You’re a theologian if you think, talk, study, debate or argue about God…
Even if you’re arguing that God doesn’t exist.
Naturally, atheists don’t have a mandate to understand God. Christians, on the other hand, do. In that sense, all Christians need to study theology.
What Is Theology?
Anselm of Canterbury said theology is “credo ut intelligam.” Faith seeking understanding.
Christians are people who have faith. Thus, our next step is to understand that faith. And the moment you start to understand that faith, you’re constructing a theology.
But how you construct that theology is very important. There are good ways to do it. And their are bad ways. Dyck and Rhom, in their Introduction to Theology program, do a great job of showing what this looks. Let’s take a look at the bad ways first.
3 Ways to Be a Bad Theologian
A tabloid theologian constructs his theology on wild, sensational stories. Might be cutting edge, original, but normally fanatical and unfounded. Jason Westerfield is a good example.
So is a story I heard about an Icee machine in Mexico never running out of ice…even though hundreds of people used it. People’s legs growing miraculously and angels rescuing you from a burning car fall into this category, too.
Here’s the problem: The tabloid theologian uncritically accepts everything he hears. His whole belief in God is based on these sensational stories. Only problem is, when God doesn’t give him an extra 40 pounds of Icees or stretch his short leg, he gets disillusioned, falls into despair or may even leave the faith.
A folk theologian uncritically and without reflection constructs his theology on tradition and folk lore. Normally, very dogmatic, passionate and emotional about his beliefs.
Folk theology includes St. Peter at the Pearly gates, angel wings, the image of Satan with a pitch fork, Sylvester and Tweety’s view of hell, personalized guardian angels. Even good-works salvation falls into this category. There is no basis in the Bible for any of these beliefs, but it’s part of us. Handed down for generations.
Here’s the problem: Folk theology distracts you from biblical truth. More importantly, you have to reconstruct something you’ve invested your life into when shown your theology is faulty. Or get violent.
This is a professional theologian who constructs his theology in an overly speculative and critical spirit. Everything they think, say or do is colored by the presupposition that Christ couldn’t be raised from the dead. Miracles are nonsense. Think ivory tower. Jesus Seminar.
Here’s the problem: The academic theologian won’t let anything religoius or spiritual into his life, no matter how much credential it has. When it comes to the supernatural, gates closed and the is key thrown away. In reality, he isn’t a Christian. He’s an atheist.
Now, let’s look at three acceptable ways to be a theologian.
3 Ways to Be a Good Theologian
The lay theologian, unlike the folk or tabloid, is more reflective and likely to formulate a theology that distinguishes between essetianls and non-essentials. He’s yypically critical about unfounded traditions and glamorous stories. He uses study tools and doesn’t rely solely on his mind.
Educated in theological methodology, he’s able to use study tools and resoucres critically and effectively. But his intent is less reading, more reflection and integration. He wants theological ideas to change his life and others. But being a ministerial theologian doesn’t mean you’re a professional minister.
One who contsturst his theology and makes a living doing it. Usually teaches, conducts original research and critically evaluates folk traditions and common theological trends. Think seminary professors who love the Lord, Bible and what they are doing and love to teach others.
What Do You Think?
Let me close with this: Whether you’re a seasoned or fresh-off-the-truck Christian, your spiritual gates should be closed at all times until you are compelled to open them. Your spiritual life is one of the most powerful things in your life.
Now, I didn’t create any problems for the good ways to be a theologian. I wanted to leave that for you. I wanted to see what you thought. I have my own views. But I want to hear from you. So have at it. Be brutal.
Highly Recommended: If you’ve got an mp3 player, download The Theology Program. Sixty course from Hermeneutics to Eschatology. All free.