Friday, April 22, 2011

Three Purposes of Theology

Lately, I have heard people indirectly talk about three different purposes for theology. The first is one of preserving the truth and continuing church tradition. The second is to try to see God better and the last is to enjoy God.

In my personal experience, the reformed tradition of Christian theology consistently promotes the first purpose. Other theological traditions may hold to this view, but reformed people tend to promote this purpose vigorously.

The second view is found in my personal journey with other students at Taylor. In our class discussions and paper writings, I have noticed that we have been clawing at the doors of mystery, looking for the lock and key so we can get in and see more of God.

The last view was opened to me by a friend who explained that because we have the blood of Christ and Christ lives in us, we have nothing to fear when doing theology. Rather, we have so much to enjoy.

These three views of the purpose of theology often try to contradict each other though no logical contradiction exists. There is no contradiction in carrying on the tradition of truth and enjoying truth. Nor is there a contradiction in trying to see God and enjoy God.

Often those who carry these individual purposes add on personal vices that inhibit their ability to appreciate the other two purposes. Those who claim to carry the truth often are afraid of trying to discover new truths that seem, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “puzzling or repellent.” Those who are trying to find that key hole to see God often are frightened of not finding it. They are needlessly weighted down by the anxiety of ignorance. Lastly, those who attempt to think theology is for the enjoyment of God look down on the past. They see tradition as something broken-down and impersonal. The first one is cowardness, the second is depression and the last is “chronological snobbery.” All three of these vices are not fit for God’s holy people and put a veil over the value each purpose has.

These three purposes are complimentary. How can one better enjoy God by digging into the thoughts of the great thinkers of the past? How can you be depressed at not finding more of God when you have already found God? Tradition, enjoyment and searching are three purposes of theology that makes the experience more fulfilling. Underlying each is the fulfillment of part of God’s purpose for man. He wants us to carry on the ideas of those who have gone before us. He wants us to search and discover. He wants us to enjoy him forever.

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