I get it. Sometimes, theological discussions can feel like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The news demands our attention. The events of the day grab whatever energy remains. Then, exploring the nature of God can feel like a secondary concern. With so many urgent matters, even something as important as understanding God falls by the wayside.
Without understanding, our faith rests on momentum. We worship because have been worshiping. We read the Bible because our church culture values scripture. We sing hymns because we know them and they give us comfort, and we pray because we have always prayed. We need to understand why we do what we do.
This Sunday, in my church, Will will deliver the sermon. He will preach about Jesus calling disciples in Mark, and he will probably mention the sense of urgency in the second gospel. Any questions we ask about the text, its meaning, and why we let it speak to us today are theological. If we ignore these questions, we risk developing a vacuous faith, and an empty faith will not stand when pushed.
Many people grow up attending church but stop when they have the option to do so. One reason they stop attending is a lack of theological depth in their faith. Out of fear of being boring or a desire to be pithy, relevant, or hip, ministers often steer away from theology. I do not intend my comments as an indictment of any particular congregation. They apply to many churches and congregants.
If we recognize the need for theological discourse, then we can dip a toe in that water. There are many simple, short theological books. Getting together (on Zoom, of course!) with a group of friends and reading one of these books is a great starting point. Instead of having faith by momentum, this discourse feeds our faith.
Few Christ-followers will argue against the need for theology. The stumbling block becomes acting on that recognized need. Many years ago, before I was in ministry, I sat in the pew each week and listened to the sermon. One week, our minister referenced a study group he attended. In his sermon, he shared an anecdote from a recent group meeting. His description of the group was enthralling to me, so I called him and asked if I could visit the group.
That conversation was formative in my view of ministry and theology. He appreciated my interest but assured me that his group was not for me (or me for the group). He said, “All the members have PhDs in theology, so let me percolate on this and get back to you.” Twenty-four years later, he has not yet recommended a study group.
Years later, when I responded to God’s call and entered ministry, I realized that the best theology is accessible. Juan Luis Segundo writes about a personal God who connects with us in community with other believers. He once wrote, “We can no longer carry the burden of a theology that leaves us alone at dinner time.” We don’t need PhDs to discuss theology. We need an “absolute dependence on God” (Schleiermacher). We need a thirst to know God and understand what we believe.
Fancy phrases, unfamiliar names, and ten-dollar words are convenient. Yet, if we cannot all join the conversation, our theology is useless. We need theology today to undergird the kind of faith necessary to respond to a world in trouble. When we don’t understand something, we need a safe space to say, “I don’t get it. Please explain.” We don’t need exclusive groups to talk about God. We need to invite everyone to the conversation.
The world seems to be in trouble, yet God is still omnitemporal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Talking about a God who is in all times, all-powerful, all-knowing, and in all places is theology. I pray that we can talk about what all of this means. Everyone’s invited to that conversation, and I hope it helps us grow together.