Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Seminary-ese." "Theology-ese" "Denominational-ese"

"Seminary-ese." "Theology-ese" "Denominational-ese"

Over at revgalblogpals the Ask the Matriarch question was posed by a first year seminary student. The student asked the question about how much of the seminarianism, or use of the "ology", "ation" words, Greek and Hebrew they were going to have to learn and know? They were struggling with the new language they were having to study and learn, but was it all necessary in the long run? The revgal Matriarchs have some very good answers for the student.
I thought I would google the question to see what I could come up with. Not much, to say the least. If you yourself have some thoughts you want to add, please put them in the comment section. If you know of some other resources add them too in the comment section.

I remember struggling with it all too, having gone from a state supported university to Seminary. I was totally lost the first year trying to make heads or tails of it all. All the while my brothers who got their BAs from Christian colleges were just sailing along. (I went when very few women were getting MDIVs.) And I thought some of them took some of it too seriously, and I probably didn't take some of it seriously enough.

With this person's question, I wondered can we teach laity theology, without dumming it down and making them feel like dummies? Has anyone done that? Apparently yes, there are a couple of books on theology for laity, no "Theology for Dummies" though. Seminaries are offering courses to laity on theology and other subjects. Would the laity be interested? Yes, I think they would.I don't think though we need to go spouting theological language just to show we know it, but can use it in a way that is helpful. (the School of Theology for Laity (STL), in Dallas, Texas Since 1978 the goal of STL has been to expose members of local churches to the leading theological minds of the day. Begun by Joe and Nancy Stalcup and members of the East Dallas Christian Church (DoC) the School is now housed at Brite Divinity School of Texas Christian University and is known as the Stalcup School of Theology for the Laity.)

Bill Muehlenberg in the article"Defence of Theology" offers 20 reasons why Theology matters. He writes" I admit that theology is not the be-all and end-all of the Christian life. There are plenty of people who have theological degrees coming out of their ears, but show little of the spirit of Christ. We all know of loveless and Spirit-less Christians who have a great deal of theological knowledge and understanding. Thus I am not arguing that if we just devote more attention to theological training, we will all turn out to be ideal Christians. But what I am saying is that without some proper theological grounding, we will be left blowing around by every wind of doctrine, as Paul warns about (Eph. 4:14,15).Thus theology alone is not enough. But neither is an uninformed faith. Faith and reason go together. Right living and right understanding need to go in tandem, Orthopraxis needs to be married to orthodoxy. We need to love God with our mind as well as our heart." I think Bill is on to something, it is both heart and mind."

Okay so just what is theology? Literally, it is derived from a combination of two Greek terms meaning "a word about God."θεος, theos, "God", + λογος, logos, "word" or "reason.(See Theology in Wikipedia.)The Catholic Encyclopedia defines Dogmatic Theology.Ken Collins has a small glossary of Theology.Biblia. Com has a page on Theology,Cokesbury offers to The Christian Believer as part of its Disciple Series. which is a little of the content of the central teachings of the Christian faith and its ties to Scripture. It emphasizes the head and the heart.The Presbyterians offer a Theology 101 on their website. (Where is the theology 101 on the UMC website?)
Want some reading resources?Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem and Elliot Grudem
Simply Christian by Tom Wright ISBN:0281054819, SPCK
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis pblished by HarperSanFrancisco; Harper editionDogmatic
Theology For The Laity by Rev. Matthias Premm
Christian Theology by Emery H. Bancroft,
Basic Theology by Charles C. Ryrie
Lectures in Systematic Theology by Henry C. Thiessen
Erickson, Millard J. Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996.
A Theology of the Laity by Hendrik Kraemer, Westminster Press

