>Theology: is there a point?


I assume that it is fairly obvious to anyone who might read my blog that I am a theology major. I love theology and I study it. Recently, though, I have been reflecting on what being a theologian entails.
My two passions are to pastor and to one day train pastors, which has an impact on my view of theology. In my view, theology is at its best when it ascertains truths about Who God is and what His interaction with humanity is like, and when it is able to communicate these truths to all believers and help them to apply these truths within their own lives.
This view on theology drives me to generally have little use for innovative theology. It seems as if the truths of God have been revealed through Jesus Christ and Scripture, and that the task of theology is to discern these truths that are already present and to unpack their implications and meaning. In order to do this, we study Scripture well while begging God for the guidance of His Holy Spirit and we also look to Christians who have gone before us for wisdom in how exactly to unpack these truths.
Because I believe that God has maintained His Church on the earth since the time of Pentecost, I have got to believe that good theology has existed on the planet for about 1,970 years. I must assume that I can find good theology in the writings of such historical figures as Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, etc. The truth about God and His interaction with mankind has not changed since the inception of the Church, and so I expect the truth to be found in all ages of the Church. Real, radical innovation seems as if it must be a departure from the truth because it is a departure from that which the Church has maintained throughout her history.
Fortunately, what often seems to be radical new theology is often simply a re-appropriation of some of the most ancient and valued theology in the Church. This is not always the case, though, and theology is sometimes pursued for the sake of the truly new. God is infinitely multi-faceted and there will never be an end to our ability to learn more about Him and to know Him better and more intimately, but new insights into His character that contradict the ancient orthodox and Scriptural insights into His character cannot be true if the old beliefs were also true.
Of course, when we read ancient theologians we are reading words that were at one point the most cutting-edge theological works around. Still, it appears that when these seminal works are written, they are not written out of a desire to pursue new things but instead out of the desire to learn and appropriate ancient truths about God.
With all of this in mind, my vision for a great theologian is the theologian who (1) knows God intimately and also knows true things about Him, (2) is familiar and well-marinated in Scripture and the interpretations of Scripture seen through the history of the Church, and (3) is capable of delivering these truths to all believers and helping to apply them to the context of real life. In doing this, a theologian may develop something somewhat new (such as a new allegory or analogy to explain a bit of theology) or incorporate old truths in a new way (such as bringing greater clarity to the different Scriptural views on how exactly Christ conquered sin on the cross), but the pursuit is not for invention and innovation but truth and more importantly the Truth.
As I give this more thought, I will undoubtedly uncover myriad reasons for the pursuit of new avenues in theology and I have not given other approaches to theology a fair hearing. For the present, though, I will make this admonition of failure and leave it at that.

~ by Samuel on October 2, 2007.

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