Theologically “Right”

“All theology is pastoral theology.” Douglas Moo nailed it.

When our thinking about God becomes divisive among the people of God it does violence to the character of God. The Lord hardly takes pleasure in it. Can you imagine parents taking delight in their children debating and dividing over “what mom and dad are really like or really think”?

Perhaps if we believed that all theology—all “thinking about God”—should serve a pastoral purpose, not an intellectual one, we’d be more humble, less stringent, more compassionate, and less rigid.

Pastoral CareThe real reason for thinking anything about God is that we might live differently and better mediate the Presence of God to each other and the world. The sovereignty of God should not strike fear but confidence and hope. The justice of God should lead us to greater integrity, fairness, and forgiveness. The grace of God should motivate gratitude not complacency.

All theology is pastoral theology, or should be.

The word “pastoral” alludes to shepherding. It reminds us that theology is less about “being right (correct)” and far more about “becoming right (whole)”. It should help and heal, restore and reconcile.

Truly good theology opens our ears, not closes our minds. It softens the heart, not hardens it. It draws us together, not divides us. If it fails on these fronts, it fails almost entirely.

I’m not suggesting that we cannot probe each other’s theological conclusions. But perhaps the ultimate test of “good theology” versus “bad theology” is not intellectual logic or exegetical acumen but soft humble hearts. Spiritual arrogance serves no-one well. It may win the debate or conquer the opponent, but it closes a door that the Lord would surely prefer we open.

How do our thoughts about God bring hope, healing, grace, and joy to those around us? How does our theology guide us to love more deeply, live more fully, and serve more sacrificially?

Good theology cares.

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17 Responses to Theologically “Right”

  1. Fanny Nyamutora says:

    WA! what a writing. Many times we win discussions, but does that help anyone. It only makes the winner bigger but God has lost in building relationships needed between Christian brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you brother Tim

  2. hwy41 says:

    Thanks David. I really appreciate this week’s post. I had not previously thought of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s charism – we live and work to bring all people into union with God and with one another – as pastoral. It certainly fits though. To paraphrase the Sisters’ Jesuit founder, Jean-Pierre Medaille, “I love Love, and let Love love through me.”

  3. Ed Skidmore says:

    I love the idea of Pastoral theology. This is right on target. Theology should not divide Christians. THANKS FOR THE INSIGHTS! Ed

  4. Amen, brother, on the latest. Great thoughts.

  5. toni.dunning@verizon.net says:

    The need to always be “right” seems to be at the heart of self-sufficiency, which can be very close to pride…slippery ground for all of us especially when cutoff in the kingdom results.

  6. Beth Smyth says:

    Thank you David for the challenge/reminder – what is my goal, to “win” or move people forward in their relationship with God through sharing. Miss you guys muchly. Beth

  7. Phil McKinley says:

    During my study at Hope University, I most enjoyed my courses from Reasons to Believe. I will have to admit I was in a bit over my head at times; however, I was pushed to study and challenged to think. Hugh Ross, a founder of the Reasons Institute, was especially helpful. What about him was so helpful? He was so confident in what he was teaching, yet he was so gracious to those with whom he debated. I had never seen anything quite like that. Great lessons there for me. 1 Timothy 4 tells us to watch our lives and doctrine closely. It is, therefore, very important to be right for Christ glorified God by making credible all these words in the Bible. We must also be generous in our listening because listening is the key to learning, especially keen listening engage in by the one who must instruct and rebuke. Mr. Ross struck me as an expert listener, not just an expert scientist and/or preacher.

  8. David Timms says:

    An “expert listener.” That’s something for us all to aspire to. Thanks, Phil.

  9. saminathan sami says:

    Dear David Timms Good morning sir thanks for you good message sent me i am happy and i am very useful of your message ple pray my ministry work daily i pray for your family.

    Ragards Sami

    On Friday, October 11, 2013, Because of Grace wrote: > David Timms posted: “All theology is pastoral theology. Douglas Moo nailed it. When our thinking about God becomes divisive among the people of God it does violence to the character of God. The Lord hardly takes pleasure in it. Can you imagine parents taking delight in t” >

  10. Thanks for your thought provoking blog. I think that the essence of all New Testament Theology is first and foremost relational – pastoral as shown by Jesus. Someone once said that all good theology should come from our Christology – what the Good Shepherd revealed.
    Thanks again.

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