Roger Olson has recently written three posts on the importance of theology, and of professional theologians, for the life and health of the church. He addresses popular misconceptions about theology, confronts the (evangelical) church about its neglect of (and sometimes even disdain for) theolgy and theologians, and makes some helpful suggestions for moving forward.
I resonate very much with what Olson says. So many of our churches are shallow, owing in large part to their ignorance of theology. Such ignorance represents poor stewardship of our minds and of the gifts of certain members of the body of Christ (namely teachers; I don’t mean pastors and preachers generally here). Young people today see right through this shallowness. They want to ask the tough questions and are tired of the cliche, how-to, self-help, 5-easy-steps, or “the Bible says” (without deeper reflection about how we ought to read and interpret the many types of literature represented within the 66 ‘books’ that make up the [Protestant] Bible) kinds of easy answers. Sadly, few in the church are initiated into the kinds of intellectual and spiritual disciplines and practices necessary even to begin to understand and address those questions. We need theology, in Olson’s understanding of the term, to do that. And we need theologians.
I have to say — I am thankful that in my own experience of church, my vocational goal to become a theologian was affirmed and valued by my congregation. I was involved in leadership, participated in shaping church vision, and received encouragement and even financial support to pursue my PhD. My congregation valued my vocation, even though peole did not always understand what it was really about. May such wisdom continue and spread in the church!
I highly recommend Olson’s posts, for all Christians, but especially for lay church leaders who want to take their role of leading God’s people seriously and wisely. Here are the links: