In last week’s post, I addressed the first and second lines of the InFocus purpose statement. Today, I’d like to address the third line.
Our purpose is…
to develop the Australian blogosphere,
….to cultivate serious and useful discussion, and
………to develop a generation of readers, thinkers, and theologians.
The term “readers” here does not refer to the mere activity of reading, nor does it imply that everyone should be a “bookworm.” Instead it refers to a quality of character.
Perhaps the closest synonym is “learner.” Readers read because they understand that they don’t know everything yet. And the more they read, the more they realise that they don’t know much at all.
When I say “thinkers,” I am not suggesting that everyone should have a reflective personality. Rather, I mean that we take appropriate care to think things through.
Thinkers are people who do not walk away from an idea just because it isn’t easy to understand. Thinkers try to understand. They may not always succeed, but at least they try.
Additionally, thinkers are not content with poor thinking. When something does not follow logically, they seek clarification and if need be, reject it because they understand that an invalid argument is no better than no argument.
Again, when I say “theologians,” I am not referring to pastors. Nor am I referring to theology graduates. I am referring to people who have a systematic, working knowledge of Christian theology.
Such a working knowledge is unlikely to be gained by merely sitting under preaching. It will usually require some degree of systematic study.
Theologians can take any particular sermon, passage, or area of doctrine and at least have an idea of where it fits in the broader system of Christian theology. Because of this, they can discuss theology with others in a coherent and beneficial manner.
Theologians also have a framework around which to fit the things they are learning as they read and think.
While becoming such a theologian will not likely occur immediately after salvation, it is something that can be attained in one or two years of intense study or five to ten years of more sporadic study.
What would happen if…?
What would happen if we did not develop a generation of readers, thinkers, and theologians?
Christianity in Australia would begin to degenerate. Our theology would become shallow and twisted. Our theological debates would become incoherent and inane. Our pulpits would become places for guys to give their opinions.
We would become weak people who are susceptible to cultic thinking and practice. We would become gullible. We would end up fighting and dividing over doctrines we didn’t even understand.
We would end up discouraging our brightest minds from developing. We would lose those who did develop. We would see a diminishing in good scholarship and peer-reviewed publication.
We would become rigid and cantankerous. We would become legalistic and judgemental. We would become narrow and sectarian.
Our children would grow up knowing what to believe, but neither knowing why nor actually believing it. We would become focused on externals. We would begin to de-emphasise doctrine and emphasise “practical teaching.”
Eventually, we would have so neglected and reshaped theology that we would lose the gospel itself. If we were to not develop a generation of readers, thinkers, and theologians, there would come a day in Australia when our own children would grow up in our own churches and hardly even understand what the gospel really is.
What would be the fate of such a generation?
I shudder to think.