Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Teaching Theology

The church has got to do things with more concern for theological reflection. We are not traditionally in the business of caring too much about theology (since most people hear the word and begin to assume immediately that you are talking about dead, stale, mental religion with no heart). Why can't the church be passionate about loving God totally with our hearts and totally with our minds (kind of sounds like Jesus' command)? I believe the church is always given to extremes in an attempt to fight the unbalanced approaches of the previous generation. For me, my church background included an environment where religion was about attending an hour long service on Sunday and hoping that I didn't fall asleep. For many young people who grew up in a spiritually dry church, the immediate reaction is to cling to anything that has passion and excitement in it. There is current youth ministry book out right now basically echoing these ideas. Kenda Dean in Practicing Passion basically argues for a church of passion (arguing against empty religiosity in the mainline churches) that will encompass the desires of young people to be a part of something that is worthy giving their lives for. In other words, the church today recognizes that empty tradition of a generation ago will not continue to produce a thriving faith in the next generation of students.

The result of this has been a focus on the heart and on passion. We have written love songs to God that we sing in worship every week. The more emotional we get at a retreat or a camp or an event, the more spiritual we think we have been. The emotions are good, but we are in danger of losing our theological distinctiveness as Christians if we are not careful. We, as church leaders, have got to realize that everything we do in the church teaches theology. We communicate something about God and His character every time we have church. Can we begin to think critically again about what we are teaching? Of course, to think deeply about what we are teaching about God, we have to think deeply about what we believe ourselves about God. The danger is that we have been consumed in Christian culture so long that we begin to use all of the Christian jargon that we hear without thinking well about what it means. What does it mean that Jesus is God incarnate? How does that impact my life and my ministry? What does it mean that God is Triune? How does that change the way I teach about God?

I am afraid that in all of our concern for emotional impact we have sacrificed theological reflection. I wonder if it is possible to be a part of a church that encourages both - passionate pursuit of intimacy with God and intense theological reflection about what the Bible teaches us about God. I hope it is, and I hope that the next generation of church leaders can work hard at keeping balance in these two areas so that we teach accurately and passionately about the nature of God.


Paul Williamson said...

What keeps people from being serious about the study of Christian Doctrine and Theology?
1) Many think that they are incapable for one reason or another. Certainly, people have different degrees of capability, but all people should stretch themselves to learn more about God.
2)Many are distracted. There is just too much noise and motion in many of our lives to spend quiet reflection and study on the things of God. Even our teaching times at church can tend toward entertainment.
3) Many are apathetic and selfish. Our tendency is to focus on ourselves and not to want to think seriously about anyone else including God.
4) Many are just lazy. This laziness can be how we spend our time or it can refer to lazy thinking. Lazy thinking is when we don't make an effort to be able to clearly articulate what we believe. Lazy thinking also happens when we just let another think for us.
5)Many don't see its value. We just need to live good lives and be good citizens. They will refer to the Pharisees in the scriptures who "knew" all the information, but yet sentenced the Son of God to death.
6)Many are afraid. We are afraid of what we will really find out if we really ask the hard questions about life, God, and the nature of man. We are also afraid of how it will affect our lives. We are afraid that new knowledge of God's holy commands will suddenly make us feel guilty and uncomfortable about things that we currently enjoy doing.
7) Many think that they are studying Christian doctrine and theology when in reality they are just submersing themselves in the American Christian culture. The doctrines of political parties, Christian psychologists, and radio hosts get confused with what is distinctively Christian.

This is a call is to continue in a serious studies of the Bible in light of what the Holy Spirit has been teaching the church since pentecost. This is a call to allow our own American Christian expressions to both challenge and be challenged by other cultural expressions of Christianity. This is a call to remember a relationship with God requires work, just like any other relaiion. I relationship with God must be based on both truth and experience just like any other relationship.

Why do I study Christian Doctrine and Theology? To know my God better everyday. To allow the Lord Jesus Christ to continually transform my life. To allow the Holy Spirit of God to guide me in service everyday. I study Christian Doctrine and Theology that I might teach the truth of God to others and that I might show the love of God to others. That is why I study Christian Doctrine and Theology.

Keith Ferguson said...


Thanks for the comments. I appreciate your friendship and the way God uses you to sharpen my ideas and my thinking. You have been an encouragement in my life to continue to think theologically about life and ministry. I hope that more leaders in the church will hear and respond to the call to think well about what we teach people about God in our churches. I desire that every church leader in America would lift up God for all He is worth.