Originally Written by: Deve Persad on October 10, 2013
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on the bedrock.” Matthew 7:24-25 NLT
Jesus’ conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount is an invitation, not only to professionals, but for everyone. The invitation involves more than the acquiring of knowledge, it is an invitation to be theologians. While, at first, we may not be inclined to make that connection, it is important to recognize that Jesus is calling us to think about what He is saying and figure out how it will play out in our lives.
Stanley Grenz and Roger Olsen provide more than a title to their book, Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God, they also created a refrain that is often repeated throughout the book. That refrain, “Who needs theology?” is an invitation to continually pour the questions of life (and God), from our head through our heart, using the filter of God’s truth to give purpose to our actions. With each repetition of this refrain we go deeper and yet somehow they call the reader back to the centrality of learning how to establish a strong foundation of truth about God.
Much like the concluding metaphor of Jesus, Grenz and Olsen offer a picture of the rewards of our theological thinking. The rewards of engaging in theology provide valuable reminders (Loc. 1407-1418): “an enriched and enhanced Christian life,…finding answers to questions that arise in the course of living the Christian life in contemporary culture and…having a belief system to fall back on during those inevitable periods of spiritual dryness when we cannot feel God’s presence.” Rewards like this address our present, sometimes difficult, realities while offering hope for what we all desire to be possible. Theology therefore has everyday value to every person.
There is another thread that weaves it’s way through this book. It is the theme of reflection (Loc. 191-193). Creating space in order to allow ourselves to consider carefully what we are reading is integral to this process as it allows us to delve a little deeper in the critical reasoning and questioning that is crucial to establishing a firm foundation. Unfortunately, for many, the pace at which we run our lives allows little time for reflection.
Even as I type these words, I pause to recapture my day and in someways, I can feel the breeze blow small drops of rain: I’ve spent time walking with a family through a financial crisis, collaborated on how to help a teenager find hope from a neglectful and often abusive home life, had a conversation how one spouse can help the other through a significant health challenge, coordinated a new community partnership, connected with people across our country about ministry next week, coordinated with people in El Salvador about ministry in two months, plus having an ongoing text conversation about the eternal destiny of non-believing Jews. Besides that we have renovations going on at the house and our cable television stopped working. Oh, and I have a family that needs a little piece of me too. The truth is these days are quite normal and are best handled by taking time for reflection on God, His Truth and how it can be applied to my life. However, it is important to recognize that many of these kind of conversations are helpful in providing reflection for others as well as sharpening my own convictions (in some cases) or giving me pause to reconsider (in other cases).
I think this is what Grenz and Olsen were getting at when they challenged us to consider the importance of theological reflection for the purpose of bringing meaning to every day of our lives. “How do we construct a contextual theology? Our answer is: By bringing our understanding of Scripture, our cognizance of our heritage and our reading of our cultural context into a creative trialogue.” (Loc. 1135-1136) Theological reflection cannot be done in isolation from our past or our present realities. The truth of God will flourish with significance as it is meted out in our every day lives. However, this process must be deliberate. It requires the intentionality of creating space to think, unthink, rethink and groupthink (I think). That kind of space will not be added to our day or our week, it must be carved out from somewhere else. This is probably the biggest challenge for me.
Losing track of the rewards of theological thinking and a failure to take intentional time for strengthening foundations through theological reflection are too great a risk in a world where the wind is blowing harder and it’s starting to rain.