The Armchair Theologians Series written by various authors on Luther, Augustine, Reformation, Wesley, Calvin, Aquinas, Barth published by Westminster John Knox Press is a good introduction as well. (I have been reading Wesley for Armchair Theologians.)
The Light and Life is the bi-monthly (6 times a year) newsletter of the Rosary Confraternity. It contains feature stories and quotes from prominent church leaders, notifications of upcoming events, as well as a regular article entitled Theology for the Laity. Newsletter titles are taken from the theme of this article, which is geared to better daily living of the gospel.
There are also quite a few blogs on Theology. One of my favorites is Faith and Theology, who has a series on Theology for Beginners. It is a must read!
Theology Blogs contains a list of blogs that blog about Theology.
I want to add a little about my parents. My mom was an R. N., she grew up in a family of readers, bright people, enquiring minds, teachers and educators. My dad grew up in the opposite, they were salt of the earth people, blue collar, hard workers, simple believing people. As they grew in their faith and marriage they became voracious readers of the bible, commentaries, and religious books. My dad became as learned as the best of them. They did not hold us back from growing learning and achieving. When I went to seminary, they would express interest in what I was learning, and often would try to find books they could read to understand what I was learning as well. When I transferred to the United Methodist from the Southern Baptist, they read all they could to understand and support me. Eventually my father left the Southern Baptist to join the United Methodist. He could not convince my mom to do that. He is dead now. Mom is still going to a Southern Baptist Church, and at the same time attends the Presbyterian church my sister serves as a Christian Ed Director. Mom has read what she can about the Presbyterian church as well. I don't know that they understood everything, and given the day and time they did not have the resources we have today. But they were willing to learn, and willing to ask me questions.I say all that to say, don't let yourself be threatened by the words, degrees, writers of theology. Do all you can to be well informed, so that you can love God with your heart and mind.


Sally said...

thanks for this! a challenge to us all is to take the deep things and make them plain... we have a good teacher in Jesus!

Marty said...

What a wonderful discourse on theology. I tend to be a world religion type, that is, trying to understand what it is about those who acknowledge Christ but choose to stay within the culture and faith in which they were raised.
I often revert to a saying that the great Catholic mystic/monk, Thomas Merton said: "I met a Buddhist monk today and I think he is the best Catholic I've ever met" (or words to that effect). Point is, the "theology" we embrace is a very personal thing; something that sways one this way or the other about the specificity of faith in God.
I so dearly respect the views of those of different cultures, but only wish they would learn to accept Christ's position on the relationship with the great Godhead...."my yoke is easy, and a light burden to bear".
Some "theologians" get far too intellectual to be moved by matters of the heart. I agree that the matters of the heart are more important.
I think that's what you were saying...but I could err.

revabi said...

To those who linked to this post revgalblogpals, or found it and read it, I apologize. I had the worse time with blogger yesterday. It ate parts of my post, linked links that weren't write, had people writers of books they didn't write, and all kinds of things. I deleted the post, reposted with corrections and darn it if blogger didn't do the same thing again. Tried to correct the new post, but nothing changed. I finally gave up, and decided I would repost today. So sorry for the mistakes and bloggers consumption needs.

I have really enjoyed reading the posts with the differing views. It is helpful to see both sides. Good discussion.

DannyG said...

I've just finished the "armchair theologians" John Wesley. I thought it was pretty good for a layman, I didn't get too lost along the way.

Dana said...

Another important part of theology (and church history) is not reinventing the wheel. I remember that when I first learned about Calvinism, I really struggled with it and finally decided that even an all-powerful God wouldn't HAVE to predestine some people to hell (which I had a hard time with, as it seems anathema to the idea of God's all-encompassing love) if he decided to limit his omniscience in granting people free will. Still uncertain, I asked my pastor about it, and he said, "Oh yeah, that's part of the teaching of Arminianism." At first I was disappointed because I thought I had this novel idea, and someone else had already thought of it. And then I was annoyed cuz it took me several weeks of uncertainty and prayer and study before I arrived at this idea. Why didn't someone just TELL me about it?! *laugh* I suppose the prayer and study through the uncertainty strengthened my faith, but still...

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you thank you!!!

From someone in the midst of ologies, isms and ations... :)