“Evangelicals have benefited enormously from the faithful and creative labors of many theologians. I certainly acknowledge that for myself. But there are other less acknowledged sides to the story of theology:
– its inability to connect with everyday concerns;
– its use to patronize and disdain others;
– its role in propping up an elitist system of leadership;
– its deadening effects on young theological students;
– its promotion of pedantry and destructive debate;
– its second-hand character that minimizes genuine creative and new perspective;
– the ways it imposes law in the name of protecting grace;
– the ways it preempts and gags conversations that might otherwise break new ground in integrating faith and life.
“There is great value in laying a foundation of beliefs. But the methods and disposition of theology have failed to deliver its promise of a richer personal knowledge of God. Theology and church have by and large abducted the conversations that rightfully stand at the heart of the gathering.”
Reframing Paul: Conversations in Grace & Community by Mark Strom (IVP, 2000), p. 125
(Hat tip: Rob Wilkerson)
While that quote may be 15 years old, I believe the issue still exists, and in the form that Strom critiques.
We need theology. How should we teach and practice it in our churches and schools?
Your comments appreciated.
One thought on “Quote about Evangelicalism & Theology Nails It”
“We need theology. How should we teach and practice it in our churches and schools?”
After thinking about the question for a bit, I think it begs several questions.
The Church may need theology, but the Church does not need theologians who practice theology in such a manner as Strom describes. 1 Corinthians 13 talks about love. Love is patient, love is kind, love does not boast, love is not selfish, love does not behave dishonorably, love rejoices in the truth.
We are commanded to love one another. We are commanded to love our neighbors. We are commanded to love God.
In 1 John, John makes it very clear that one cannot love God if one hates one’s brother. Most of the problems experienced with “theology” are actually a problem many theologians have — specifically, the problem of not loving one another. Or their neighbor. Or, in fact, God.
If love is a requirement, without which we cannot enter the Kingdom of God (he who hates his brother is a murderer, and no murderer shall enter the Kingdom), then how can we allow people to teach who do not demonstrate their love for others in practical ways (other than teaching)?
Or, if their theology leads them to hate, why are we listening to it?
Theology is the study of God.
The way to teach people about God is to lead them in feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless (Matthew 25, Isaiah 58), for “inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my brethren, you have done it to me.”
Theologians who do not love, do not know God. Theologians who practice all those things you quote… do not love.
So stop listening to them. Discern the spirits, as to which are of God and which are not. (1 John 4:1)
And, finally, the Gnostics insisted that knowledge of certain truths was necessary for Salvation. It is not. Insisting that theology is needed may, in fact, be a form of Gnosticism (which might be why modern theology is as destructive as Strom claims). I seem to recall that John was writing about Gnosticism when he wrote the epistle of 1 John.
To sum up: love is the answer. Teach love by doing it, because teaching love by talking about it generally doesn’t work very well.