A good theology gives Christians a more clear and better understanding of what a God-centered life is and a tool to help Christians live a God-centered life with specific answers to “what’s”, “how’s” and “why’s”. Now, Scripture is the primary tool to use to construct and practice theology. One of theology’s questions is, “what must we be, say and do?” and the main tool to use to start answering this question is the Bible. A good Christian theology therefore as defined by Grenz and Olson, is reflecting on and articulating the beliefs about God and the world that Christians share as followers of Jesus Christ and it is for the sake of Christian living”.
The book, Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God, is an introductory text to the topic of theology. I have learned that everyone is a theologian, and there are different levels of theology, basically three. The second thing I have learned is about the various tools that should be used to construct theology, and that has really helped me to see how I can be a better theologian. It is basic that scripture is the primary tool to use to practice and construct theology, the second tool is the heritage of the church. This is important because heritage helps us to see how theologians of old understood and constructed theology. The last tool Grenz and Olson identified for being a better theologian, I would say, is the “thought-forms of contemporary culture.” This is very important because it will help make theology simple to understand in one’s culture and society where he lives and to the people in such cultures. Judiciously making good use of these three tools will very well be helpful to me in particular and for my ministerial work, i.e. attempting to understand and construct theology. Grenz and Olson’s book, Who Needs Theology? Therefore, it has helped me to see the benefits of me becoming a better theologian through the use of their three tools.
Again, not all theology is a good theology. There is bad theology as well as a good one. We do good theologies to help us so we know the truth about a thing, not just that we might think the right way, but so that we might live as we should, the right way.
Grenz argued that everyone is a theologian, but not everyone is a good theologian. Everyone is doing theology, but not every theology is the same. Again, Grenz pointed out some five kinds of theologies based on their different levels of reflection – folk theology, lay theology, ministerial theology, professional theology, and academic theology.
Folk Theology is based on blind faith and has little or no reflectiveness as part of it. Lay Theology occurs when ordinary Christians begin to ask questions about what they believe and why they believe it without the use of other tools for developing theologies. Ministerial Theology is a result of some type of formal coursework which includes a working knowledge of the biblical languages, commentaries, and an understanding of historical theology. Professional Theology refers to people who teach historical theology, biblical languages, and how to use commentaries to pastors in seminaries or church-related higher education institutions. Academic Theology is highly speculative and mostly directed towards other theologians with little connection to the church and concrete Christian living.
These are the various levels of theologies of theologians. Knowing about these theologies has helped me see that I want to be in the ministerial theology category. I want to understand the biblical languages, use commentaries, and have knowledge about historical and traditional theology so that I can practice theology within the culture I live in.
The least reflected theology is folk theology, which is “unreflective beliefs based on blind faith in a tradition of some kind”. On the other hand, the academic theology Grenz argued that it is “disconnected from the church and has little to do with concrete Christian living.” However, all Christians who seek to grow in their faith need lay, ministerial, and professional theology, as Grenz suggested.
Knowing what level of reflection I am in now helps me apply different theology’s tasks and tools. I like Grenz’s classification of theology’s tools and tasks, it helps me understand theologian’s works. First, Grenz identified two major theology’s tasks: critical and construction tasks. Critical task includes two activities: examining and evaluating Christian beliefs, and second, categorizing valid Christian beliefs as doctrine or opinion. Grenz also helped me engage in theology’s second task – constructive task. He defined the construction task as the development of “unified models of diverse biblical teachings and the application of those models relevant to contemporary culture.” He argued that the goal of the construction task of theology is to “articulate our foundational beliefs about God and the world for the sake of living as Christians in our contemporary context.” Grenz’s tools for the construction task include three practices of systematic theology – developing a synoptic vision of the biblical message, the theological heritage of the church, and contemporary culture. He argued that a synoptic vision is the key, which he defined as “holistic perspective that attempts to draw into coherence the otherwise blooming, buzzing confusion of data.” He suggested a tactic to develop this synoptic vision by using an “integrative motif” that will “form a hub that stands at the center and holds together the spokes of the wheel of the theology.” Grenz encourages me to construct theology in context, which I believe we should include views and voices from a more diverse source. As Grenz pointed out, we want to balance our theology between being faithful to the biblical message and being relevant to contemporary. I would suggest that we add more tools, tactics and experiences from other Christian sources from other parts of the world when doing historical theology. I like what Grenz concluded about a good theology which helps me to “become steadfast in faith and surer of what I believe.” I also believe the fact that doing theology is finite, which requires constant revision and always needs to be contextualized.
Martin H. Kamaidan
Saved by grace