Lazy Theology

By Graham Glover

I’m a stubborn person. According to my wife, I have a tendency to be too stubborn. “You need to lighten up” she says from time to time.

I admit that I could “chill out” of some things. I’m no care-free, fly by the seat of my pants type guy, but I know that life doesn’t always need to be so serious and intense.

However, on one issue I will not budge – I will not back down from my stubbornness. On it, I am adamant. That is, theologians should NEVER be lazy in their practice of theology. Pastors, professors and teachers of theology, even those who instruct our youth in Sunday School or adults that lead bible studies, etc., have no excuse in theological laziness.

Let me be the first to admit that I am guilty of this “sin” I decry. More times than I’d like to count, I have ill prepared a sermon, bible study, or confirmation class. (I have even committed the more heinous sin in waiting until the last minute to pen my weekly Jagged Word article!) And every time I offer the gifts of God to those entrusted to my theological care without careful preparation beforehand, I am wrong.

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The proclamation of the Word of God, be it in the pulpit, classroom, or in other means, is the first discipline. It is that which defines everything else we do. If those who proclaim it are lazy, then the words that they proclaim will be of little use to their hearers. And to the best of our sinful ability, this should never occur. We proclaimers owe it to the Lord of the Church who called us to our respective positions, our time and attention. To neglect things like sermons, classroom instruction, theological essays, and the like, is to neglect our call. It is to neglect the Lord.

I’m not suggesting that every sermon and time of instruction demands hours on end of preparation. No pastor or teacher could do this. But we cannot lose sight of the reality that when theologians are lazy, our people are lazy. When pastors throw together a sermon on Saturday night, his parishioners are bound to be fed a simple message, with little substance. If there is some theological meat to the message, it is likely that it will be theologically disjointed or even theologically wrong. When teachers treat a lesson as an afterthought, saying things like, “I’ve taught this lesson a thousand times”, the wonder contained in the Holy Scriptures and unpacked in the history of the Church, can fail to penetrate the hearts of those listening. It’s not that our preparation makes the content better. Our time in study does not transform our words into something different. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes what we proclaim great. But if we do not prepare, if we do not give due diligence to our theological task, our imperfect minds are that much more likely to distort what we proclaim.

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Few, if any, of us are above reproach on this topic. Life’s demands have pulled all of us away from our theological discipline. Try as we may, such demands and our own sinful laziness will continue to prevent us from doing everything we should in our theological preparation. Thanks be to the One we proclaim that forgiveness is ours and that our missteps will not be counted against us!

Yet we are wise to remember that this cannot become a habit. Theological laziness cannot become the norm. For when it does, the message of the Gospel is all too often made into something it is not. The freedom we have in Christ becomes confused for something else. The hope and promise that is ours, won for us on the Cross and in the empty tomb, is jumbled in a sea of confusing and ill prepared commentary.

So get to work my theological peers! Penetrate the Scriptures. Relish in the writings of the Church Fathers. Delve into the history of our Lord’s Church. Spend time doing these things as you prepare to offer the goods of Christ to His people. And proclaim them with the passion that He has for us. It is a proclamation our people deserve. It is what God has called us to do!

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7 thoughts on “Lazy Theology

  1. One way to avoid lazy theology, and lazy behavior in other serious undertakings, is to follow what I call my “2C” rule. I use this rule especially when writing chords and lyrics for Christian gospel songs and ballads I compose from time to time. I play them in simple Fingerstyle on my acoustic guitar, primarily as part of morning devotions. The two “C” rule is; Consecrate/Concentrate. First, you willfully and sincerely consecrate the endeavor to the Lord, and ask Him to guide you. The work or activity is consecrated to His glory, not our own pride. Secondly, the “concentration” part is where you focus on the task with undivided attention, removing distractions like television, background music, people, silly thoughts, and anything else which takes away your full attention. That us my own rule. The “2C” rule. Trust me…it works.

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  2. G2 –

    When pastors throw together a sermon on Saturday night, his parishioners are bound to be fed a simple message, with little substance. If there is some theological meat to the message, it is likely that it will be theologically disjointed or even theologically wrong.

    Good post – the only “potential quibble” – the sentences above. But I get what you mean perfectly – don’t be half-assed ready when you step into the pulpit Sunday morning. AMEN to that a thousand times over!

    I never wrote before Saturday. That did not mean I hadn’t done my preacher’s dozen and outlines and exegesis and all of that or whatever it’s called now, before then (usually done beginning the Monday before – my “day off”)). But I was a parish pastor. It was my task not only to preach the Word in its fullness, but also . . . to realize that events within the parish on Thursday or Friday might give me reason to adjust it to fit the moment, so to speak

    Lost a faithful member late one Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Got the phone call about 1am and headed to the family’s house. Sermon had gotten the “Amen” about 8pm Saturday evening. Didn’t sleep that night. Computer got a work-out. The death of that member was Law/Gospel personified that next morning. I did not merely have the product of my proper pastoral, homiletical efforts in the pulpit – the reality was there in front of us all!

    All of us had the Incarnation dropped completely and vividly in our laps that morning. If waiting all week to do one’s proper work is not intentional with a specific constructive purpose, then yes – you are spot on. That’s extremely bad form. I started the work on Monday (my day off – did/do we really get a day off?) But I always did the final manuscript middle/late Saturday evening.

    But your words bear heeding by us all!

    Thanks for the serious reminder to all of us WCWs. We need it.

    Pax – jb

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    1. JB, thanks for your reply. Great comments and very helpful in clarifying the point I was trying to make. Thanks again!

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