When using a word like “task”, we must ask what it is that we mean. Can theology itself perform something? Or, by task, are we referring to something that it leads us into? While the majority claims theology helps us understand the Bible, I’ve also considered that theology is for the next generation. If you want to understand your Bible, then read it. You don’t gain insight by reading what others say of it, but by reading the source itself. Theology could be to make the details of theology available to the people, who themselves are not considered to be theologians, and many don’t want to be. It isn’t about self, but about others. Especially over 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, we of all people should no longer be withholding such knowledge of God and His nature to the people of God.
While considering this issue seriously, I have a different answer still. The task of theology, which often is the question of why we study theology, shouldn’t be about passing it on to the next generation either. While that is a subsequent result of its task, I’m no longer convinced that it is the task in and of itself. Rather, the task of theology is to understand that we have touched heaven, and through messiah have been brought into a reality that is tangible. Our hearts were strangely warmed, and the expression of that heavenly reality cannot be denied.
Christian theology is not based upon philosophy. It is based upon truth. It is not based upon reason, but upon experience. While none of these things should conflict with one another, it is only too true of a statement that in many theological circles we’ve been denied the authentic thing for the discussion of that authentic thing. The keys to the kingdom have been received and locked in a small metal box, most likely stored within the catacombs of the Vatican somewhere, and one of the church fathers swallowed the key to opening that box. Now that we’re 1,500 years after those “fathers”, our generation is left to explore new ways of opening the box.
Because we believe in the messiah, or more specifically, that the messiah has come, we must believe that heaven and earth have kissed. “As in heaven, so on earth,” is not simply the prayer to recite. It is the life embodied in messiah, and it is the crux of the issue. As believers, we have tasted of both – heaven and earth are one within us. “We are in the world, but not of the world”. We are “ambassadors of heaven”, “seated with Christ in heavenly places”, and beckoned to “draw near”, having “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.”
As believers we have fellowship with these realities. The task of theology is the imperative participation in these realities. The task of theology is to explain the imperative participation in these realities. We are not interested in sound doctrine. We are not interested in “truth”. Intellectual truth is nothing more than trite truism. Yet, the authentic thing, that which is truly true, the expression of eternality itself, is what we’re desiring to partake, comprehend, and explain.
If our theology is merely a piecing together of various themes, and attempting to make them work together cohesively, we have missed the mark abominably. Every denomination and bend have their pet doctrines, by which they shove everything else through. This kind of filter pollutes rather than reveals. In all cases, other than unorthodox liberal theology, sin and depravity are continuously at the forefront. I suppose the reason is found in Hebrews 5 and 6, and shouldn’t be such an enigma. Even these believers were stuck in the “elementary principles”, a Pauline concept from Colossians 2 and 3, which describes the wisdom of the principalities and powers of darkness, that they might usurp and rule over religious man in a way that binds him to immaturity and tradition. While we quibble about such elementary things, the powers of darkness brood over our cities and countries, not content with the authority we’re only too quick to give them. These things we’ve devoted ourselves to, which are only shadows of the the things of Christ, ultimately meaning we’re discussing the discussion of the discussion of God, not finding the substance in Christ, “these things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the Body.”
We rob ourselves of our own humanity through depravity focused theology. The result of dehumanizing self is that we don’t even get to enjoy the benefits of human redemption. The thing that the angels desire to look into we forfeit, even after tasting of the heavenly gift, simply because we desire to continue to aver and banter over the milk, calling it meat, and never realizing our own immaturity. Instead of finding fullness, and coming into that Melchizedek priesthood, where we are under the new covenant, free from the bondage of such “elementary principles”, found in fellowship with God in the Holiest Place, perpetuating the faith of all the saints and greats of all generations, overcoming to a place where the world was not worth, no longer standing before Sinai, but now coming unto Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and ecclesia of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood sprinkled that speaks better things than that of Abel, we must wait for the redemption of all things, for which the creation currently moans and groans, because we’ve reduced being human to being beasts or even creatures.
By our unbelief we must watch as others enter in before us. The very glory that the Church displays in the book of Acts, which is ultimately the intention of God for all humanity from the foundation of the earth, is at best a quandary to us, and at worst something marked up as only for that generation. The task of theology is to take us past all of the mumbo jumbo that we’ve erected in the name of religion, thinking that our Gentile superstition was somehow correct, and that what we’ve now experienced in Christ is only an additive, or even supplement, to the already established pagan means of worship. No longer do we offer our children on altars. No, we do worse by making them two-fold sons of hell.
Theology is supposed to be the study of God, seeking Him whom we’ve been united unto. Because we’ve been brought into relationship with Him, and our hearts have beautifully been united unto Him, our biggest concern in theology would be to make the part stand for the whole, or worded more plainly, taking the worldly system and mindset that we’ve sucked down from our mother’s breast and calling it the same as God’s mindset and wisdom. Theology is about seeking “those things which are above, where Christ is…” Setting our minds “on things above, and not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” If you are dead, then, it isn’t an issue of putting to death, but of putting on life. We put to death our “members which are on the earth…” The point of theology is the recognition that we are no longer “of the earth”, and therefore must now live of a different culture – one that is of heaven.