An Approach to Doing Theology (Part 4)

27 Mar

How ought we to “do” theology in today’s world?  What should be the steps that we can follow to insure that we take both issues and the Bible seriously?

This semester I’m teaching a course entitled “Theological Methods and Issues.”  This upper-level seminary course has thirteen students who are presenting two papers each on topics they have chosen.

We have already looked at STEP #1 entitled STATING THE TOPIC. We are to clearly identify the underlying issue, then state the topic which we are addressing.

STEP #2 involves FRAMING THE QUESTION which leads to a process of inquiry.

The THIRD STEP in our THEOLOGICAL METHOD is IDENTIFYING THE IMPORTANCE. Dorothy Sayers had much to say about how we have trivialized theology, failing to see the drama of doctrine!

“We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine — ‘dull dogma,’ as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man — and the dogma is the drama. . . . This is the dogma we find so dull — this terrifying drama which God is the victim and the hero. If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore — on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certifying Him ‘meek and mild,’ and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”

The FOURTH STEP in our THEOLOGICAL METHOD is SURVEYING THE HISTORICAL OPTIONS.  What we mean by this step is that most questions we research have had their predecessors.  That is, prior eras have grappled with many of the same issues that plague or confound or challenge us.  As my friend Bob Ferris says, ‘Few, if any, questions are novel.”

For this reason we can benefit from the work of theologians of past generations.  One writer says, “We must remember that the Holy Spirit too has a history.”  What he meant was that God the Holy Spirit has led and illumined God’s people in studying critical issues of the Word.


1.  Why do we seem to have so little concern for what theologians prior to our present generation have thought?

2.  We can easily become enamored with what some have called “neophilia” (= a love of the new).  What older theologians have you been reading — and on what issues?


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