doing theology

Who does theology? In short, everyone does! And everyone is a theologian, even those who never realize it! Any thought that is related to the ultimate questions in life is inherently theological. Someone might say, “I have my Bible and the Holy Spirit. I pray to my God and He talks to me. I don’t need theology!” However, the irony is this: not only did that person just issue a deeply theological thought in denouncing theology, but also he/she underwent a profound theological process, one that was likely shaped by years of experiences and theological indoctrination, in order to arrive at his/her conclusion. There is no way to escape theology. You have done it, you are doing it, and you will continue to do it. Hopefully that is not disappointing to hear. Here is the good news for us to hear: We’re all invited! We all belong to the process of doing theology.

How is theology done? Well, that can become a complicated answer. However, here is a starting point. The difference between the most brilliant theologian and you or me or good-old Sister Jones in our church back home is a difference of degree, not kind. In other words, the most sophisticated theological thought may be theology on a different level, but it is still the same basic theological questions that all of us ask. The professional theologian, in her/his years of study, has not so much expanded into new areas of inquiry, as simply perfected and deepened the fundamentals. Hopefully discipleship has introduced you to these fundamentals. And if you choose to do so, you will find that you can explore them the rest of your life.

Is all theology created equally? No. Certainly there are plenty of examples of theology poorly done. Since you will do theology whether you want to or not, why not choose to do it well? After all, doing theology well is a biblical doctrine (instruction). In any professional field—business, sports, politics, etc.—there are a few individuals, groups, and organizations that have risen to the very top. When you ask these professionals how they got there you normally here the same basic response: “I (or we) continued to focus on the basics of the business, the fundamentals of the game.” Obviously theology is not a competition. However, it seems that you and I, and the church in general, could learn from the wisdom of these successful persons. We must commit ourselves to sound doctrine, and then diligently work on those fundamentals for the rest of our lives. This, in my mind anyway, is a trustworthy approach to the confusion of our times.