Thursday, May 17, 2012

You Don't Need To Be an 'Egg-head' to be a Theological Thinker

Don't be an 'Egghead', you might break!
Trained theologians clearly have their place for the church of Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 4:11ff), but, of course, not all Christian folk are going to be 'trained theologians'. This is a constant tension for me though; my desire is for all Christians to learn to think deeply and theologically about all of life. To inhabit the life of Christ by the Spirit so much, that we cannot but help to interpret all of life's circumstances through the lens of Christ's life. And yet, I so often don't see people moving in this direction; it isn't that everyone needs to be up on all of the cutting edge theological discussions, but it is that all Christians are commanded and exhorted to quit thinking like babies, and in fact grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. So I have this tension; I want all people to be theologians, but I have to balance this out with the realization that not all Christians are called to be professional (so called) theologians. Thomas Torrance provides some good balancing words on this kind of tension:

[I] have been wonderfully blessed with a mother and a wife who have a profoundly Christian, and indeed a remarkably theological, instinct. My mother had little academic training in theology, but her life and her understanding were so tuned in to the mind of Christ that she knew at once where the truth lay and was quick to discern any deviation from it. This is also very true of my dear wife, who is imbued with an unerring theological instinct, evident again and again in her reaction to ideas put forward by preachers or teachers. At the end of the day that was the test I put to my students, as I read their essays and examinations or listened to them in the chapel. 'Has this person a genuinely theological instinct or not? Is his or her thinking spontaneously and naturally governed by the mind of Christ?' That is much more important than being theologically learned, much more important than being able to offer a formal academic account of some doctrine or historic debate in the church. What really counts in the end is whether a person's mind is radically transformed by Christ and so spiritually attuned to the mind of Christ, that he or she thinks instinctively from the depths of their mental being in a way worthy of God. [Thomas F. Torrance, Atonement, 445]

I similarly, like Thomas, am blessed with a dear wife who has these theological instincts. It is this kind of 'tacit knowledge' (another theme, or the same theme that TFT is appealing to here with his 'instinct knowledge') that we come to as we are in a submitted, even repentant posture towards our God through Christ, because we indeed love him (because he first love us in Christ I Jn. 4.19). Torrance's perspective is one that I must always keep before me; the goal, for the edification of the saints, is to equip them in ways that help to cultivate a life of instinctual, Holy Spirit given, Christ conditioned 'lights' that are constantly being switched on throughout our daily lives.

Not everyone is called to be a professional theologian, but everyone is called to love God in Christ. And cultivation of this call will result in this kind of instinctual discernment that lays everything at the feet of Jesus before proceeding (whatever it is). It will be a life characterized by utter dependance upon the One who raises the dead, such that life will only make any sense (in every waking and sleeping moment) as it is lived from the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ. The ground of this instinctual knowledge of God is found nowhere else but in the gracious and loving demonstration and reality of that in the mediatatorial humanity of Jesus Christ 'for us'.

Do you have this kind of theological instinct? If not, why not? It is time to get moving, the days are short, and the coming of Jesus is at hand (cf. Heb. 5--6 & Heb. 10:24ff).


  1. I have this theological instinct at those times when I yield to the One who lives in me, in whom I live and move and have my being!

    Have a great weekend with your family, Bobby!

    1. Thanks, Jerome ... yes, it is in 'those times' that this instinct can only be present :-).

      Thanks, you have a good one too, brother!


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