Why does training people for urban ministry matter?
Why bother joining our #TrainBC programme and studying for Union’s GDip?
Why get involved in talking about theology?
A lot of people who are keen to share the Gospel and see urban churches planted are just desperate to get on with the job. Theology is seen as complicated and a distraction from knowing and preaching Christ.
To start to answer those questions I want to ask one more:
What do these five things have in common
1. About 300 or so years after the death of Jesus, a guy called Arius says that Jesus wasn’t really God. He was just a super special created being. Athanaisus, a bishop from Alexandria opposes him, he insists that for the Atonement to be effective, we must talk about God incarnate. Jesus was fully God, co- equal with the Father.
2. Not that long later, a chap called Pelagius is insistent that our eternal future is down to our own effort. Only those who are good enough will get to heaven. ” No” says Augustine. The Gospel is all about God’s grace.
3. Many years later John Calvin and Martin Luther take their stand against a corrupt and superstitious church hierarchy. Their answer to the corruption? Simply, justification by faith alone.
4. It’s the 20th century and a teaching is catching like wildfire. It promises that if you have enough faith, what ever you name, you can claim from God. All around the world, Christian pastors take stand against this ” Prosperity Gospel.”
5. In the first few years of the 21st Century, Steve Chalke and others argue forcefully against the statement that Jesus died in our place, bearing our punishment. This, they claim makes God into cosmic child abuser. Mike Ovey and others respond. This crass, offensive statemet apart from a sickening revitalization of the real suffering experienced by many young people gets who God is wrong, misrepresents the trinity, twists Scripture and ignores the witness of faithful believers through the ages.
What do they have in common?
1. They are all about theology. You see, Theology is at its simplest about how we know and how we talk about God.
2. They were big issues. These were not just minor differences. Each one went to tge heart of what the true Gospel is. False teachers were wrong and dangerous because as Athanasius, Augustine, Calvin and Ovey recognised, they had got their theology wrong.
3. The false teachers often claimed to be simply stating what the Bible believed. They would love people to see it as a choice between their simple biblicism and the complex theological theory of their opponents. The problem was that they were taking Bible verses out of context and reading them in a way that contradicted other Bible passages. The theology of orthodox teachers here was not a different alternative to Bible teaching, rather, it was Bible teaching down properly, in context, joined up.
You see, we all have a theology. We all have a systematic way in which we try to describe God and know him. The question is not whether or not we do theology, it’s whether or not we do it right.
Theology done properly enables you to stick in wit h your calling to make disciples for the long haul. It enables you to spot error quickly and respond to it. It enables you to give deep and lasting answers to pastoral problems. It enables you to think carefully about how to organise and structure a church. It draws you deep into God’s Word and moves you into praise.