Theology Matters

I actually had an elderly fundamentalist man once say to me, “All I need is my King James Bible and the Holy Spirit.”

When was the last time you ran into an evangelical who demeaned the study of theology? Maybe you have encountered a cynic-saint who believes that a large part of the problem with Christianity is with those who have studied formally in a bible college or seminary?

This sort of anti-intellectualism disregards the rich history of Christian thinkers, and it overlooks the deep spiritual benefits of loving Jesus with all of your mind—baptizing apathy and laziness in the name of faith.

We can’t afford to drive a wedge between the mind and the spirit. As believers in the Source of all wisdom and knowledge, we must do better.

“If we are going to be wise, spiritual people prepared to meet the crises of our age, we must be a studying, learning community that values the life of the mind.” J.P. Moreland

Knowledge doesn’t have to be dry and lifeless. The following video calls us to think about why doing theology really matters.

Have you noticed how some evangelicals have disconnected Christian belief from Spirit-filled living?  Consider what you can do today to love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind.

D.D. Flowers, 2012.


About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 20 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Pennsylvania. View all posts by David D. Flowers

17 responses to “Theology Matters

  • Paul Harlan

    David: I am far from the cynic to which you referred, however, do you think that there has been an overemphasis on the necessity of seminary training, since the rise of the Roman, Orthodox & Coptic churches (perhaps even slightly before this)?

    I know that there are not a lot of them, we (Nancy & myself) have attended a small fellowship that traces its beginning to the early sixties, that has never had a “pastor” but we do have live, scriptural ministry via four or five brothers, none of whom have attended seminary. We all, who study, consult with brothers who have given us some of that rich heritage of which you speak.

    I sense a certain trace of defensiveness amongst many of those who hold seminary degrees and have heard their comments regarding
    “mere laymen to be allowed behind the sacred desk.”

    • David D. Flowers

      Paul, you will always find extremes within Christianity. I have simply written on one extreme here in this post: anti-intellectualism and demeaning the importance of theological studies (formal & informal). Thanks for reading, bro.

  • Warren Aldrich

    I would submit that we have had 2,000 years of theological study and thousands of books published and we are not affecting our culture. It might be that we need to emphasize the matters of the heart and living out that theology such that it transforms the people around us. I am certainly not anti-intellectual, I am anti not noticing what isn’t working.

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Warren, I would never say that our problems with evangelicalism in America can be blamed on any one single issue or error. Even hinting at the problem being with educated Christians (even seminary trained) is a reckless assessment in my opinion. Furthermore, it’s “working” for me and many others who have not jumped clear off into either ditch of anti-intellectualism or intellectualism disconnected from the spirit.

      Let me also add that doing good theology will result in proper living and impact of society. You’re always doing theology whether you realize it or not. You’re either being intentional about it or you’re imagining that you can do faith without it (unintentionally).

      But you’re still doing theology.

      • Warren Aldrich

        It’s obvious from a conceptual and definitional point of view that every religious or spiritual action or thought has a theology. What I react to is a theology detached from the heart of the person such that something that should be operating dies away. And yes, it may not be the only problem. But given our western intellectual roots it certainly calls for a good look at how it’s working. And certainly “religious” cynicism abounds. Better to have that then a fruitless complacency. But for me, since I have moved on from a fairly limited but very emphatic religious and theological perspective, my spirituality has been transformed.

        • David D. Flowers

          Warren, a proper theology goes beyond definition and abstract systems onto right living. I admit that folks are capable of detaching theology from the heart, but in reality I think it’s bad theology that leads to complacency, inaction, and apathy. The answer is not to stop doing theology, but instead to do theology differently.

          How what is working? What exactly are you referring to? It sure sounds like you’re dumping the ills of evangelicalism on theologians and church leaders. This assumes all of them are doing the same thing (whatever you’re proposing), and that those angry cynics aren’t equally a contributing factor to the religious problem we are facing today. We need more than pithy slogans and cynical jargon aimed at what is deemed “the system” by the mob of bitter “free” believers.

          I wouldn’t want fruitless complacency or religious cynicism. They are both poison for the soul.

