THE PLACE OF THEOLOGY IN DISCIPLESHIP

I realize that our brotherhood has generally had a deep suspicion (if not outright hostility) of theology from the beginning of the Restoration Movement. There have been good reasons for those suspicions. Many of the “theologies” (Dogmatic, Liberation, Feminist, etc.) often promote ideas that do not cohere with the Bible. Theology can lack practicality (abstract thinking for “ivory tower” intellectuals). Sometimes, theology promotes confusion instead of clarity (it obscures the truth of the Bible). Some methods of theology supported oppressive church authority and tradition. For these reasons and more, many do not want to have anything to do with theology.

The problem with “stiff-arming” theology is that we are all theologians. We do not have the choice to be theologians or not. Our choice is to whether to be good or bad theologians. As Michael Weed wrote, “The only true alternative is whether one will have an examined theology or one which is unexamined . . . One’s option is not whether theology but rather what kind of theology” (Michael Weed, “The Layman, The Theologian, and the Church,” Restoration Quarterly 23 (1980), 25). In other words, we cannot free ourselves of theology if we are going to deal with God, God’s revelation, and God’s things.

I recently read an article entitled “7 Ways Biblical Theology Transforms Bible Study.” The premise of the article is that “biblical theology transforms personal and group Bible study.” The following two items are edited and enhanced from this article.

Biblical theology makes Bible study God-centered, not me-centered. Most Bible study techniques move quickly to “how am I going to apply this to my life?” without considering the intended message for the first audience. The Bible is God’s story, not my story. One of our first questions about a biblical text or passage ought to be, “what does this tell me about God?” After we ask these kinds of questions that we position ourselves to make applications for our lives.

Biblical theology urges us toward union with Christ, not merely imitating Jesus. Union with Christ is the very essence of what it means to be a Christian. Biblical theology serves to show us the beauty, the necessity, and the sufficiency of being joined to Christ by faith. Just trying to follow His example is not the goal. Think about Paul’s writings and all of his uses of “in Christ,” “into Christ,” “with Christ,” “through Christ,” and the metaphor of the “body of Christ.” Union with Christ is not just about “justification” (“being saved”) but also includes Christian living (living out the death and resurrection of Christ).

There is often a desire for group studies or teaching to be “practical.” We tend to want simple, manageable, consumer-friendly tidbits about God that we can use in our faith walk. However, the most practical thing that can take place in our study of the Bible is that it kindles a desire to know and walk with God. Desiring God is the foundation each one of us needs for life-transforming obedience.

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