The Terrain of Theology, Part 1

About a month ago, we talked a little about Christian Cliches.  You can review that post here.  I want to build on some of those same themes today.

Let’s first of all agree that we ALL are theologians.  We all do the work of theology.  We are wired that way.  Now some theologians are better than others.  All of us have more to learn.

Dr. Jeff Astley studies Ordinary Theology.  He says that an ordinary theologian is one who has no formal theological education.  This is the majority of people that we encounter each day: you see them in your churches, in the shops, and on the streets.  Be assured, they all have a theology.  We are designed to be in relationship with God and as such our spirit longs to know more about him.  God has made himself known to us in the work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  However, at times, our own philosophies get in the way of God’s message for us.  But that doesn’t stop some people from practicing theology–regardless of their training (or lack thereof) or the sources of information (or lack thereof).  Be careful of these sort of practices.

It works on everything!

It works on everything!

We don’t limit such practices to theology.  We do it in areas like medicine.  Let me offer an example.  When I was a boy my grandmother had the solution for everything: salve.  She had a jar of antique slave in the bathroom closet.  Soar throat?  Put some salve on it.  Got a cough?  Rub some salve on your chest.  Got a headache?  Put some salve on your forehead.  Broken arm?  Slap some salve on there (okay, maybe that was an exaggeration.)  I have no idea what was in the jar of salve.  I have no idea where she got it.  But for her, the solution was in that little jar of soothing substance.  There wasn’t a great deal of sound medicine behind all the solutions, but it was enough to get by in many cases.


Like my example of cliches (noted above), we can offer ideas that may not be backed with sound theology.  Some of you offered some of those “salves” of cliched theology last time:

Here is some of what you said:

“Bad Theology: ‘God is in control.’ Better/good theology: ‘God is sovereign.'”

“When you don’t get what you prayed for: ‘You didn’t have enough faith.'”

First, to recap: We ALL do the work of theology.  Some of it is well-formed, some of is akin taking the shortcut of slapping some salve on a broken arm.  However, it is critical that we know the sources of our theology.  Is it Scriptural?  Is it a sound understanding of the context of the Scripture, its intended message, and its application?

Second: Be thinking about how you do that theology.  We will talk more about that tomorrow.  What are your sources of theology and how do you treat those sources?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s