Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reading Theology for Heaven's Sake and Earthly Sanity

For the past two and a half years, I have been in baby land. It is a magical, thrilling, and consuming place. Once you are in baby land, it becomes difficult to venture out, but the other day I did, and it was through theology. Thank God for theology. 

When I was a seminary student, I was a systematic theology major and I loved talking, reading, and preaching theology. Reading the thoughts of theologians like Karl Barth, Thomas Aquinas, Leslie Newbigin, Dorothy Sayers, Austin Ferrar, Oscar Romero, and others, opened my mind, heart, and soul to amazing, heavenly planes, and I was deeply thankful for the experience. 
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Lately I have been reading Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, and Curious George. All great reading. When I crash into bed at night, I sometimes read a novel. I can’t bring myself to read anything, “too heavy,” but the other day, I picked up Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will. Once again, I was transported, my mind was on a more heavenly plane, which brings me to my point. It is very good and necessary to read a variety of theological work over the course of one’s lifetime, because we need good teaching. We can’t generate this stuff on our own, no matter how smart we are. Great theology is always lived and acted upon. That’s why it is so vital to our lives. It shapes how we live, so we need to be reading, thinking, and inwardly digesting theological works. 
Sometimes we think, “I am not a minister or theologian, so why does it matter?” All the decisions we make on a daily basis -- what we eat, who we speak to, how we spend our time -- are all theological questions.

Sometimes we think, “Oh the Bible is always best. I’ll just read the Bible.” The Bible is best, but great theology helps us to read the Bible in not only sound and orthodox ways, but actually helps point us to its great, saving truths. Theology and Biblical Studies really are dance partners, and the latter is always the lead. 

Some of us are very good at reading one theologian or one particular genre of theology. We may love contemporary Christian books, the ones which are on the best seller list.  But if that is all we read, we are at a disadvantage. Contemporary theologians are often responding to the strengths and weaknesses of our culture and other theologians. This means they emphasis certain things, to the detriment of other important truths.  No particular theologian or particular “brand” of theology gets it all right, all the time. They work together, in constant dialogue, to form one great conversation. That’s why it’s great to read, not only contemporary theologians, but the church fathers and mothers, the reformers, and everyone in between. 

I am always encouraging women’s Bible studies to branch out beyond Beth Moore (no offense to Beth Moore). I sometimes daydream about walking into a women’s Bible study to discover they are reading Karl Barth. Not to be too high and mighty here, but when it comes to studying God, why not set the bar pretty high? Every Christian I know who is inspired by the Holy Spirit is capable of profound theological thinking.  

I have learned that it is impossible to understand the particulars of life -- Who should I marry? How should I spend my money? What should I do with my free time? -- if the universals are not decided. Who is God, what is our purpose, and where are we headed, are universal questions.  Sound, traditional, and varied theology helps us address those questions.  It brings us to a great heavenly plane so that we might live full, sane, balanced, and blessed earthly lives. Theological lives are lives that are dedicated to God and his people.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! Your voice really came through in it, so I can tell it was from the heart. My favorite part was your dream of happening upon a women's Bible study reading Karl Barth. Now that is a women's Bible study I could be tempted to attend! Thanks for the encouragement, and I will keep it in mind when I next venture out of baby land.