7 Aug 2007

On Becoming Theologians

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bobby's World, Discipleship, Faith, Hebrew Bible, Ministry, Mission, Prayer, Preaching

On Becoming Theologians

When the word “theology” enters a conversation many Christians simply tune out. Perhaps the figure of an ivory tower hermit comes to mind or a person who has little interaction with the real world. Whatever the reason, it seems to be a fairly common opinion among some that the most irrelevant people in the world are theologians.

This opinion is astonishing when we realize that some of the most intense “real world” folks have been incredible theologians. Some of the great ones include Moses, the author of Job, Huldah, Amos, Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Argula von Grumbach, Alexander Campbell and Martin Luther King, Jr … these theologians, though not all equal, have left the world a better place.

Theologians, far from being irrelevant, are among the most relevant people to live.Theologians are folks who take the word of God and integrate it into the world and situation in which they live.Indeed I would submit that all Christians are called to be theologians.The theologian of the heart of God, Hosea, suggests that a great cancer eats away at the people of God when they do not have “knowledge” of Yahweh.

There is no faithfulness, no love (hesed), no acknowledgement of God in the land” (Hosea 4.1b)

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6.6)

A theologian, Hosea seems to be saying, is not simply a person who can offer up a sanitized list of “omni” words.Rather like Hosea himself a theologian is one whose encounter with God has been incredibly deep, frightfully intimate, and pathologically painful. Hosea clearly demonstrates that God wants something besides careful rituals and sacrifices … the theologian has come face to face with the One who unapologetically shatters the idols of our world.The theologian is one who knows that God is the beginning, God is the middle, and God is the end. Theologians know that God will put us through hell in order to give us the grace of his intimate presence … to experience him as Hosea should have experience Gomer.

Hosea was molded, shaped and transformed through his experience of God. He became a theologian. As such he became the incarnation of the heart of God to his time and to his people. He, quite literally, became the message of God to a people who knew about commands but knew nothing about the heart of God.

We too are called to be people who “know” God. We too are called to be theologians in our day. Do we so “know” God that we are the incarnation of his message to our world? We can no more escape our vocation to be theologians in our world than Hosea could escape his.The problem today is the same however as in 735 BCE. We have many with lists of facts and can recite doctrinal rules. But where are our theologians? Where are the people who have come to “know” God as Hosea did?

Perhaps our reason for casting theology aside is not that it is irrelevant but that it is so costly, so challenging, and so painful. But Hosea considered everything rubbish for the sake of knowing and experiencing Yahweh. May we do the same … our world desperately needs it.

Dear God grant me courage to come to know you and become your theologian in the world.

Stoned-Campbell Disciple

On Becoming Theologians Part Two can be read HERE

14 Responses to “On Becoming Theologians”

  1. Falantedios Says:

    Whew… that’s brave talk. I try to talk that way too, but we have a lot of brothers and sisters that do not believe anything of the sort about Moses or the prophets or the apostles, or even Jesus. They didn’t do theology, they just spoke or wrote the plain, unvarnished words that God whispered into their ears to say or write.

    It is a long, patient, loving, challenging battle to encourage growth in our family’s understanding of inspiration.

  2. ben overby Says:

    So true, Bobby. I especially like you comment regarding all Christians being called as theologians. If we took that on as part of our identity, imagine what a difference it would make! Theology shouldn’t be looked upon as an aloof specialty, but the one angle from which all the rest of the world, all the specialties are critiqued and understood. That is, the truest of humans ought to view all the “ologies” through a grid informed by God as seen in Jesus.

  3. Steve Puckett Says:

    One of the best things I read in my Harding Graduate days was Helmut Thielicke’s A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. Got my heart started in the right direction.


  4. Frank Bellizzi Says:

    Real, active mission always makes for theologizing.

    People speak of, say, “Pauline theology.” Sounds fancy. But where did it come from? It came from a guy who was attempting to inform, correct, and nurture the people who had come into Christ as the result of a mission.

    People who are workers for the Lord invariably turn into theologians. If a “theologian” isn’t involved in the life of a congregation, the work of a mission, (s)he does not deserve a hearing. On the other hand, people who work hard as evangelists and pastors deserve to be heard by the churches. They are the ones whose ears are conditioned to hear the Word of God for today.

    The problem we have is the huge divide between academic (heavy, meaty) theology and churchly (light, artificial) theology. Bridge that divide, and you’ve got a healthier church.

