MY LOVE HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THEOLOGY
More than anything I LOVE GOD – and I love spending time with him, being his child, serving him. I LOVE the BIBLE – I read through it every year and read several books again and again to study and reflect. I LOVE WORSHIP, the ability to encounter God either privately or in a public setting. I LOVE MINISTRY that is glocal, touching lives locally and globally. I LOVE the ADVENTURE of following God in the moment – of recognizing his voice and then doing what he says. But I have to be honest – I really get FRUSTRATED with THEOLOGY.
THEOLOGY is simply a word describing the “study of God.” Systematic theology is a way of understanding God in a consistent framework. EVERYONE has theology – you can’t say I have no theology – because even in saying that – you espouse a theology. I love reading Packer, Stott, Martin-Lloyd Jones, Piper, N.T. Wright, Pentecost, Lingenfelter, Glasser, Willard, Fee, E. Stanley Jones, Witherington, Carson, Bonhoeffer, Cox . . . and the list goes on – all of them, though I disagree at different points, they have taught me a lot in their books, lectures, and lives.
My frustration with theology is putting God in a box and saying he can or can’t do this or that due to this system or that system of understanding God. I always go back to Isaiah 55:8 “My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways.” God is not tied to a system or our way of thinking or understanding him. He’s God, he’s big, he’s mysterious, he’s self-disclosed but not totally disclosed – whatever theology I follow I must be incredibly careful not to limit him. On the other hand, for someone to say theology doesn’t matter – just blow it off – is incredibly dangerous. It makes you the definer of who God is according to your opinion and understanding and that, my friend, is “making God in our image” which is dangerous.
THEOLOGY IS TOO COMPLEX TODAY. It is books written by scholars and pastors for scholars and pastors. It must be simpler. People write business books, science books, history books, etc., for lay people like most of us where we can read about string theory, or leadership theory, or “what if” scenarios from history and gain a general understanding of the concepts in order to make decisions. Why can’t we do that with theology?
This is important to me. WHY? BECAUSE THEOLOGY IS MORE IMPORTANT TODAY THAN EVER BEFORE AND WILL ONLY INCREASE IN ITS SIGNIFICANCE. Why? Because the world is connected and it isn’t enough for our own tribe to get our theology (which most the time we are too complicated for our own tribe) people outside our tribe must get our theology.
If you ever hear me speak, I do a whole lecture on global theology. It’s clear, simple, concise, core and spoken in a way where anyone can understand it. I’ve been harping that someone needs to write a simple 100 page book on theology – and threatening to do it myself. It is my conversation with people of other religions and secular westerners that has driven me to this conclusion and reality.
Last week I sat in Doha, Qatar with Muslims on one side, Jews on the other and secular Europeans on the other explaining the Bible, Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, the Trinity – what evangelical means. I was EXHAUSTED when it was over but had some emails from some of them saying “thanks that was the clearest explanation I’ve ever had.” Scary I know!
Hands down, my favorite theologian is Wayne Grudem, his systematic theology is never far from my reach. No disrespect, sir, but most people in our churches aren’t going to read your 1290 page book on systematic theology. BUT I’M ECSTATIC! CHRISTIAN BELIFS – just came out by Wayne and Elliot Grudem, I’m assuming it’s his son, and it’s a THIN 150 pager and it’s got all of it in there!!!!
Translate it into every known language and ship it around the world – it’s simple, clear, core, concise, and I can give it to my non-Christian friends so they can understand. Another book I’m going to do a blog on later is Adrian Warnock “Raised with Christ.” This is another short, simple, but clear read on the critical nature of the resurrection. When I read a book, I never read it just for myself – I ask who is this book for and who can read it. LISTEN TO ME AUTHORS THAT ARE THEOLOGIANS – you have a huge audience in the world if you’ll write for them, and not for pastors and seminary students. As they grow, then they can work their way up to the 1290 volume. Our elders each have a copy, Dr. Grudem, of your big one – and most of our staff!
Why I like Grudem? It’s what he studies – non-stop. He’s also not nearly as tight as most theologians I read. I love the way he will often give you several points and then give you freedom. I love his book on “The Gift of Prophecy” and the use of the prophetic gift in the church. Who would have ever seen that coming from someone like him!
So when it’s all said and done – DON’T RESTRICT GOD in your theology. DON’T COMPLICATE GOD in your theology. DON’T FORGET YOUR REAL AUDIENCE in your theology. DON’T LIMIT YOUR THEOLOGIANS – I personally believe we are going to see the emergence of global theologians that will bring us nuggets as great as Calvin and Luther did 500 years ago. DON’T JUST LOOK BACK in theology – look forward!
Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.