Wednesday 23 September 2009

John Stott on Theology as a Multidimensional Discipline

John R.W. Stott, ‘Theology: A Multidimensional Discipline’, in Donald Lewis and Alister McGrath (eds.), Doing Theology for the People of God: Studies in Honour of J.I. Packer (Leicester: Apollos, 1996), 3-19.

For years I tried to teach theological method to third-year degree students at London School of Theology. I had a sevenfold scheme moving from exegesis through the various theological sub-disciplines (biblical theology, systematic theology, etc.) to discipleship. My headings were wordy, complicated, somewhat earnest, as well as a little tentative here and there.

Then I came across this essay by John Stott on theology as a ‘rich, multidimensional discipline, which demands a cluster of complementary responsibilities’ (4), and his six characteristically clear headings:

1. Christian theology is biblical theology (theology and revelation)

2. Christian theology is historical theology (theology and tradition)

3. Christian theology is systematic theology (theology and reason)

4. Christian theology is moral theology (theology and ethics)

5. Christian theology is contextualized theology (theology and mission)

6. Christian theology is doxological theology (theology and worship)

He concludes:

‘One might sum it up by saying that Christian theology is a serious quest for the true knowledge of God, undertaken in response to his self-revelation, illumined by Christian tradition, manifesting a rational inner coherence, issuing in ethical conduct, resonating with the contemporary world and concerned for the greater glory of God’ (17-18).

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