November 26, update: This post is in response to thoughts like this: “I’ve just been informed that one cannot be a Barthian and a Christian”(overheard at the BHT).

Theologians do not merely amplify, refine, defend, and deliver to the next generation a timeless fixed orthodoxy. Rather, by speaking from within the community of faith, they seek to describe the act of faith, the God toward whom faith is directed, and the implications of our faith commitment in, for, and to a specific historical and cultural context.
The fundamental Christian faith commitment to the God revealed in Jesus is unchanging, of course. But the world into which we bring this confession is in flux. As a result, theologians function in a mediatorial manner.”

-Stanley J. Grenz Theology for the Community of God, pg 12

This is going to come as a shock to the anti-emergent and “truly reformed” crowd out there, but to do theology is to be missional. The task of the theologian is not to defend the truth from “the flooding tide of the liberal culture”. Rather, it is the theologian’s task to discover the means, method, attitude, and vocabulary to articulate and manifest the unchanging truth of Jesus, his death, resurrection, and coming again to the liberal culture, or whatever cultural mindset the church finds itself in.

Now before you go letting yourself off easy with some, “I’m not the academic type; I’m not into theology” excuse, let me quote Grenz again:

“Every Christian is a theologian. Whether consciously or unconsciously, each person of faith embraces a belief system. And each believer, whether in a deliberate manner or merely implicitly, reflects on the content of these beliefs and their significance for Christian life.

The biblical documents themselves provide the foundation for this close connection between faith stance and theological reflection. The scriptures encourage is to think through our beliefs in order to understand the extent to which they express our personal and corporate commitment (erg., Matt. 22.37; 2 Cor. 10.5; 1 Pet. 3.15). When we move beyond mere haphazard reflection on faith and consciously seek to articulate out belief systematically, we step into the discipline called ‘theology’.”

Theology for the community of God, pg. 1

In simple terms, have you ever tried to explain who Jesus is, or what a passage of scripture means? Then you’ve done theology. To be a Christian means theology is your bag.

Theology is essential to our mission as the Church, which is an extension of Christ’s mission. We are the mediators of Jesus to the world. As flawed, broken, willfully sinful, and depraved as we are, the Spirit of God still sees fit to use us to bring the unchanging, timeless truth of “the faith commitment to Jesus” to a world at war with God.

“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

-2 Corinthians 5.11-21, ESV

In essence, the only reason we have theology is that the world might know Jesus. Too often, I have heard/read “theological defenses of Biblical truth” that are nothing more than some one railing against everything that is not within their denominational tradition. Even though no one will come right out and say it, the underlining thought is “if you’re not like me and my brand of Christian life, well then you’re just not very Christ like, and I would question your salvation if the Bible didn’t tell me not to!” Arguments of this nature belong in the same place as the turkey in your fridge will go in less than a week: the rubbish pile and/or the sewer. Do we think about who Jesus is and what the Bible is saying so that we can have an inter-faith war of traditions or so that we might be ready to tell the enemies of God about the hope that consumes our personal live and our cooperate identity.