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Speaking of Theology

Theology is “thinking about God.” When I attend church, I want to be surrounded by other people who are practicing and processing their theology.

What is theology anyway? Is it a word for sophisticated and complicated descriptions of God? Not at all. Theology is a good word. My theology professor in seminary, Dr. Fisher Humphreys, had a great definition of theology: “Theology is thinking about God.” And everyone who thinks about God is doing theology.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
There are many other definitions of theology. Dictionaries define theology as the study of God. Theologians Grentz and Olson say that “theology may be defined as the intellectual reflection on the act, content, and implications of Christian faith.” Dr. Dale Moody described Christian theology as an effort to think coherently about the basic beliefs that create a community of faith around the person of Jesus Christ.
 
Of course, there are different kinds of theology. If you take an interest in reading theological journals, you will find numerous typologies such as pastoral theology, systematic theology, historical theology, evangelical theology, orthodox theology and reformed theology.
 
I think of theology in two important categories: folk theology and academic theology. Both are extremely important.
 
Folk theology is the theology of lay people. Folk theology is forged out of the experiences of life, the study of Scripture and reflection on God. During my childhood and adolescence I was fortunate to have Sunday school teachers who were excellent folk theologians. They had never been to Bible college or seminary, but they had a rich knowledge of God that came through experience and personal study.
 
In college and seminary, I was privileged to study under some of the best academic theologians. These individuals had given their entire lives to “thinking about God” with all of the vast resources of higher education. Most of these professors have a deep personal faith in God, but they talk about God and think about God in a vocabulary that is much more specific than the jargon of folk theologians.
 
We need folk theologians to dialogue with us, partner with us and encourage us on our faith journey. We also need academic theologians to assimilate the resources of geography, archaeology, biblical languages and history into a coherent system of beliefs.
 
When you read the Bible and think about God, you are doing theology. When you hear a sermon and think about God, you are doing theology. When you say your prayers and think about God, you are doing theology. When you face the challenging circumstances of life and think about God, you are doing theology. When you stand in awe of nature and think about God, you are doing theology.
 
Theology is “thinking about God.” When I attend church, I want to be surrounded by other people who are practicing and processing their theology.
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.