Sundoulos - Spring 2013

Dean's Column

by Clinton E. Arnold

A number of years ago as he was getting ready for school, my 11-year-old son came into my bedroom and said, “Dad, I have a question for you.” Expecting some trivial question like, “Have you seen my shoes?” or “Where is mom?” I was surprised by his earnest query, “Is there something I could do that would cause me to go to hell?”

Although I was in full gear getting ready for the day ahead, I recognized the importance of the moment. I stopped what I was doing, gave him my full attention, and began dialoguing with him about this question. For the next few moments, we talked about “theology.” But contrary to common stereotypes of theological discussions, this was no dry, dull, or “in the clouds” kind of conversation. Nor was it irrelevant and detached from real life. My son was genuinely worried, and the question he raised had life-altering implications.

Theology deals with the ultimate and difficult questions of life. It is God’s perspective on life. And it is perfectly reasonable to expect that God would communicate to us how we should think about him and live in accordance with how he made us. J. I. Packer has whimsically noted, “As it would be cruel to an Amazonian tribesman to fly him to London, put him down without explanation in Trafalgar Square, and leave him, as one who knew nothing of English or England, to fend for himself, so we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it.”

Many Christians go through life thinking, “I don’t need to know about theology.” But, in fact, they already have a theology. Everyone does, because everyone has a set of beliefs about God, but not everyone has a

properly informed theology. Many people would have an answer to the question my son posed, but their responses may be rooted more in opinion than in fact. My son wanted to know what God would say.

Most people have an opinion about what has gone wrong with humanity. They also have their thoughts about God, who Jesus is, and topics such as heaven and hell, angels and demons. But not everyone’s opinion is equally informed and valid. How well informed is your theology? How comfortable would you be if your son asked the same question my son asked? Or if your neighbor wanted to know why God is so picky about who gets into heaven?

At Talbot, we are serious about theology. But we are serious about developing a properly informed theology that is deeply rooted in an accurate intepretation of the biblical text.


Clinton E. Arnold (M.Div., Talbot; Ph.D., Aberdeen) is Professor and Chair, Department of New Testament Language and Literature. Clint, his wife Barbara, and their three boys are vitally involved in their local church in Whittier.

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