  • David D. Flowers

    George, one of my goals with my blog is to stimulate thinking and challenge our theology. I do this because I strongly believe that what we believe has everything to do with how we live it out, ie. doing “Kingdom work” as you put it. I have made this very clear at my blog.

    Keep in mind that people and personalities are different in the way we learn. You’ve made it clear to me that you’re not an abstract and an analytical guy like myself. That’s fine. But I don’t want others who are not like that, or who have had a bad experience with formal contemplation and study, to demean or downplay its importance.

    Of course I believe in doing the Kingdom work. I’m deeply concerned about action! But as you said, much of that is lived out in experience. That’s your job.

    From time to time I may share a personal experience, but my way of learning and teaching is to challenge folks in their thinking so that they will learn to discover for themselves what doing justice looks like according to Jesus. I’m sure as I grow in my own faith, I will express myself differently. For now, this is what I have to give.

    I would encourage you to share your experiences and your way of learning in a blog of your own, or here in the comments. That will help others who learn like you. I only want us to do that together without demeaning thinking.

    Thanks, bro.

  • John A. David

    Reblogged this on The Critical Eye and commented:
    I don’t agree with David’s particular theology on all matters, but this point is definitely one I completely agree with. I think theology matters, not to Christians but to most atheists as well, when they feel they have the burden to prove Christianity wrong.

  • rothfamily83

    I think what we need as well is a community oriented task of doing theology rather than a Westernized, individualistic kind. I am not opposed to the individual studying, but I know from experience that if it isn’t tempered with relationship, dialogue, openness, and the courage to question all of our interpretive perspectives, it will lead to a “reactionary” scholarship rather than a generous, connected one. Besides, scripture was written to communities and interpreted by communities. Overall, I like the direction you’re in David. Our experience outside the 4 walls of church gave good perspective to the need for dialogue and conversation.

  • Dave

    What a great post, loved the video, exactly why I am in seminary 🙂

  • Bob G

    Thank you for your post! I agree wholeheartedly!

    We do what we do because we believe what we believe. To divorce the thinking from the doing is to gut the church of its power. The biggest culprits are the pastors who are fully engaged developing their flocks into “Christ-followers.” This means good, moral people who help the poor, don’t view porn, help out at the church, and tithe. They neglect the systematic teaching of God’s Word. My wife and I are among the very few who bring our Bibles to church. It seems that evangelicalism has forgotten that Jesus GREW in wisdom. How can we be his followers without doing likewise?

  • Erica

    Quote is from the video, and my response follows.

    “What you believe about God’s nature – what He is like, what He wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to Him – affects every part of your life because if we get it wrong, then our whole lives will be wrong.”

    Knowing God affects what you believe about God’s nature. Knowing God – not knowing about God or what others say or tell you about God, or what a theology says or tells you about God – affects every part of your life.

    The message of this video seems to place a higher importance on knowing about God as opposed to knowing God. IMO, theology doesn’t lead one out of “ignorance” or “falsehood”, contemplative practices do (knowing God directly or learning about God from God Himself).

    • David D. Flowers

      Erica, I can understand how a person could hear that, but I don’t see why that needs to be the case. It could depend on where you’re at in your journey as to what you hear in the video about knowledge of or about God. In fact, there is nothing in the video itself that would lead a person to conclusively draw a hard line between knowing God or knowing about him.

      While I do acknowledge that folks can study God and not know him, this video is clearly calling folks to know and study God in every way… as a husband knows his wife. That’s an intimate knowledge if you ask me. A knowledge that involves the mind and the heart. 🙂

      • Erica

        Yes, I agree that those examples are ones of an intimate knowledge, that’s why it really rubs me the wrong way that they are being referred to as theology. I think they’re clearly not examples of theology. Most of us don’t think “studying God through a direct experience of Him” when we hear the word “theology.” We think “the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.” Or something to that extent. The message I receive from the video is this, if you get it right, if you find the one and true theology, if you are in the right camp or group, then you will know God intimately. I see this as a very problematic message.

        • David D. Flowers

          Hey Erica, this is symptomatic of a problem with how many evangelicals understand theology, not with theology itself. It’s time for the church to come to know theology as way of doing life with the Lord and others. I suppose that since I see theology as encompassing life and learning in relationship, I didn’t pick up on what you felt was a problematic message. I see it bridging the gap between life and learning.

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