Keys for Everyday Theologians – By Colin Harris
People of faith sometimes hesitate at the suggestion that they are by definition “theologians.” The word tends to conjure up an image of an ordained church leader or an academic professional with formal training in the field. And, to be sure, such persons have carried the discipline of theology in a formal way through the generations, providing a structure and basis for the church’s understanding of its faith.
Also, the accumulated work of formal theologians is massive to the point of being overwhelming to many people who attempt to delve into it. Its complexity can easily dissuade those with casual interest and even those required to study it.
But there is another level of theological thinking that goes on in the life and mind of every adherent to a faith. It usually does not lead to formal expression in a systematic way, but it becomes the working understanding of what one’s faith means and how it is lived in real time. It is to this kind of theological thinking and to those who engage in it that the author offers this “set of keys.”
These basic suggestions do not delve into the depths of the doctrines of the church or explore the nuances that have accompanied the Christian tradition. There are resources aplenty for anyone who wishes to explore those avenues and their many-faceted interpretations of the faith experience. This set of keys is more basic, but no less important. They provide helpful access to the rooms of theology and a perspective for dealing with what is found there, so that the encounters can be a healthy and wholesome part of the faith journey.
Colin Harris is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Mercer University, where he taught for 36 years. Previously, he taught at Meredith College and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and he continues to teach an adult class at the Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga. He is an alumnus of Mercer, Southeastern Seminary, and Duke University. A native of Decatur, Ga., he is married to the former Faye Gardner of Augusta, Ga., and they have two children and three grandchildren.
Mike Sims (co-author of the study guides) is an engineer and a lay leader in the Grace Episcopal Church of Fort Wayne, Indiana.