Everybody is a theologian…whether you think so or not.
At Corban, in theology class, the first book we read was called “Who Needs Theology?” This book was intended to defend the practicality of going and learning “theology” in order to grow in one’s faith.
It was a good class, and it was a good book…here are some takeaway points that I learned from this book.
A) While the word “theology” sounds like a fancy, complicated word, it is actually quite simple. In today’s language, “theology” simply means “what you believe.”
B) Everybody is a theologian. (Everybody believes something, and everybody has some reason why they believe it)
C) There are five different “levels” of theology, and you don’t want to be in the first or the fifth. They are: Folk theology, Lay theology, ministerial theology, professional theology, and academic theology.
Let’s review what each level means, in my own words.
Folk theology: They believe what they believe, and there’s nothing that’s gonna change that. So there.
Lay theology: They believe what they believe, and they have reasons for it.
Ministerial theology: Typically, in terms of Christianity, this is the level of somebody who has pastoral training. They believe what they believe and they have reasons for it…and they have given it great thought because, as teachers and pastors, they have to know how to explain and defend their position.
Professional theology: This would be the level of a professor or a Dr, a “teacher of teachers” if you will. While a pastor’s/teacher’s job is to learn enough to teach well AND to take care of their congregation/students, this person’s job is strictly the teaching of theology…they are not compensated to take care of any congregation’s practical needs, they are paid to teach, and therefore they must be knowledgeable enough in theology to teach the teachers.
Academic theology: “Deep” complicated theology that has no real purpose or value in the real world. The question “how many angels can dance on the pin of a needle” is the best-known example of academic theology.
How do we avoid folk theology? The answer is…the rule of “if.”
Any belief that is worth its salt must be “disprove-able.” What I mean by that is this…there must be a reason that this belief is held, and therefore, IF that reason is not true, then the belief is not true.
“Carson, are you saying that we Christians shouldn’t be SURE in our faith? That our faith is disproveable?” No, don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that we should be less sure in our faith, I am implying that we should be MORE sure in our faith because we know why we believe it.
This “rule of if” is not something that the Bible directly tells us, but it is something that is noticeable in the Bible. Observe:
Deut 18:22 (NIV)
If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
1 Cor 15:12-19 (NIV)
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
See, our faith plays by the “rule of if”. Our faith is “disproveable.” If anyone can find an unresurrected corpse of Jesus of Nazareth, pierced hands and feet, then our faith is null and void. If you can find and confirm Jesus’s body, then Christianity is false – there is no way around it.
However, if you CAN’T find that body, then Christianity could very well be true.
So in ANY debate, ANY belief should have a “disprove” button…what would disprove that belief? If the belief has no “if” that would disprove it, then the belief has no salt.
Why do you believe in Jesus Christ? Because the Bible tells me so (in other words, if the Bible didn’t say so, you might not believe it).
Why do you believe that the Bible is accurate? Because a million different manuscripts say the same thing (if ancient copies from Alexandria and ancient copies from Sinai said different things, I would not believe it was accurate, I would believe that someone changed it).
Why do you believe that the Bible is the word of God? Because we dated a prophecy to be written exactly word for word 200 years before it actually happened, so there is something supernatural there. (The “suffering servant” passage in Isaiah explains what would happen to Christ. Hey, guess what? It happened. And the Dead Sea Scrolls contained a whole scroll of Isaiah.)
These are just a few examples.
(By the way, in many cases, the “disprove” button is not accessible anymore. For example, although many might disagree, let me say that “disproving” creationism or “disproving” evolution is out the window…we weren’t there, and the interpretation of evidence on BOTH sides is colored by the biases of the interpreters. So we will never be able to “prove” or “disprove” that one.)
Next post: God isn’t obligated to prove Himself, yet He never seems to ask for faith before He DOES something. Wow.