    By the way, Bobby, I think you’re one of those people who’s doing what I’m taking about (the good part, I mean). I say, More books written from the preacher’s study, and fewer from the ivory towers.

  5. AncientWanderer Says:

    Most people don’t realize that all philosophers were theologians.
    Most of those who have developed psychological/counseling theories were theologians.

    Just stopped by to let you know I’m still alive.

  6. preacherman Says:

    Excellent post Bobby. I too, like your regaurding all Christians as theologians. May we all know God more and more. May we make a difference in this world. I remember reading a story about Mother Teresa. A person wrote and asked her how he might make a difference in the world like she had made. She actually wrote him back. The only thing she wrote on the letter was, “Find your own Calcutta.” Bobby this post is inspiring. It is inspiring to know that we all can make a difference. We all can be theologians were we are in life and make a difference in the Kingdom.

  7. Danny Says:

    I never thought necessarily of Hosea as a theologian.

    Great practical take on this topic. If we all really understood theology like you have described we would glady embrace being a theologian.

  8. hamiam Says:

    Rather like Hosea himself a theologian is one whose encounter with God has been incredibly deep, frightfully intimate, and pathologically painful.


    A theologian does not merely sit in the comfort of a pew a couple of times/week – church involvement is only the tip of the iceberg. What is below the surface, and the core of that theological iceberg is a person who sings with gusto, “Pierce my ear, oh Lord my God…a free man I’ll never be.”

  9. Niki Says:

    Very good points Bobby! We are so blessed to be a people who can not only read the Word for ourselves, but we can and should live it as well. Being in the presence of God transforms us and how can we not wrestle with theology when we are prompted to do so in so many ways?

    I loved the reply of Mother Theresa mentioned in an earlier comment. “Find your own Calcutta”. That’s awesome! Truth from a woman who lived out the Word.

    I’m always glad I’ve stopped by here. Keep talking brother! 😉

  10. Candle (C & L) Says:

    The end of the matter is this “Fear God and keep his commandments”. I like your take on theologians — If we know God it is because we have gained knowledge about him and knowledge comes from “hearing” which involves study of one form or another — and isn’t that what theology is.

    Alas, as Frank says — there are too many who look to the academics as the only theologians and end up in extremes — accepting their conclusions without any study of your own or “dismissing” the need for serious study because I can read it and it’s as plain as the nose on your face (not saying anything negative about your nose dear brother!!)

    God Bless

  11. CL Says:

    Good stuff Bobby! One thing that I also have learned more recently as I am in my community among all types of people is that folks with interest in “spiritual things” believe that “christians” should know their bibles and be “theologians” not experts but at least know and know well of that which they speak of. Sadly, the church has taken a black eye because it’s people don’t know scripture and do not fulfill their roles as theologians. Shalom!

  12. cwinwc Says:

    I remember Randy Harris describing theology as “looking for a needle in a haystack, in the dark, while wearing boxing gloves.”

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Bobby,

    You may be way off-base..A theologian is someone who believes that rational inquiry is a route to understanding God, correct? If so, I would argue that theology is more an examination of people’s /reactions/ and /interpretations/ of God than it is a study of God itself, by virtue of our relationship to Him.

    God makes it fairly clear in the Bible that trusting our own sense of what constitutes “rational” should be avoided — Doing so misses the point completely. All people, even theologians, can’t help but look through eyes clouded with sin, and the natural imperfections and fallibilities inherent to man.

    Wandering around in foundationally flawed conjecture doth not a theologian make. 🙂 Understanding God through human eyes may akin to understanding global economics through the extensive and pains-taking study of Price Is Right–You’ll glean a few insights, but walk away at the end of the day thinking every car in the world is given to people based on their ability to accurately price bars of soap and cans of chili.

    The way I see it, your understanding of God is purely that–Your own understanding. God wants us to know and listen to him and only him, not a theologian, a pope, a priest, any other form of supplimental third-party interpreter or “authority”. It’s intended to be a 1:1 relationship, but combined with others. The combined understanding of all of us that constitutes what we know of God, same as a snapshot of global economics includes everything from international banking to lemonade stands. A collection of experiences versus a sole pursuit.

  14. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    I think you missed my point. We are called “know” God. A dictionary might define a theologian as one who studies “theology.” Turn to “theology” and we learn it is the “study of God.” Thus a theologian is on who “studies” or “comes to know” God.

    We are all called to “know” God. Hosea makes this abundantly clear. Christians should be people who “know” God and thus theologians.

    But that is just my take on it, 🙂

    Bobby Valentine

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