The Forgotten Essentials of Doing Theology

We are all theologians, the question we must ask of ourselves is are we good ones. How we do theology is an extremely important matter. I have often reflected on theological methodology, inquiring about presuppositions, use of Scripture, hermeneutics, etc. But what interests me in this series is the “forgotten” essentials of doing theology. Here I am more interested in those elements that we tend to overlook or devalue, elements like: humility, prayer, reason, faith, and more. It is not enough just to talk about technical methodology, we must also be willing to address the character of the theologian and the manner in which he or she approaches the task of theology.

Because theology is all about God and my relationship to him the way we pursue the task of theologizing is very important. It’s not the same as studying plants, or researching Medieval history. Nor is it simply studying Greek and Hebrew. Theology, of course, shares obvious similarities with these disciplines, but it is still quite different. We are studying God, a subject far greater than our minds can conceive. And it is only as God deigns to reveal himself to us that we can truly know him to begin with. Theology is a unique discipline. We must come to the task of theologizing, then, with a bit of a unique posture.

Theology is not merely an academic discipline. Because it involves the God of the universe and his relation to us, all people are theologians, and theology is about all of life. Theology is about worship. It’s about understanding who God is and what our response to him should be. The more I know of God the more it should compel me to praise him. Anyone who does theology with a cold disinterest in the subject matter is fundamentally not doing theology. Theology is about transformation. The more I understand God’s will and his relation to my world the more I see I must make changes to honor him and live in accordance with his will. Theology that cannot be applied is not theology! That is to say, if what I learn about God from His revelation doesn’t impact me then I have not truly done theology. If it doesn’t compel me to action, to life, to love, then it is fundamentally not theology.

In this series I want to think about the way we approach theology that often go overlooked in formal discussions of methodology. I’ll leave you with an inspiring quote from theologian J.I. Packer:

Theologies that cannot be sun (or prayed for that matter) are certainly wrong at a deep level, and such theologies leave me, in both senses, cold: cold-hearted and uninterested. (God Has Spoken)

The way we think about theology and the manner in which we approach it are just as essential as the proper hermeneutic and the proper theological methodology.

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