Lately, I’ve ran into some chatter regarding the place and value of scholarship and theology in the church. Some see value in it and some don’t. There are certainly examples of great harm done by those with degrees in theology but there are examples of harm done because of the lack of theology too.
I am biased as I hold a Master of Divinity degree and eventually hope to pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree but I believe we need good scholarship and theology in the church. I believe so because the Bible was written nearly 2,000 plus years ago in different languages than our own, speaking to a different culture with a different worldview than our own. Understanding the Bible then is helped by understanding the original languages and knowing as much as possible something about the biblical culture.
Over the years questions have been asked and answered of the Bible…it’s something called theology. Understanding those questions and and answers along with how they emerged in history helps us avoid repeating the same mistakes of the past (since we’ll make enough of our own). Take, for example, the Doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine is a response to the questions of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The answer to those questions also helped to protect the church from heresies such as Arianism (the denial of Jesus’ divinity). Understanding the Doctrine of the Trinity also helps us understand something about the church and the mission the church is called into.
So I believe there is a needed place for scholarship and theology in the church. In the local church, this role falls often to the minister (Preacher, Pastor, Evangelist, etc…) or ministers and should. This is not to say that this role is limited to the minister only. It is, however, the minister who has (or should have) received a theological education, so the minister should not eschew this role. The question that remains is the question of good or bad theology.
What is needed as we undertake the task of scholarship and theology is to remember our own limitations as well as the limitations of scholarship and theology. First, we minister might know some things but we don’t know everything. Don’t be afraid of that. Furthermore, don’t be afraid of pointing to those who might know more. I am thankful for those who have used their doctoral degrees to serve the church. Second, though some questions pertaining to faith might be answered through deep biblical study, not every question can be answered by such means. Other problems and questions are only addressed through prayer, worship, fellowship, etc… Knowing when to stop teaching and gather together in prayer is imperative to ministry in a church.
So those are some thoughts I have on the Minister and Theology. I leave you with this brief video on the importance of theology: