Thursday, August 12, 2010


Theology or ?

Matt Anderson quotes Mark Roberts on this question:
"Evangelical churches are showing renewed interest in theology and theological training. If the church in America could recover one area of doctrine or theological tradition (i.e., ecclesiology, pneumatology, doctrine of God), what should it be?"
Here is Roberts response, in part:
Let me explain why I think it’s not cheating to say the American church needs theology, a right understanding of God. As I considered other doctrines that are badly needed in today’s church, I kept tracing the problem back to an inadequate or erroneous view of God. Take, for example, ecclesiology. The root problem in our notion and practice of church is our basic perception of God. We make church incidental when we fail to understand the relational (triune) nature of God. We make church “all about me” when we neglect God’s Lordship. We think worship is primarily a matter of our emotional experiences when we ignore God’s glory. We turn church into a club when we lose touch with the seeking love of God. We allow church to be too otherworldly when we forget God as Creator. We make church an end in and of itself when we neglect the mission of God. We make a sport of dumping on the church when we disregard God’s love for the church. And so forth and so on. As long as our doctrine of God is inadequate (not that any theology will ever fully comprehend God), all the rest of our doctrines will follow suit. When we get the basics of God right, then the rest of our beliefs can be built on a solid foundation.
The point here is well taken - but let us approach it from a different angle. Do we need to understand how semi-conductors move electrons about to use a computer? Do we need to understand wave form analysis to watch television? Well, some one does - the people that build the chips that go in computers and the people that design televisions do, but pretty much not anybody else. Even the guys that build computers from the chips do not need to understand semi-conductor quantum behavior. But we all use computers and watch television.

Analogously, it is fair to say the theology is "needed" - but included in the answer must be the question of "by whom" and "to what extent." I don;t think the average pew sitter will ever address theology to this level - ever. But those that design and lead worship obviously need to for precisely the reasons Roberts cites.

In fact if one thinks about it - the theology is out there, what's missing is a "gate-keeping function." Evangelical churches being as entrepreneurial as they are operate without the gate keeping. Anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves "Pastor" or "worship leader" without a lick of training, in theology or anything else for that matter.

I see this not as an argument for a recover of theology, but for a recovery of denominationalism. But here is the tricky question - if Evangelicalism managed to organize itself enough to provide for the gate-keeping function, would it cease to be Evangelicalism? Seems to me that it is the lack of such gate-keeping that lies at the very heart of the movement - not only for its leadership, but for its "membership" as well.

At some point, I think we ALL need to come to terms with the fact that "many are called, but few are chosen." Christianity is not quite the mass movement we sometimes want to think it is. It is something everyone should have heard about, but very few will ever truly join.

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