This week, guest blogger Adrian Dewar shares his reflections on our recent ‘Why Theology?’ seminar.
I wonder what you think of when someone mentions the word ‘theology?’ According to the Oxford Dictionary theology is ‘the study of the nature of God and religious belief.’ However, I’ve always thought of theology as being an intensely complex subject pursued only by academics and church ministers. A subject which has little relevance to everyday life. Not surprisingly then, it’s been a subject that I’ve avoided.
Recently, I heard the word ‘theology’ mentioned quite a lot in different contexts and my interest was aroused. So when the opportunity came to attend the ‘Why Theology?’ seminar with Dave Horsfall, from Leeds School of Theology and Mosaic Church, I thought I’d go along.
The seminar turned out to be a small but mixed gathering of people with Dave at the centre of proceedings. Some of the time Dave spoke to us and some of the time we discussed points in small groups.
First, Dave talked about why theology is important. He said that it helps us to respond to God in the right way and to people in the right way and he gave some examples from his own life. Then Dave gave guidelines on how to do theology well. He mentioned that we should do it with a humble heart and with others who do not necessarily have the same views as we do. Humility helps us avoid becoming big-headed and doing it with others with different beliefs avoids becoming dogmatic and narrow-minded. For example, even church leaders have different views from each other but it is still possible for them to work together and care for the people they oversee.
Towards the end of the seminar Dave asked us to consider what truths a person needs to believe in order to be saved. Many suggestions were made ranging from a need to believe in God through to a need to believe in the Devil. It turned out that an apparently straightforward question had a rather complicated answer.
Finally, Dave held a question and answer session on the Apostles’ Creed. One question that was asked was why Pontius Pilate’s name appears. Dave answered that Pilate was a historical figure and he is there to remind us that the Creed not only speaks of spiritual truths but of actual historical events.
As I’ve reflected on the seminar since, I’ve drawn a few conclusions. First, I believe it’s important for us to discover the truth for ourselves and form our own views. At the same time, we also need each other even when considering the basic truths. Other people’s views and perspectives can broaden and deepen our own understanding of the truth as well as keep us on the straight and narrow. Also, theology is not just about studying to acquire facts or considering transcendent truths. Theology can bring heaven down to earth where the truth can change you and your life. And you don’t even need to be a theologian to do it. Perhaps, most importantly of all, I enjoyed it and found it fun.
Now at this point I will make a disclaimer: I haven’t yet started to study theology but I am considering if and how I should. Some say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but I’m willing to give theology a go especially as I believe “it’s never too late to learn.” So how about you? What do you think when someone mentions theology? Are you willing to give it a go?