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Do Full-Gospel Ministers Need Theology? by Larry Taylor

Before proceeding to a discussion of “good” and “bad” theologies, we need to distinguish three levels of theological investigation. Professional theology is conducted by trained scholars whose primary calling in life is to “search the Scriptures.” Their work is to provide interpretive and reflective material assisting the church in the contemporary application of Scripture. These individuals are rightly called “theologians.” A pastor’s theology (not to be confused with “pastoral theology,” a specific theological subdiscipline) includes the full range of Biblical and systematic ideas the pastor has derived from Bible study and the reading of supportive documents. What we shall call a parishioner’s theology consists of those ideas a worshipper has learned from others or from daily study and meditation, and the way he expresses those beliefs in conduct.

We are concerned here with the second level, a pastor’s theology. I believe it was in the spirit of encouraging a pastor’s theology that the Apostle Paul advised a young minister at Ephesus (Timothy), “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and one who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). With an eye to truth Paul added, “Preach the word!” (4:2). Martin Luther put it another way: “Peace if possible, but truth at any rate.”

III. Clearing Up Misconceptions:Good and Bad Theologies

Doubtless, a number of myths and misconceptions have circulated among ministers concerning the pitfalls of theological investigation. I would suggest, however, that there are good and bad theologies, just as there have always been good and bad leaders in the church.

History has proven emphatically that sound doctrines constructed on a solid Biblical and theological framework not only last, but generate life and fruit in the church. Conversely, when a solid framework is lacking, the very fabric of Christian belief becomes loosened, unraveling an endless thread of inflammatory and even heretical ideas. Invariably, those structures which have proven to be faulty have been developed independent of certain pre-suppositions which are basic to Christian theology.

As fearful as it may seem, all theology becomes practical sooner or later.

Three of these crucial tenets concern us here. First, God is wholly transcendent, but may be known in personal experience through the media of prayer, the Scriptures, and certain subjective or “existential” encounters.4 The orthodox view of God depicts Him as high and lofty, above full self-disclosure. He is the great “I AM” (or “I will be what I will be,” Ex. 3:14). He cannot be fully comprehended because “no man has seen God” (Jn. 1:18). Second, we can have accurate knowledge of God. Though limited, our cognition is verifiable.5 Still, our ideas remain perennially incomplete, since faith provides the warrant in our search for the inscrutable mystery of the Godhead (1 Cor. 5:7; cf. 1 Cor 13:9-10). Third, insight into the mystery of God is contingent upon the Creator’s willingness to disclose Himself to His creatures. In short, God has to speak before man can hear. As Barth put it, “without the precedence of the creative Word, there can be not only no proper theology, but, in fact, no evangelical theology at all”6–which, of course, includes full-gospel theology.

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Category: Fall 1998, Ministry, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Larry L. Taylor, M.A., D.Min., is Affiliate Faculty at Regis University in the Denver area and formerly professor of humanities at Portland Bible College. Larry Taylor founded a church in Colorado and has 17 years of pastoral experience.

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