Clark, David K. To Know and Love God: Method for Theology. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2003.
Olson, Stanley J. Grenz & Roger E. Who Needs Theology? an Invitation to the Study of God. Downers Grove, Ill., USA.: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
In the beginning of one’s spiritual journey, whether he/she desires too, they are on course to become a lifelong theologian. This paper examines David Clark’s To Know and Love God, Stanley Grenz, and Roger Olson’s Who Needs Theology to determine their response to five basic questions. These five questions make up the papers body and guide the reader on a challenging and instructive course in the formation of his/her modern approach to theology. These works both espouse the need for an individual and corporate theology. Such theology proves relevant for the millennial generation through sociological, theological, and experiential features. A systematic approach to these features result in a theological process able to provide a modern perspective strengthened with ancient roots.
There are five questions utilized in this examination of To Know and Love God, and Who Needs Theology. These questions provide the needed foundation to develop a sound, Scriptural systematic theology. There are currently two poles to modern theological thought with vast divergence between them. The first pole, contextual, connects theology with the other methods of human thought. The second pole, kerygmatic, seeks to protect historical Christian thought. Between the two poles, points of convergence vary between individuals, yet in order to build a good theological perspective the question, “What is Theology?” must be asked.
Building upon the varied purposes of theology, mainly academic, philosophical, and spiritual Clark defines theology as “the science of God, anchored in the Bible that awakens the wisdom of God within believer’s hearts and in Christian community”. While Grenz and Olson define theology as, “reflecting on and articulating the God-centered life and beliefs that Christians share as followers of Jesus Christ, and it is done in order that God may be glorified in all Christians are and do”. In either of these definitions, the focal point rests on the individual’s heart and therefore determines that he/she makes an essential viewpoint for the importance of this system of belief.
The second question builds on “What is Theology?” to ask “Why is theology important?”, or “Why do theology?”. What these questions pose are important and needed within the Millennial generation as they desire to experience the depth of what Christianity has to offer. According to Grenz and Olson, the study of theology is both practical (for the believer), and pleasing to God. Theology is important in the Christian's life because the foundation is his/her conversion, the structure becomes his/her spiritual formation, and the future plays out through his/her Christian living. Through this process, his/her faith becomes more than a one-time decision, it transforms every aspect of his/her life providing direction as they journey. During this journey, however, he/she must be aware of the tendency to fall into the realm of dogmatism.
The theological depth or reflection of every believer varies, and correspondingly the areas of theology valued by individuals vary; therefore, he/she must make distinctions when thinking about dogmatism. These distinctions are dogma, doctrine, and opinion. Dogma, the earliest of the categories, holds few actual dogmas. The foremost belief associated with this category equates Jesus with God the Father, and more recently added salvation by grace alone. The second category, doctrine, has the foci of particular traditions and denominations, common examples of doctrine: predestination, free will, sacraments, scriptural authority, and even eschatology. Opinion, the third category, released by denominations as the topics determined to be matters of private interpretation again vary, but are adiaphorous or issues indifferent to matters of the gospel. Examples of this category include gifts of the Spirit, eschatology, or even angelology. The issues of opinion are sadly the areas most addressed within the confines of a sermon, yet are the least of importance.
The forth question Clark, Grenz, and Olson determine to answer revolves around the ideology of dogma, doctrine, and opinion. “How do we teach theology to the church?” provides the ministerial and/or lay theologian with the opportunity for instructional strategies to affect long-term change within his/her church. The issue at hand is not what theology the church needs to teach, rather, how to teach the theology the church holds to as dogma, doctrine, and even opinion. Clark provides insight to this question in Chapters 6-10, and Grenz/ Olson discuss this in Chapter 8. The how question is one of methodology, strategy, and application, therefore, the response will follow the same pattern.
Every area of ministry within the church from preschool, children, and youth to worship, facilities, and missions must echo the same theological perspective. The congregants need to hear, see, and experience what their belief system truly holds too; therefore, curriculum must pass a rigid examination, worship songs must reflect strongly held theological understanding, and missions must extend to the uttermost ends of the earth. Grenz and Olson echo this by exclaiming, “Theology and life are interdependent.” This statement shows the importance of cross-ministerial influence of the church or denominational theological perspective. The final question builds from this to ask what doctrines are important for the church to teach.
Based on the need to teach theology in the church, the follow-up asks what doctrines do the church need to hold to in order to thrive as the church? To answer these questions consider the denominational background of the church. For the purposes of this paper, the Southern Baptist Convention has been determined to be the standard. According to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 edition, there are eighteen articles of confession within the Baptist core of belief. In order to maintain the ordination of the Southern Baptist Convention the church must observe all eighteen, yet, on the individual level his/her beliefs may vary. Core of these eighteen articles are inspiration of Scripture (Article I), salvation through the blood of Christ by grace (Article IV), deity and virgin birth of Christ (Article II), and the bodily resurrection of Christ (Article II). These are often held as the Five Fundamentals of the Faith, and for all due purposes reflect the core for most denominations. Finally, the question “Why?” must be posed.
Why must the church believe these five core dogmas? The writer will address these in reverse order to clarify their importance. Without the bodily resurrection of Christ, there is nothing to substantiate the remainder of this discussion and therefore, it would all be a moot point. Saying the resurrection actually happened, there must be something special about Christ, or the Roman method of death, crucifixion, was ineffective. Knowing the effectiveness of crucifixion allows the reader to know there is something special about Christ. The possibility of his deity begins with his conception and carries through his life to death. The miracles, raising people from the dead, and even walking on water point to his supernatural abilities, yet, if he was born of woman and man, none of this is important; he must be born of woman and God. Because of his supernatural birth and life, the reversal from death to life, his ability to forgive the sin of those around him provide the next foundation of support, that by his shedding of blood humanity finds forgiveness by the grace of God. Lastly, the only manner in which humanity can find this forgiveness is in the inspired pages of the Holy Scripture. In these five fundaments, the church has the ingredients needed to reach a lost and dying world with the message of Christ.
This paper has examined five questions related to the need for a theological foundation within the life of individual Christians and the modern church. Guiding the reader through a challenging and instructive regiment of thought provoking concepts on what the modern church must resemble if they are to reach the lost millennial generation. Seeking to provide a relevant justification for deep theological meaning and yet describe the need for personal application of those same theological concepts.