Saturday, March 12, 2011

Are you sure that you want to be a theologian?

It is all too easy for our interest in theology to be little more than a love of intellectualism applied to the being of God.

It is all too easy for that interest to show itself in a display of knowledge and argument about the relationship between various doctrines and ideas.

It is all too easy to play the part of the learned philosophic thinker even when using the grammar naturally suited to the humbled believer.

It is all too easy to transplant theology from the rich soil of thinking and living before God, alongside his people and under Christ's cross, and to try and make it grow in an environment free not only from sunshine and rain, but also from storms, and darkness and frost.

This crucial point is well made by Mike Horton:
Luther wrote, "It is by living, no--more--by dying and being damned to hell that one becomes a theologian, not by knowing, reading or speculating."  We learn on the road, as pilgrims making our way to the City of God through the trials, burdens, questions and fears of our own hearts as well as the world around us.
We learn truly of God's providence as we suffer, of God's forgiveness in our sins, of the resurrection of the dead as we lie dying.  
Luther's poignant but hyperbolic statement does not mean that we do not need to read or study, but that even as we do this, it is more like looking for urgently needed rescue than contemplating urgent truths.
We do theology on our knees, calling on the name of our Redeemer.  Yet precisely because our God is so great, our situation so dire, and our salvation so full and free, theology is indispensable to piety.
The Christian Faith, p. 111


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Are both you and Luther suggesting that theology is actually the devotional life applied to academics?

Unknown said...

Concerning your blog, you have this introductory remark:

"Heresy is dishonouring to God and cruel to people. The theology, morality, and pastoral effects of heresy have been a long term research interest of mine. This blog is not as negative as you might think. You will find plenty of posts devoted to sound teaching and sound Christian living."

Being the curious individual I am, I would have to ask you what your plumbline is for "sound teaching"? Otherwise, wouldn't you be begging the question of your blog: what are the heresies, and how do we excise them? How do you appeal to your own conclusions of what is "sound teachings" without self-referential appeal? How do I know your "sound teachings" are not themselves heresies--the ones you prefer?

Steve Martin said...

That good old Reformation principle, Scripture interprets Scripture.