Why study theology? Thinking beyond the box

Theology is not a bundle of facts – it is the possession of a Christian skill which can enhance life for the individual. This is the final article in a series of three by Thomas O’Loughlin, Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham.

Repeat anything often enough and not only will people believe it – hence the constant repetition of adverts and why so much energy goes into ‘building brands’ – but, eventually, people will forget that there are completely different ways of thinking about a problem. One of the duties of theology is to stop us in our tracks when those tracks have become ruts, and get us to look afresh at reality, our place in it, and what it is all about.

Here I want to consider just two situations where this applies.

Situation 1: Living in a post-religious world: Are people really not ‘religious’?
One of the most significant cultural developments of recent decades across the developed world is the number of people who reject any recognised form of religion, who say they do not believe in God or a god, or who ignore organised religion in their lives with the simple statement: ‘I’m not religious!’ Christians respond to this situation in a variety of ways. One obvious reply is to try to ‘convert’ them to accepting the traditional language, vision and practices of Christianity. After all, this is the basis of all missionary plans when missions were sent out in areas that had never heard of the Christ, and there they won many new people for the faith. So why should they not view the society around them as ‘a new pagan land’ and preach to such people?

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