The other day I was sitting in the Joe Muggs coffee shop in Books-A-Million bookstore doing some writing when I overheard a conversation between a pastor and a young man. The pastor was telling the young man to ignore theology, saying that theology is nothing but a persons opinion. This is really unfortunate. Little does this pastor know but whenever Christians, himself included, unpack the meaning and implication(s) of a passage of scripture or a particular Christian doctrine we are engaging in the practice of theology. And to be frank, I don’t know of any Christian who refrains from theology. The question is not whether Christians should engage in theology or not but whether we will engage in good or bad theology.
Good Theology Is…
Good theology is a coherent theology that is grounded in Jesus Christ and the narrative of scripture, as it should help us to understand both the scriptures we read and the Christ we are called to imitate. Likewise, good theology is mindful of Christian history, namely what has been said by other Christians throughout history as we are part of a continuous tradition and have much to learn from those who have gone before us.
Most importantly, good theology is paramount for the local church seeking to live on mission with God. Living on mission with God calls us to the frontier where faith encounters questions which may have some similarities to questions asked by a previous generation but are still unique in the fact that the questions emerge in a new context.
This is also why I believe churches are served well by ministers with good theological training (usually some form of seminary studies) who will utilize that education to help the church do good theology. These ministers, of which I am one, are theologians just as much as they are preacher and pastors. However, they likely are not the only theologians among the church. Churches are also served well by those Christians — both men and women — who may not have received any formal theological training but are nonetheless students of scripture, read and learn from other theologians, and are willing to teach others in their church.
While there will always be examples of Christians whose theology becomes so absurd that it no longer serves the church live on mission with God, that shouldn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bath water by disparaging and censuring all theology. Thus for any Christian to tell another Christian to ignore theology is simply wrong and irresponsible. Embrace theology because it matters! Embrace theology as a resource that helps your church live more courageously as faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ living on mission with God.