I love theology and believe it is essential for every Christian to intentionally become the best theologian possible. Theology is the active pursuit of the knowledge of God. It is not meant to be academic. Theology is an exercise of the mind, the heart and will. Fundamentally, theology is a conversation. I know, that word lost its buzz-worthiness a year ago, but make no mistake; that is what the word "theology" means; words about God. It can be thought of as written words - meant to be read, understood and responded to - or spoken words. Either way it amounts to dialogue about the divine. While "theology" is not a biblical word, it is the stuff of the Bible. Moses did it, Joseph did it, David did it, the prophets and Apostles did it, and of course Jesus did it. These men spoke about God and invited others to talk with them about him. Their conversation, teaching, and preaching was designed to lead, encourage, and call others to respond to One of and for whom they spoke. The words they spoke of God, his word and works, the human condition, the history of redemption, etc. were always built upon the revelation of God (via Scripture or "mighty acts"). I want to be clear on this point: in our case, our doctrine can only be derived from Scripture.
Having said that, let's keep in mind that throughout the history of the church this "conversation" has looked different depending on the age and place. In other words, theology is formed through our interaction with church, culture, truth and error. So one man needed to write about practicing the presence of God, another was compelled to write 95 propositions and nail them to the public bulletin board, and another took his theology to the countryside fields where masses gathered to hear about a "new birth." Why did these men emphasize these truths? Not simply because they are right, but because each unique context required God's people to apply the Gospel in specific ways. Theology always has something to say to the culture. It is always relevant.
Theology is not good just because it is right. Listen, good theology is not simply the recitation of archaic doctrinal formulations - as valuable as that is. Theology is not good just because it is right. It must be spoken in response to a church and culture that needs Christ. It should be the attempt to show the connection of God and his salvation to men and women here in real time. I find it ironic that many theologianettes who seem to love Luther, Calvin and Spurgeon neglect to follow the example of these men. Their theology emerged from their relationship with the world. Often times our theology is little more than the scripted dialogue of history.
I find myself frustrated with people coming from two different directions. On the one hand there are those (the majority in our Convention) who have dismissed theology as an irrelevant, divisive - if sometimes necessary - engagement. On the other hand are those who treat theology like the XBOX 360. It's really a lot of fun, and you can do it with others who are into the same games, you spend a lot of time in the virtual world with it, but ultimately it has little connection to real life. It's a passionate hobby. If you don’t know what XBOX is, or don’t have one, then perhaps you can better grasp the point I am attempting to make.
Theology matters. it matters because God is worth talking about and making known. It matters because without it we are left to make it up as we go along, or simply take the word of another. Consider this the first in a number of posts on the topic of theology. I have more to write, and want to write positively/constructively emphasizing the value of historic theology (From Brother Lawrence, to Bunyan to Berkhof) while calling us to do what those men did so long before us; speak of eternal truths to church and culture for the glory of God and the good of men.
But first I have to finish that series on the seven deadly sins.