The Importance of Reading Theology

It is claimed that Karl Barth used to tell his classes, “No one dare do contemporary theology until they have mastered classical Christian thought.” I find this to be a very compelling thought. The past forms the land we currently find ourselves in. If we don’t understand how it has developed, we cannot fully understand our present circumstances. Today’s church did not arise out of a vacuum nor do we do contemporary theology in a vacuum. We build upon the great hearts and minds of theologians that have gone before us. The difficulty is undertaking this challenge is the sheer amount of works to be read. There’s Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Anselm, Barth, Brunner, Aquinas, the early Church Fathers, Wesley, Zwingli, Torrance, and others. There is just SO much to read that Barth’s charge is almost impossible. And yet, little by little, I find that eventually, I’ll get there. Not overnight, but slowly nourishing myself with the great theologians that have gone before us and strengthened the church. We need not re-invent the wheel . . . we only need to make it better.

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