Blogging and the purpose of theology

Over the last several years of my life, when I think about the purpose of theology, I keep coming back to John Frame’s explanation:

The way out of this bind is to recognize that Scripture is language, that it has its own rational order, that it gives a perfect, normative, rational description and analysis of the facts of redemption. It is not the job of theology to supply such a normative description and analysis; that account has been given to theology by revelation. Theology, then, must be a secondary description, a reinterpretation and reproclamation of Scripture, both of its propositional and of its nonpropositional content. Why do we need such a reinterpretation? To meet human needs. The job of theology is to help people understand the Bible better… . [The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 79]

More recently, I’ve realized that theology has no real motivation if this is not the purpose of it. If we are just writing theology to hear our own voices, then I think we will quickly stop doing it and move on to other things we find more important. That is, if we are not writing theology to rectify specific problems in actual people’s understanding of God, so that theology always has the occasion of actual defective understanding, I doubt it can continue for very long as a practice. (Of course, there are some situations in which we do theology for ourselves, but usually such meditations, if truly only for ourselves, would not be published anyway.)

This realization has been forced upon me as I have tried to come up with interesting things to blog about. I’ve realized that the most interesting posts for me to write are ones in which I am interacting with people I disagree with about some matter.

Understanding theology this way, I think, can be helpful, in that it forces us to focus on the real issues we are trying to address, rather than abstracting our communication from its real motivating context into ambiguous vacuity. We can be sharp and direct, and accomplish our goals of coming to a common understanding of the truth if we were to write with this motivation always in mind, I think.

At the same time, I wonder if this psychological fact (as I perceive it to be) is one of the reasons that theo-blogging has a tendency to become so acerbic. If theology is really about mutual exhortation, about lovingly correcting one another according to the truth, and we make a full-time hobby out of such an activity (as in theo-blogging), will theology not denigrate into full-time nitpicking, that is, searching for insignificant problems when we run out of real ones?

Of course, the best response to this question might be to say, there are plenty of real theological problems even on the internet that could use a response. That may be true. But perhaps it would be useful to keep in mind what we are here for, and in that manner reduce our arguing about fruitless things.

(Of course, in addressing this post to no one in particular, I may be justly criticizable for not following my own advice. All I can say in response is, I assume that most readers are aware of the type of phenomena that I am referring to.)