By Whaid Rose
Theology is simply thinking thoughts about God, which makes all of us theologians. So invest in yourself theologically by taking Artios’ THE 201: Christian Theology. Time’s running out; register right away!
So let me be bold to suggest another line that deserves mantra status at Artios College: “Everyone’s a theologian!”
The exclamation point seems necessary since many find the word “theology” intimidating. This is driven by the misconception that theology is the business of scholars and those in the upper echelon of religious circles. But that’s not really true. Read on.
WHO NEEDS THEOLOGY?
In their book, Who Needs Theology: An Invitation to the Study of God, Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson write,
A misconception is growing among Christians that a great gulf exists between “ordinary Christians” and “theologians.” For some, that perceived gap creates fear; for others it creates suspicion and resentment. We want to close the gap by showing that everyone—especially every Christian—is a theologian, and that every professional theologian is simply a Christian whose vocation is to do what all Christians do in some way: think and teach about God. 1
I hope this resonates strongly with you, as it does with me. And I hope you noticed the simple definition of theology at the end of the quote.
It is based on the two words in the Greek which combine to form the word theology: theos (God) and logos (word, reason, or thought). Thus, theology is simply the process of thinking or reasoning about God.
WE’RE ALL THEOLOGIANS
That being the case, and since this is something we all do, then we’re all theologians–consciously or not. Helping people see this simple yet important truth is the first step in closing the gap between “ordinary Christians” and “theologians.”
A simple way to do so is to connect life’s ultimate questions—Who am I? Why am I here? What’s wrong with the world? What happens after I die?—with God, “the horizon of all human wonderings.” 2
“This means,” as Grenz and Olson affirm, “that in amazing ways, even popular authors, composers, playwrights, poets and creators of pop culture function as theologians.” 3
But Grenz and Olson are careful to differentiate between “worldviewish” and “Christian” theologies.
The term “worldviewish theology” was coined by Wheaton College philosophy professor Arthur Holmes to describe the kind of theologizing common to all humans, as underscored in the questions above.
“Christian theology” on the other hand, is the attempt to answer life’s ultimate questions from the perspective of the God of the Bible, ultimately revealed in Christ. It seeks to understand the meaning of faith from a Christian worldview, and in the process, clarify the difference between the Christian faith and other faiths.
I raise this topic for three reasons: (1) because of the current state of theology in Christianity and in popular culture, (2) to call attention to an upcoming opportunity to invest in yourself theologically, and (3) to underscore the high value of sound theology.
THE STATE OF THEOLOGY
Every two years, Ligonier Ministries takes the theological temperature of the United States (on topics such as Jesus, the Bible, truth, ethics, etc.) to help Christians better understand today’s culture and equip the church with reliable data on which to base outreach and discipleship.
Ligonier’s recently-released report reveals both encouraging and discouraging trends. For instance, when asked to react to the statement that Jesus was a great teacher but not God, 52% of US adults agree and 36% disagree; while among US evangelical Christians 66% disagree and 30 % agree.
When it comes to the notion that religious belief is a matter of personal opinion, not objective truth, the number of US adults who agree has dropped from 60% of the population in 2018 to 54% in 2020.
And get this: only 15% of US adults agree that learning about theology is for pastors and scholars only, while a whopping 75% disagree! The numbers are even more encouraging among US evangelicals: 85% disagree; 10% agree. We’re making progress, thank God!
AN URGENT NEED FOR CLEAR BIBLICAL TEACHING
An Internet version of the Report is concluded with these remarks:
These results reveal an urgent need for clear biblical teaching on the person of Christ, the gospel of grace, and the way that the truth of God informs our ethical decisions in everyday life. There is much work to be done in this age of confusion, but we hope the findings of this survey will serve the church in its calling to reach more people with the faithful proclamation of God’s Word. 4
Citing Ligonier Ministries this broadly, I would be remiss if I didn’t call attention to one of the last books penned by its late founder, Dr. R. C. Sproul (1939-2017), from which I borrow this article’s title. Everyone’s A Theologian: An Invitation to Systematic Theology, was published in March, 2014, and is highly recommended.
CONSIDER TAKING THE 201
Given theology’s current state and that “everyone’s a theologian,” I must commend to you Artios’ late winter course, THE 201: Christian Theology. For anyone sensing the need to explore this subject, the upcoming class, scheduled to begin in Mid-February, presents a “can’t afford to miss” opportunity.
And having said enough about theology and the potential benefits of studying this subject, I’ll only offer this brief comment about its instructor.
He taught the very first theology class I ever took nearly 40 years ago at Summit School of Theology in Denver! His love for the Bible and gifted teaching style made an indelible impression on me and launched my insatiable appetite for good theology, and he’s only gotten better since then. I’m referring to Elder Calvin Burrell, now retired from 50-plus years of fulltime ministry, and still serving the church in whatever ways he can.
GOOD FOR THE SOUL
So I leave you with this familiar A. W. Tozer quote, a good note on which to conclude:
What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us. Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact is not what he [the worshipper] at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. 5
That’s why I’ve insisted over the years that even a small dose of theology is good for the soul. It’s not enough to read the Bible; we must love it and study it diligently. An accurate understanding of God is essential to loving and serving Him well. Those who do are theologians, whether the professional or ordinary kind.
- Stanley J. Grenz & Roger E. Olson, Who Needs Theology: An Invitation to the Study of God; Intervarsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 1995; P. 13
- ibid, P. 14
- Ibid, P. 14.
- Ligonier Ministries (State of Theology, Key Findings): https://thestateoftheology.com/
- W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God; Faithful Life Publishers (Fort Myers, Florida), P. 9.