In the words of Bruce Waltke to Carolyn James:
“Carolyn, if you’re going to be a theologian, be a good one.”
Carolyn wrote this in one of her books, but I’m too lazy to go and find the original quote. Yet it has always rung true with me because I’ve equated it with my T.F.Torrance encounter.
So, perhaps it’s time to see what my Mac Dictionary thinks about the subject and see how well I measure up to the title:
- Theologian: a person who engages in or is an expert in theology.
- Theology: The study of the nature of God and religious beliefs
OK. I engage in theology. I read theological works regularly. After all, Dr. Sherry MacKenzie—my favorite theologian—chastised a whole class of would-be-theologians, saying: “Most students leave seminary never having read through Calvin’s Institutes” — I took him up on the challenge and read Calvin’s Institutes – cover to cover – over the course of a year. However, ten years later, could I tell you one thing about those two massive volumes? Unfortunately no. I know I know, I’ve had several men tell me they found the Institutes to be very devotional. But perhaps that was the problem – it’s a very manly book. Here’s what I often do after this type of theological reading: I pray, God, perhaps you will bless me anyway. Also, if possible, I try to find at least one thought or sentence to retain in my memory. I’ve become OK with reading a book only for one great take-away sentence or thought.
Sorry for the tangent. Back to the subject at hand. Am I theologian?
Perhaps this will score me some points: About four years ago I read texts on a particular controversy going around in my own Christian circle (some actually thought of it as the current heresy). So, I read at least two FULL books on that subject – pros and cons – straight from the horses mouth – and also from the mouths who rejected said horse. I will now admit, I came away from that theological exercise feeling more confused than when I started. And, often I find myself coming up empty in many ways—and dare I say it—even spiritually dry.
So does reading expert theologians make me (or you) a theologian? Because if reading the experts and understanding them (key issue here) made one a theologian – I’d have to hand over my theologian title immediately. (Not to mention even using a word like “sorta” would automatically exclude me from any and all theologian clubs. Surely.)
So, what was it that Dr. Torrance saw in me that made him think I was a would-be-theologian? I wish now I would have asked him, instead of just standing there dumbstruck. Because now I am left to figure it out for myself.
Of course, the best place to figure anything out is Scripture – prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in your quest. So, I’ve come up with two verses that ring true (dare I say: ‘to me’) when contemplating what a good theologian looks like.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
1 Corinthians 15:10:
But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.
In part three, yet to be written, I will attempt to justify why I picked these two verses out of the whole of Scripture to describe a good theologian.