Who Needs Theology?
Learning Theology, at first glance, seems like a difficult science to master. To fathom its many components would be trying to put the universe together piece by piece. Not long ago I read a book by Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson called “Who Needs Theology?”. It helped me a great deal in understanding the basics of Theology and why it is important to know it.
What Theology Is Not
There are many misconceptions, stereotypes, myths, and false impressions about what Theology is- even within Christian communities. One of those myths is the belief that Theology ruins a person’s faith because it focuses more on the mind and faith is about the heart. The problem to this myth is that it’s not based on a correct definition of theology.
Anytime you think about God, you delve into the realm of Theology. Even the Bible tells those who believe in Christ that we must love the Lord with all our heart, body, soul, and mind. God must not only be in our hearts, but in our minds also.
However, Theology is more that a thinking exercise either. Good theology is never content to remain on the thinking level. It must also be applied in every aspect of life in order to be tested as true thinking of God.
What Theology Is
Theology is an application to what is learned to the world around us. In order to apply this new learning of God, we are required to use specific tools to test theories of God we have learned. It is by these components that sound Theology is made.
Of all the tools in a regular theologian’s arsenal, the Scripture is the most valuable. Revelation is God’s act of disclosing to us who He is and what He is doing. By utilizing Scripture, we can discern who God is and what His will is for us. So it is the standard that we use to test our Theological thinking.
Tradition and Culture
The other two tools: tradition and culture, at first glance, do not seem to be effective in testing Theological thought. However Grenz and Olson in their book explained that both are vital in supporting Scripture and putting it into context. They are like the two legs of a three legged stool.
Our heritage or tradition is a reference point that contains examples of previous attempts to understand God and from these experiences we know what worked and what didn’t. We learn from tradition how others have interpreted Scripture. Our knowledge of God doesn’t come from a vacuum; others have come before to ask the same questions about God that we ask.
Knowing the culture around us is another key component. To be a master of Scripture and tradition is one thing, but if our mastery of them provides no relevance to the culture we live in, then our theories on God are useless. We must know the world we live in so that we can help them know God clearly. The theologian would ask, “What ideas in contemporary culture are appropriate in expressing the biblical truth?”
Final Thoughts on Theology
This is what Theology is; knowing God through His revelation at a spiritual and intellectual level and using Scripture, tradition, and culture to better understand God and to teach others about Him also. Grenz and Olsen throughout their book ask this question: “Who needs Theology”? The answer is everyone needs it and that everyone is a theologian, they just do not know it yet.
Theology is not something to be feared, it is something to be understood. It is something that requires a long term commitment. Any person who claims that they have faith in Jesus Christ should devote some their time to studying Theology. Have you thought about God lately?