Doing Theology For The Church -- By: Robert L. Saucy

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 016:1 (Winter 1973)
Article: Doing Theology For The Church
Author: Robert L. Saucy

Doing Theology For The Church*

Robert L. Saucy

Talbot Theological Seminary, La Miraria, California 90638

Not long ago we were informed of a Sunday School teacher who had instructed his class on the doctrine of man in the image of God. In our opinion his conclusions on the subject were extremely questionable and so we inquired as to the source of his understanding. What had he used for a guide to help in the study of this area? The response was that he had only been using his Bible and a concordance. Now obviously, these sources are central to the task of expositing God’s truth. But the question still may be raised with such a reply: Why was there no use made of some of the many theological discussions of the subject? With a minimal amount of time, this teacher could have compared his thinking with many who have investigated this subject far more extensively than the average church teacher is permitted. But he didn’t, and his case is all too typical.

This example is not to cast aspersions on the many faithful teachers in the evangelical church. It is rather to point to the evident fact that theology (and we are here using this term for the various theological disciplines) is not seriously penetrating the church. To be sure, the church is not totally barren of theological concepts, but these often come from sources other than the traditionally recognized theologians. The result is often something less than the finest of evangelical theological thinking and at other times rampant confusion bordering on false doctrine. In a report of a simple biblical literacy test conducted by a pastor for the adults of his church, 635 had to be classified as biblically illiterate. There was complete confusion as to the number of converts baptized by Jesus ranging from none ( which is correct) up to 300,000. Jesus was listed as living in the time of Julius Caesar, King Saul and King Solomon. For the two great commandments, the seventh commandment prohibiting adultery received several votes. (Thomas R. Pendell, “Biblical Literacy Test,” The Christian Century, October 21, 1959, p. 1213). While the test concerned primarily Bible knowledge, it can be safely said that theological questions would have fared no better. The tragedy is that there exists not only a situation of biblical and theological ignorance, but that which is undoubtedly its correlative, a lack of concern on the part of many for theology.

A lengthy apologetic need hardly be made among theologians for the necessity or desireability of theology in the church. However, this necessity has not always captured the imagination of the general church member.

*The Presidential Address delivered December 27, 1972, at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theologica...

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