I think of theology as the middle step of a three-step process. I find this helpful as it moves me past theology that is a collection of beliefs or field of study and begs the question – how does this area of theology transform my life?
Here’s how I see this three-step process:
- Revelation – It starts here. God reveals a glimpse of Himself to us. Much like Moses, who only got to see a fraction of the glory of God, we only get a glimpse of God. We see what God has chosen to reveal in the Word – both living and written. We see what God has chosen to reveal about his plan for all of creation. And we see what God has chosen to reveal about what part we play in that incredible plan.
- Theology – Making sense of revelation is what I believe we do in theology. Finding our way through all God has revealed takes time, study, and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. In doing this, we as finite humans, employ methods that help us make sense of our observations of revelation. Let me mention two here (these are clearly my names, no theologian would call them this):
As a young guy, I loved to tear things apart, see how they worked, then put them back together. This usually worked okay. Although I did cause my parents concern somedays. In the process of pulling everything apart, I learned how a lot of household gadgets worked. We do the same thing in theology. We pull the revelation of God apart, determine key categories, place the pieces in those categories, so we can see how it works.
I once heard Leonard Sweet talk about the difference between a toaster and a cat. To repair a toaster, you use the previously mentioned pull it apart method. You don’t do that to a cat, well at least if you want it to live. To figure out a cat (is there really any figuring out a cat?) you need to see its personality, how it behaves, etc. Akin to this, is treating God’s revelation as a unified story and observing the themes and storylines that run through it. Doing this lets it live, intact. Visit the https://bibleproject.com/ if you want to view some examples of this method.
I think both methods (and others) can be helpful, but they don’t guarantee we get it all right, and they certainly are not the end goal.
- Praxis – Praxis is the living out of an idea or belief. This is the reason we do theology. God reveals, we attempt to make sense of it, so we can live in accordance with it. The goal of theology is not just right belief, it’s life with God, and life with other’s done God’s way. The end of theology is the worship of God and the Holy Spirit’s transformative work in us.
In doing theology, I hope we never stop at the second step. To move beyond mere belief to lived out action, we need to ask our theology questions like:
– How does this inflame my passion for God again?
– How does this lead me to fall to my knees in worship?
– What does this call me to obey?
– How is this shaping me to be more like Jesus? How does this help me relate in Christ-like ways to others?
EFCC National Mission Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst