Theology the task of the community of faith

I often wonder why theology is something that is intimidating to church members, and why there seems to be an apparent lack of it.  I was thinking about this about why this is so.

I and others (i.e. Nick and Bryan) have not gone to Bible College, or Seminary, (read about that at Bryan’s blog).  We each had our reasons, but it made me think as to why there is not enough theological training within the local church.  After all doesn’t it belong in the church?  I understand that the church will never function in the true academic sense of what theological scholars do, but nonetheless, should it not play a vital role in it’s theological teaching at the local church?  If so to what extent?

This brings me to Stanley Grenz, I think he is stating the same thing, that it does belong in the church.

Stanley Grenz in his book “Theology for the Community of God” says:

Theology, then, is the task of the faith community; it is a community act. Theology is the Christian community reflecting on and articulating the faith of the people who have encountered God in God’s activity as focused in the history of Jesus of Nazareth and who therefore seek to live as the people of God in the contemporary world.  Ultimately, then, the propositions of systematic theology find their source and aim in the identity and life of the community it serves.  In fact, we need no other rationale to engage in the discipline than our participation in the church.  And as Theodore Jennings rightly notes, theological reflection is reflection “on behalf of” – on behalf of a community, a tradition, a world.  – Stanley Grenz p8

I know that this is one major reason I blog I don’t get enough of this “Faith Community reflecting on and articulating the faith with people who have encountered God”  God bless you bible bloggers!


10 thoughts on “Theology the task of the community of faith

  1. That’s basically the outlook of the early church fathers. For them academic study was always done in the service of the church. Whether we read the apologists like Justin Martyr, or the great orators like John Chrysostom, or top notch theologians like Origen, we’ll always find that they wrote to edify the body, to defend the faith, and to bring glory to God.

  2. My ¬¬¬¬own take is that the teaching of theology is a vital part of the ministry of the Church. It is impossible to understand, teach or defend sound doctrine without it. Without such sound doctrine, our faith becomes a mist of feel-good platitudes, and we are blown by every wind that comes along. My own branch of the church (the Episcopalians) have been disastrously afflicted in this way. Also, as Bp C. FitzSimons Allison described in “The Cruelty of Heresy” worshipers become like that which we worship; we become like God as we understand Him to be. If we are to become more like reality instead of like unreality, it is important that our understanding of God be more attuned to who He is. I need to worship God as He is, not how it pleases me to think of him.

    One of the basic principles of Biblical (and I would argue, theological) understanding is that the Bible must be interpreted in community. This means mainly that it is not an issue for private interpretation, but my “insights” must be tested against yours, Luther’s, St. Augustine’s and the rest of the saints here and there, now and then. The church, the local community is the first and most obvious place to begin.

    But the caveat is that, at least in my understanding, theology does not point to itself as the goal of Christian life: It tells me that the world will not recognize the Savior by seeing ‘how much they study one another’ but “how much they love one another” In fact, I would trust theology less if it did proclaim itself to be the just goal and highest purpose of Christian endeavor. Theology must never be the end, but a tool. We would be, and often have been, fools to reject this tool, but a tool it must remain. All should value it and know how to use it. Some should master it. But it is a tool, not a house.

    In my parish church we have a program we call the “SJD School of Theology” mostly to differentiate it from the Traditional Bible study. We are now into our third year, and exploring the development of doctrine through the history of the Church, with always the Holy Scripture as the starting point.

    -R. Eric Sawyer

  3. “I know that this is one major reason I blog I don’t get enough of this “Faith Community reflecting on and articulating the faith with people who have encountered God.”

    YES! Thanks for this post!

  4. I would agree that theology is the task of the community of faith. But I don’t think that implies that it is the task of the local church to the exclusion of other bodies. There is in fact a danger in putting too much emphasis on it being the task of the local church – the danger that it becomes controlled and abused by a class of clerics, as happened in the mediaeval church. The best antidote to this danger is the continued existence of groups of theological scholars who are believers and church members, so within the community of faith, but not constrained in their theology by the institutional church.

    • Peter, I agree but it seems that the pendulum has swung in such a way that is lacking in the local church. I believe strongly that we need professional theologians to assist the church. But I also believe that theology should be taught at various levels in the church. I am personally indebted to those that have chosen to be professional theologians, and extremely thankful for them as I benefit tremendously from their books, and lectures, which I in turn give back to my church through teaching.

  5. Robert, this is a great post. I’m all for theology, but properly packaged for the average person in the pew.

    We don’t have to use the terms to bring our people along. We just need to teach on their level, al a Martin Luther, one of my dead heroes.

  6. I think the community of faith is catching on, especially in the younger generations. The way I see it is that theologians and pastors need to teach and train up lay people to be teachers and leaders of others. If this is done in the church, we won’t have to worry about the professionalization of clerics.

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