Having a Vibrant Theology

26 Jul

Here are notes from a seminar led by Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) staff member, Matt Mikalatos.  He is the author of Imaginary Jesus and the upcoming Night of the Living Dead Christian.

It could be argued that we, as Christians, see theology as boring.  Yet, what does that say about us?  What does it say that we find the study of God as boring?  And how does that impact how we lead, act and dialogue with others?  On the other hand, many of us (myself included) are prone to adopting a theology from “paper popes”; people we see as having authority above and beyond all others to whom we turn whenever we cannot figure out the answer to a problem in Scripture.  We can easily adopt our theology from others without having first had it revealed to us by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word.  And from this, we then give others theological answers without opening the Bible or without any kind of sense of the person’s true questions or struggles.

With this in mind, Matt laid out six points that can enable us to better engage with others, as well as ourselves, in the study of God and the great story that the Bible lays before us:

1. We must first look at Scripture
-Read God’s Word first and wrestle with the text before turning to pastors, authors and friends for answers to the questions that arise.  We are empowered by the Holy Spirit and, therefore, are quite capable of thinking through and having our eyes open to who God is and what He is doing. Engaging the Scripture is critical not only for ourselves, but also for those with whom we engage.  Ask yourself: When someone asks me a question about God, do I turn to and answer from Scripture or from what I know in my head?

2.  We must create a theology that is practical and not merely theoretical
-There is a place for theoretical theology and discussion about God and His ways, the Bible and our world, but when it comes to teaching and empowering others with theology, we need to engage the mind and heart in ways that will also move people to love God and to love others.  Merely discussing the metaphysical nature of God, the boundaries of Biblical towns and Greek lexical patterns do not draw us to worship God, love and serve others and engage both Christians and non-Christians in discussing God.

3.  We can learn about God by observing what is true in the world
-We see this in Romans 1:20, where Paul writes, “For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”  When we are out and about, what do we see and how does it reveal God, His nature and His story to us?  What do the mountains reveal to us about God? How about the city, other people, animals or the ocean?

4. Be honest in the midst of your theology
-Oftentimes we gloss over tensions in the views we hold, as well as how they impact our lives, and this leads to a facade that, specifically non-Christians, can see through very easily.  We must be able to balance believing in the theology God reveals to us in His Word, yet be honest enough to say that we don’t understand how it works.  Not only that, but we need to be able to bear our feelings and the continuity, or discontinuity that they have with our understanding of God and His ways.

5. Clarity, or a lack thereof, matters
-There is a place for clarity in our theology, but there is also a place for a lack thereof.  We need to ask ourselves if there are things that are in Scripture that just don’t make sense (from a human perspective).  We should also look to Jesus and recognize that what He told people in parables was often misunderstood (and oftentimes still is today).  The fact that it was misunderstood reveals the lack of clarity, and the imparting to us of the Holy Spirit reveals the sense of clarity that can come as we engage with Scripture.

6. We must engage with different voices
-To merely read authors that have the same viewpoint as your own, discuss theology with people who hold the same beliefs as you can easily lead to a watery, surface level theological perspective.  It is important, while we may not agree with them, that we engage with people from viewpoints that we do not hold.  Such interaction and dialogue will result in growth and will challenge to return to the Scriptures to test our theology.

I think that these are great principles.  They may or may not change what you believe or reshape the theological stance you hold, but they can enable us to grow into more robust theologians and glorify God as we seek to know Him more and more as we study His Word.

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