I was recently engaged in an online conversation with a M.Div. student from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School about who should take the lead in theology: professors, pastors or laity. The student started the conversation as an informal poll asking the opinions of the readers. 41.5% of them voted in favor of pastors with 30.2% voting for both professors and pastors. Laity only received 9.4% as did professors by themselves.
As normal, my views differ from both the blogger (who is in favor of pastors and professors) and the majority of the readers. Namely, I argued that all THREE groups should take the “lead” in theology.
The term “theology” simply means the study of God – meaning that every time someone reads a Bible or talks about Jesus, that person is engaging in “theological studies.” The Bible also talks about how everyone is on equal footing before God (Gal 3:28). He pours outs His Spirit upon everyone who trust in Him and follows His voice – male, female, wise, foolish, old, young, Jews, Gentiles, everyone (Acts 2, Joel 2:28-32).
Jesus told His disciples (mostly a bunch of uneducated fishermen) that the Holy Spirit would “teach” them “all things” (John 14:26). Later on Paul reminds the church in Corinth that most of them were not “wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth…. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:26-27).
As such, perhaps we should just let God chose the people who teach us about Himself?
We should be open to allowing ALL people to lead in theology, whether that person is a pastor, academic professor or someone sitting in the pews. To say that any one group is to take the lead, is to replaced the Holy Spirit as the leader and director of theology with a false dichotomy based upon human standards.
Stanley Grenz and John Franke argue (rightly, in my view) in their book “Beyond Foundationalism” that all theology must be done within the community and not on an individual basis. Meaning that the type of theology that is good for one local body of Believers may not be the type needed by another group. This is why we need believers of all types (laity, pastors and professors) theologizing about and for the Lord.
Now, this does not mean that I do not respect or recognize the value given to the church by the scholar. The Bible is a collection of books written over thousands of years to people with totally different culture and worldview. We NEED professors and scholars to research the culture and language of these people so that we can understand the words on the page. However, we must not let this need override the biblical mandate for all Believers to listen to God and tell others about Him (i.e. to theologize).
In “Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis (who, we must remember, was a member of the laity and not a theology professor) says that God rejoices when each person serves Him at the fullest of their ability. If one is called by God to be a plumber who occasionally teaches Sunday school, then let that person be the best plumber / theological Sunday school teacher they can be. If the Lord calls someone to be a Bible professor, let that person be the best Bible professor they can be. The same for a pastor….
And may they ALL be active in their community for we, the greater Church, need everyone called by God (1 Cor.12:12-31).