What is required to do good theology (when I say theology, I am referring to thinking or studying about God and His relation to the world)?
Surely, there is required an interest or curiousity in the subject (God). One also needs a certain level of discipline and rigor to stay with important ideas. I could also throw in aptitude, time, access to resources, etc.
In addition to the above there is an experiential component to theology as well. It has been said that any theology that does not touch the ground (operates in real life) is bad theology. In other words, it has to make a difference somewhere other than in the academy or on a bookshelf. It has to have some experiential tether point to normal life. That said, the theologian that isn’t able to practicalize (I just made up a word) his or her learning’s is doing theology out of a vacuum, and in turn operating on dangerous ground.
If we are studying about God and learning about God, shouldn't it make its way into real life…where we live…how we interact with our families…our ethics of business...etc.? We're not doing pure technical study or theoretical inquiry; we’re talking about a God who created all things, loves all people and has purposely engaged them.
Jürgen Moltmann says in his book entitled, Experiences in Theology (see in Books that I'm Reading), to be a true theologian you must both suffer with God and find great joy in God. What he is referring to is an experiential approach to theology.
He says that suffering with God means that we have experienced his absence, we have experienced God turning his face from us, like Christ saying, “Why have you forsaken me?” Living in the midst of that and still seeking God provides the foment for proper theology.
Secondly, he says that we need to find great joy in God. He calls it a “theo-fantasy.” Paul might put it, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” Is there a personal connection to what we are thinking? Is there a joy related to our theologizing that changes the way we think about and live life? If not, than our theology may just be a “clanging gong or a resounding cymbal.”
Moltmann summarizes, “The true theology of ‘the children of men’ is participation in the delighted loveplay of the divine Wisdom, which interpenetrates everything created.” EVERYTHING!
If “practical” theologians…you know, the ones that are normal Christians involved in local churches and working remarkable, ordinary lives…can’t ever understand what the “academic” theologians are talking about, one has to wonder…