Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Hey, I'm no theologian...."

We are all theologians.

Our ‘theology’ is essentially the set of controlling beliefs and thoughts that we have about God and how we are to relate to him. So, again, we are all theologians. The difference lies in whether or not our theology is intentionally (and increasingly) shaped by Scriptural teaching.

Whether or not we think about God and his will, etc., in ways that are faithful to his Word substantially determines whether or not we will relate to Him in ways that are actually pleasing to Him (cp. Col. 1:9-11). Are we the kind of worshipers he actually seeks and wants? (Jn.4:22-24).

It should come as no surprise, then, that depth of theological understanding is a necessary qualification for being a leader in the church. (e.g., Titus 1:9; cp. Jas. 3:1ff.; cp. Heb.5:11ff.)

Authentic Christian worship and experience are inescapably rooted in Biblical truth/theology (e.g, especially the teaching of Jesus in passages like Matt.5-7, John 17, etc.; and all the NT letters).

You cannot come to a deep and lasting sense of assurance of salvation and peace with God apart from an understanding and an appropriation of a section of Scripture like Rom. 3-5.

You cannot pursue authentic holiness/Christlikeness apart from understanding and applying crucial passages like Rom. 6 and Eph. 4 and Col. 3 and 1 John 3-4

You cannot rightly understand the true nature of the church, and therefore you cannot authentically carry out its true mission apart from a profound understanding of passages like Eph.2-3 and the Pastoral Epistles.

Authentic spiritual transformation is dependent on increasingly bringing our thinking (and ‘theologizing’) increasingly in line with Scripture. We are transformed, Paul says, by the renewing of our mind. And our Lord says that sanctification occurs in connection with the truth – the truth of God’s Word.

Therefore those who disparage the place of thinking, theology, Biblical truth, doctrine (‘teaching’ – cp. the Great Commission, Matt. 28:18ff.) have made a fundamental and critical mistake – and they ought to repent (i.e., change their mind). And those who presume to accept leadership roles in Christ's church have a special and particular calling to know, and live by, and minister in accordance with Biblical teaching (theology). That applies to pastors, executive pastors, college ministry pastors, 'worship leaders,' student ministry pastors, children's ministry directors, etc. And it also applies to every Christian artist, vocalist, comedian and author who puts himself or herself in the place of intentionally influencing people as to how they think about God.

As my own mentor in ministry taught me that the Second Commandment means that we are not free to 'image' (imagine) God any way we choose; we are to stick to the Image of Himself that He has given in His Word (the inscripturated Word and the Word incarnate).

Don’t tell me, “Hey, I’m no theologian…” Yes, you most certainly are. We all are. But not all are intentionally and increasingly Scriptural in their theology. Yet we all should be.


John Bell said...

Nicely put, Doug. Our culture (both inside and outside Christianity) seems to believe that, in terms of beliefs, "close is good enough." What more is there besides believing in Jesus' death and resurrection? In contrast, the Bible makes clear that we are to "take every thought captive to obey Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5) Transformation of our minds is usually thought of as a one-time event at the point of salvation. Personally, I've discovered that the need for transformation of my thinking is as great now as it ever was!

I cheer for leaders who will challenge people to go 'further up and further in' in seeking clearer and deeper knowledge of Truth.

Stephen said...

Man, this is good stuff: insightful, relevant, thought-provoking, and convicting. I have read through this several times. I hope and pray that you will continue to develop your thoughts on this theme and on material relevant to this topic concerning the qualification(s) for being a church leader going forward. As I read this, I wondered about the application of these truths to the secular leader as well, for it would seem that there is certainly a necessity for Scripturally controlled beliefs, thoughts, and practices in the public sphere as well, a theology for the Public Square. Would that those who presume to accept leadership roles in what Martin Luther called “the temporal estate” knew, lived by, and practiced Biblical teaching as well. Luther reminded the Christian Nobility, the secular governors of his day, that
“It is pure invention that pope, bishops, priests and monks are to be called the ‘spiritual estate’; princes, lords, artisans, and farmers the ‘temporal estate.’ That is indeed a fine bit of lying and hypocrisy. Yet no one should be frightened by it; and for this reason -- viz., that all Christians are truly of the ‘spiritual estate,’ and there is among them no difference at all but that of office, as Paul says in I Corinthians 12:12, We are all one body, yet every member has its own work, where by it serves every other, all because we have one baptism, one Gospel, one faith, and are all alike Christians….’ (An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility)
It seems, too, that what Paul spoke to the Athenians at Mars Hill bears witness to your remarks, as they seem to echo his exhortation to them to “seek God, grope for God, and find Him; for in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17) That, I think is why we all—spiritual estate or temporal estate—should be Scripturally based theologians.