Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, April 09, 2012

You are NOT a theologian

In my first full post to this blog, I referenced the following famous quote from Book IV of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity:

Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones- bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.

In that earlier post, I focused on the idea from the above quote that it is impossible to have "no ideas about God" in order to make the point that we are all-- unavoidably-- theologians, and as theologians we must not shy away from the study of theology.

In this post, I want to focus on another aspect of Lewis's statement: the idea that it is possible for people to have "bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas," which have been discredited by "real Theologians."

It strikes me as odd how representatives from the media will ask anyone famous-- from among musicians to sports figures to movie stars to politicians to pop psychologists-- to express his or her ideas about God or religion, and then (as long as the interviewee does not mention sin), the reporters will regularly take the answers that are given with unquestioning seriousness.

This would not happen in regard to virtually any other field of study. A reporter would never (for example) ask Dr. Drew about astro-physics, and if he began to spontaneously offer his opinion on that subject, the responsible journalist would fact-check the doctor. Yet the other day on the radio I heard a pop-psychologist spouting his view on what sexual activities were or were not to be considered sin in God's sight, and apparently listeners were expected to accept that somehow his psychological training made him an expert on God and sin.

Obviously-- just as an amateur astronomer could discover a previously unknown comet or an amateur historian could write an influential biography-- someone does not necessarily need a degree in Theology in order to do sound theology; C.S. Lewis himself had no such degree (and-- if the reader has objections to Lewis-- Calvin, Bunyan, Spurgeon, and others could be mentioned). On the other hand, when an amateur makes a contribution to a field of study, it is normal for that contributor-- as an amateur-- to face increased scrutiny. Whether amateur or trained expert, others should only accept a researcher's findings if that researcher has used sound methods of inquiry appropriate to his or her field of study.

Though theology and psychology are fundamentally different, theology may be seen as analogous to psychology in that both disciplines study something that cannot be directly observed-- you cannot see either God or the human psyche-- and in both theology and psychology there are various schools of thought regarding how the discipline should be considered. Now, there is certainly a great deal of controversy between different religious traditions regarding proper methods for reaching theological conclusions, but within each tradition there is a certain discernible range of agreement. The Protestant tradition, for example, teaches that God (who is definitionally transcendent and spiritual) has condescended to reveal Himself in the Holy Bible; therefore, we are to use sound grammatical-historical-Christological exegetical methods in order to come to conclusions regarding God and the spiritual realm. Other Christian traditions teach that God has granted authority to the Church, which formed the Bible (instead of the Bible forming the Church, as Protestants argue), and so they would prescribe study of Church fathers, councils, papal decrees, etc., as the way to form theological conclusions. Various other cults or religions look to different texts or groups of people as authoritative. NO trained theologian follows the method of 'just make stuff up on the spot.'

You sitting there reading this on your computer screen- you are not necessarily a theologian; you are not a theologian if you have not been diligent in your study of theology- carefully weighing the ideas about God that you hear around you or that you have received by tradition. You must "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil" (II Thessalonians 5:21-22).

If you are not a theologian-- if you do not do the work of a theologian-- and if you then attempt to practice theology, then the shoddy nature of the theology that you practice may have an everlasting, negative impact on your life and the lives of those around you.



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