Theology is your collected thoughts about who God is and what God is up to.
If you are reading this essay, you probably have a few thoughts about God. You are already a theologian.
Your theology is made up of your knowledge, opinions, and understanding of several topics. These topics are often called doctrines. Do your doctrines fit together? Do they contradict one another? Are they held in tension like a timing belt in your car? Are they informed by Scripture? Do they line up with or contradict the thinking of other people in the church (living or dead)? Good theologians ask these kinds of questions of themselves and others.
But why does it matter if you are a good theologian? It is important because striving to be a good theologian is an act of loving God and neighbor. At College and Clayton Press, we study theology because we believe God is our gracious creator, sustainer, and savior. Making our best attempt to understand God is an act of loving God.
Theology can lead to the love of neighbor because at the heart of theology is God’s relationship with creation, particularly God’s relationship with humanity defined by the gospel of Christ Jesus. Understanding this relationship is crucial because the way God interacts with us should affect how we interact with the world around us. Theology is both knowledge and practice. It is an act of loving God that should lead to loving our neighbors.
We study theology because it should be the dominant lens through which we encounter the world. Our theological framework is built from Scripture and confirmed by the gospel. This theological framework should deliver the final verdict on how we interpret everything around us. Of course, our theology will also be informed by our experiences, education, intuitions, family, friends, community, and a host of other factors. Our goal is to develop a robust theology that always refers back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is this gospel-centered theological framework that should be the foundation of our actions, reactions, and opinions.
We study theology because something else will fill the void if we do not. Something else will become the lens that delivers the final verdict. The sad fact is many communities in American Christianity have ignored the serious study of theology in the 20th and 21st centuries. The results have been disastrous. In some communities, the prevailing winds of culture have situated themselves where theology should properly be. As a result, it is difficult to tell these Christians apart from the general society. Other communities have allowed political ideologies to occupy a space that should be claimed by theology. Unfortunately, some communities who claim Christ allow their political inclinations to overrule clear biblical principles. Political loyalty should not be more important than loyalty to Jesus and his teachings. For the Christian theologian, Christ is our identity not our political party.
Because something will fill the void, it is imperative that we take the initiative and develop a robust theological framework that can both inform and withstand the world around us. Some people are fortunate enough to be able to go to a seminary or divinity school to study theology. For most of us, we study theology as “arm-chair theologians” or with small groups of friends.
At College and Clayton Press, we want to provide you with quality materials in the many branches of theology to help you develop that robust theological framework.
We provide titles in historical theology where we can see how Christians from the past addressed the issues of their time. We inherit their insights and language. However, because we are doing theology in the real world, our theology will always need to address the modern world. We can let those lessons from the past inform our theology, but we still must address the world’s issues today.
Relevant theology is never done in the abstract. To quote a saying often attributed to 20th century theologian Karl Barth, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.”1 That’s good advice. We learn from past luminaries. We learn from their insights and their mistakes. A good theologian always looks back to those who have come before, but addresses the situations of today.
At College and Clayton press, we want to produce works in both systematic and practical theology that will directly address our lives in the present.
To help you build a robust theology, we offer titles to address specific doctrines and ways of arranging these doctrines together.
To help you develop the character of Christ as you build your theology, we offer titles to address discipleship, spiritual formation, and spiritual maturity.
To help you address the issues of today, we offer titles that address issues like race, sex, and community.
At College and Clayton Press, our desire is to provide you with resources to do theology well.