'top down' (from the dogma of 'authorities' Mark 1:22), but is done from bottom up: theology is about life. Because God is beyond our finite understanding, our questions will always outnumber our answers, so we come to this task not as proud know-alls but as humble and teachable learners. Everything we do, individually or as churches, has a theological dimension. Theology is about ultimate reality. Theology helps us to know who we are, to discover our identity. It aids our understanding of the church's and our denomination's roots, and to reflect on how the past relates to the issues we face today. Good theology also studies the faith-stories of others, and helps us understand what God is doing in their histories. Every church should be a miniature theological seminary (Elton Trueblood). It is amazing that church leaders may be highly skilled in their profession or trade, but still be in kindergarten theologically. As one layman said, 'We are better trained in our secular jobs than in the great ideas of our faith'. Pastors are the churches' resident 'professional theologians'. Their role as teachers is to make theologians of every Christian. There is a lot of bad theology around, and bad theology can lead to bad behaviour - bigotry, greed, self-interest, sexual immorality, ignoring or rationalizing injustices, etc.
There are eight tests of a 'good theology': CHRISTOLOGICAL. Good theology begins with 'The Lord our God, the Lord is One' (Deuteronomy 6:4) and quickly adds 'Jesus is Lord' (Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3). Jesus is both fully divine and fully human. Western Christians have been more preoccupied with Christ's divinity: he is 'very God of very God'; third world theology with his humanity: God's solidarity with suffering 'nonpersons'. A good theology agrees with Jesus' emphases - particularly about love and justice. Theology is the study of God and his ways.
For all we know, dung beetles may study humans and their ways and call it humanology. If so, we would probably be more touched and amused than irritated. One hopes that God feels likewise. Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, London, Collins, 1973, p.91.
Benediction: May God who is light illumine your way, May God who is truth enlighten your mind, May God who is love enrich your heart, May God who is grace fill you with his joy through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The full article is here