Theological FAQ

Over the semesters that I have taught Christian doctrine and history, I have encountered several frequent questions, objections, and perceptions. I have found myself responding repeatedly to these. The following "frequently asked questions" and answers are adapted from students' and colleagues' real questions and my answers to them, as well as questions e-mailed from readers of my website.

The opinions are mine, and not necessarily those of my institution, local church, or denomination. Bear in mind that these are my most frequently asked questions. They are not necessarily the most important questions! I hope you find them helpful, even without the benefit of their original context. Please read (and respond) in the Spirit of faith, hope, and love.

Theology as a Discipline:

Why did you choose Christianity? Why choose a religion at all? Is religion a cop-out? How can the Christian God be thought of as good? (new 1/24/2005)

What does it mean to teach theology at a Christian liberal arts school? (new 3/14/2003)

What is the relationship between your faith and your scholarly work? (new 3/14/2003)

Theology (or the Bible) seems so complicated when we study it in class. Wasn't all this supposed to be for everyone, and not just for an intellectual elite? Can these details really be important, when most of the church isn't aware of them?

Why, if so many theologies go wrong, do we have to spend so much time studying them? (new 4/2/2004)

You confuse me in class and in your writing. How can you insist that Christians agree on some things, yet say it is okay to disagree on other things? Isn't that inconsistent? (new 5/10/2003)

Why do you talk about Jesus so much? (new 3/7/2003)

Why should I believe the Christian faith when Christians do so many evil things in God's name?

Theology as my own Profession:

What got you into teaching theology? (new 3/9/2003)

What's your story? How did you come to know Jesus Christ? Do you consider yourself "born again"? (new 3/14/2003)

What is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Does your academic career hurt it? (new 3/9/2003)

What's the deal with your name? (new 4/5/2003)

The Bible as History, Science, and Truth:

Should I trust my translation of the Bible? When there are so many competing translations, how can we trust one over another, and why should we believe your opinion over theirs? What is the best Bible translation?

If everything in the Bible is not literally true, then how can I trust it?

It really worries me how you are reading Bible passages I thought were historical as if they aren't. Which Bible passages are the ones that are true?

Doesn't a massive amount of creation science research support a literal reading of Genesis 1?

Were Adam and Even set up to fail? (new 9/19/2002)

If not all of the Old Testament's characters were literal historical figures, then wouldn't people like Jesus and Paul be in error to refer to people such as Abraham, David, and Jonah, even mentioning biographical details, in a way that doesn't seem figurative?

Church Practices:

My theological education exposed me to ideas I find refreshing and powerful, and I want to put them to use. However, when I expose my youth group to some of them, people get suspicious — especially parents. They only seem to want me to teach "the party line" that they already believe. What do I do? (new 7/6/2004)

I keep visiting churches, but I just don't fit. I always feel out of place. What am I supposed to do? (new 9/1/2003)

Does the Bible really affirm the ordination of women? (new 9/10/2003)

You describe yourself as evangelical. What do you mean by that? (new 9/8/2002)

You also describe yourself as Pentecostal. What is Pentecostalism about? (new 3/7/2003)

What is a "prophetic word"? Is it truly scriptural? Where is this mentioned in the New Testament? (new 9/15/2002)