Friday, 3 August 2007

Transforming theology

I read recently the outstanding collection of essays entitled Always Reforming (ed. A.T.B. McGowan; Leicester: IVP, 2006). While there are a number of particularly outstanding essays, I was struck by the recurring theme of the necessity of the theologian himself being changed in the theological task. In Gamble’s essay on Systematics and Biblical Theology, he notes that ‘… “theology”, by its very nature transforms the student’ (emphasis added). Of course the theologian must be self-aware in other ways also (their cultural and epistemological presuppositions that they bring to the text; the need to do theology within the community of the church, etc.), but it seems to me that the primary concern of the theologian in the theological task is to sit under and be changed by the Scriptures, which ‘judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’ (Heb 4:12b).

This has really come home to me lately in wrestling with some work I’m doing on John Owen. In the stress of formulating a research method and seeking to identify and define a particular issue to address, I have been aware that I have slipped away from being transformed by the very task of theology. Of course studying Owen is not the same as studying Scripture, but both he and I share the same goal – to glorify God and declare his greatness as revealed in his Word. I think I need to spend more time on my knees as I read.

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