A week ago I shared with you the start of a new series called “Blue Collar Theology” (to see the rationale and goals behind this, please see the first post). These posts are not intended to be long commentaries but rather short, helpful resources to encourage everyday Christians to take up the task of theology and for church leaders to foster and facilitate such noble pursuits. Before we begin thinking through and exploring ways to enhance BCT (Blue Collar Theology), we need to ask ourselves why it is important to study theology in the first place. We live in a day where the study of truth does not seem to fit into the busy schedules of American believers. Our conversation and mental attention is quite short, and we are prone to look or answers in a fast, easy, and efficient way. However, committing oneself to studying theology will not be found enriching and rewarding to him who looks for easy answers with little investment over a short period of time. One particular passage that should help orient ourselves to the things that really matter in life comes from the book of Jeremiah in which the Lord said:
“Thus declares the Lord:
‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom,
let not the mighty man boast in his might,
let not the rich man boast in his riches,
but let him who boasts boast in this,
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love,
justice, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these things I delight,
declares the LORD.'”
In the 21st century, there many a men who are rich, strong, and wise according to the world’s standards. However, God’s people are to be known precisely because they know God. This knowledge is not simply theoretical or abstract, but experiential and life-changing. Indeed, there is an intrinsic relationship between bad theology and immoral lifestyles, but more importantly, God so delights in us knowing and boasting in Him that He has chosen to make Himself known to us through His Word and in His Son. Our God is the self-revealing God whose divine disclosure is not a secret to be decoded but a truth to be understood and obeyed. He has spoken to us and told us what He is like, what He has done, and what pleases Him. If God has so revealed Himself through propositional truths in ways that we can know and understand Him, should we not make it our life’s ambition to be growing in that knowledge and sharing it with others as good stewards?
You see, there will be a lady in your office who will ask, “Where was God when the bridge fell in Minneapolis?” There will be an atheist roommate in your dorm who will be seeking out the purpose and meaning in life. There will be a stay-at-home mom who will be daily digesting new-age theology from Oprah Winfrey and other talk show hosts and will want to know if Jesus really is the only way. A man in the break room at the local assembly line is wondering if cheating on his wife really is a sin. Finally, across the street and at every corner there will be men and women, boys and girls, who have heard a false gospel or created their own works-based salvation who need to know the truth about sin, judgment, wrath, the cross, grace, atonement, justification, and eternal life.
These questions and conversations have been and will continue to take place. The question is whether or not the answers we give them have been distilled through the study of Scripture or some other source outside of God’s sufficient and totally relevant Word. The question is who will give them an answer. There is no better witness for the gospel in everyday society than blue collar missionaries, and there is no one who can make the truth more accessible to them than blue collar theologians.
As a conclusion to this post, let me recommend to you some resources that speak to the importance of the task of theology, including historical perspective, challenges, and limits as well. Although this is just a starting point to doing theology in today’s world, I think these resources will be particularly helpful for you.
Recommended Reads for Theological Prolegomena:
1. Herman Bavinck – Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1 (just massive – 600+ pages)
2. John Frame – The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (especially part 3)
3. Richard Lints – The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology (very helpful)
4. Charles Hodge – Systematic Theology vol. 1 (especially ch. 1 and 2)
5. Louis Berkhof – Systematic Theology (pages 18-127)
6. Millard Erickson – Christian Theology 2nd ed. (Part 1: pages 17-176)
7. B.B. Warfield – Selected Shorter Writings vol. 2 (pages 207-288)
8. David Wells – No Place for Truth, or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (excellent read)
9. Bruce Demarest and Gordon Lewis – Integrative Theology (pages 21-58)
10. Gregory Thornbury – “Prolegomena: Introduction to the Task of Theology” in A Theology for the Church ed. Daniel Akin (pages 2-70)
11. D.A. Carson – Scripture and Truth (intermediate read)
12. Wayne Grudem – Systematic Theology (pages 21-46)
13. Robert Johnson (editor) – The Use of the Bible in Theology: Evangelical Options (varying perspectives in this volume)
14. Alister McGrath – The Genesis of Doctrine: A Study in the Foundation of Doctrinal Criticism (intermediate read)
15. Kevin Vanhoozer – The Drama of Doctrine: Discovering the Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (intermediate read)