Why Theology? (A continuation from Deep and Wide Theology for EM (1): A Statement)
For the church to be effective, it needs a handle on good theology. And in order for theology to be effective it has to be deep (rigorously studied, wrestled, and confessed) and after that it has to go wide (rigorously reflected, applied, and proclaimed where life is lived).
This was the statement that I sort of chunked out thinking on the train. This would be my ‘somewhat’ proposal for the church in EM. I like the sound of calling it a proposal because it sounds important. It also is something scratching the surface of the situation. Because of that I’m not at all saying that this would be a step by step approach in helping to curb the problems in EM but I hope some can benefit from it as they think through these matters.
Please note that I am not a top notch professor or someone with some prestigious status or background to convince you but just a brother in Christ, who happens to study in seminary, trying to think of ways to address and be a help to the Christian community back in EM.
So in this post we are asking why theology? Why is it important?
Theology sound intimidating to some. I sound like a foreign word to some or some sort of technical term but theology actually means the study of God.
I once heard from a certain pastor about a program that his church was doing. They were planning that for once a month the cell groups would have a combined meeting in the church building and do a shortened version of Christian doctrine. The first meeting spawned a great number of people. But it was to be a short term kind of excitement. By the third meeting they had the numbers waned to just a handful. One of the main reasons given was, “It’s too hard for us in the pews, this stuff is only for pastors.”
I’m not sure whose fault it is, whether the teaching was too farfetched or the people learning were just plain lazy (oops) but regardless, most think theology is for the specific few. And with that specific few, most of them tend not to get a hearing as well.
Now here is another story.
While theology and any form of discussion about theology invites a chorus of snores from people, the talk about heaven and those especially relating taken up to heaven experiences spark a chorus of interest among people. Books along this line are deemed more popular than hot cakes (my exaggeration though but they really sell). Titles like “heaven is so real” have really attracted a keen following as well as endorses from the pulpit. But for me this is an embarrassment. To herald a book like this and tell the congregation that it ‘teaches’ about heaven is a misguided error. I’m not at all saying that the probability of her experiences are invalid, they might be valid and who are we to judge what she saw but some things she mentioned are clearly misguided.
Another side to this story is again on the side of fascination about people having visions and experiences of heaven. There was this story of a man, an evangelist that claimed that he had that sort of vision that he died and was brought by God to see heaven and hell. Obviously some of the pastors believed this man and one of those prominent ones even stated that “I’ve learned so much about heaven from this man.” Now that is a statement that carries weight of influence because it comes from a prominent pastor. But it so happens that one of their fellow Christian workers who was not a pastor because of the statement and endorsement given about this evangelist out of curiosity went in and listened to this man’s testimony in a church service. And out of discernment after listening too much of what this man had to say the verdict he came to was that this evangelist was talking nonsense. Now after taking this normal Christian worker’s views into consideration it was only then that the pastors were opened up to another view that what was being shared by this evangelist was really deceptive and with that he was no longer given the privilege to speak on the pulpit. A sad commentary of a generation that has no handle on theology.
Now you might wonder why I brought your attention to these two stories. For these reasons…
1. People say that they do not need theology. It is hard and definitely not useful for normal people.
2. But on the onset of many gullible teachings out there as well as a host of ideologies that demand our attention we need something to heighten our awareness of what to believe and deconstruct as unhealthy.
3. Now only good theology and thinking theologically on issues would help people be more reasonable in handling the faith they believe in.
Heb 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.
Heb 5:12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! u
Heb 5:13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.
Heb 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Heb 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God,
Heb 6:2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
The impression that one gets from texts like the one above is that the believers mentioned by the author of Hebrews were lax. Though they could have been growing and flourishing in their faith and understanding of what they believed the real picture was that they were still infants.
And when we read this passage there is such a things as elementary teachings of the faith. Those that are foundational or where we should begin. But it does not give the impression that we are just to focus on these things, which I find churches in EM constantly focus on. There is simply a passageway for teaching deeper things. We are not meant to stay at elementary school all the time. We grow and mature. So too with the Christian walk as well.
Thus theology, good theology, theology that makes us think of issues of the faith and of living christianly is needed. Otherwise we will be blown by every sort of teaching and swayed by every new thing that comes up. We need solid ground to stand but as the passage above implies we need to mature as well.