In previous posts (1 and 2), we have seen in the dogmatics of the Lutheran theologian, J.T. Mueller, that theologians are born by the Spirit and not made or trained. Or, as he puts it, theology is a "spiritual habitude"
The theological habitude is a spiritual habitude (habitus spiritualis, supernaturalis), that is to say, an ability which is implanted in the soul not by natural gifts, but by the Holy Ghost. It presupposes personal faith in Christ's vicarious atonement and consequently the regeneration, or conversion, of the theologian.This, of course, begs an important question: What do we say about the host of widely-respected theologians - men (and women) who inhabit significant chairs in universities and seminaries, write voluminously, and have their prestige validated on PBS specials and Discovery Channel exposes - and yet evidence no "personal faith in Christ's vicarious atonement"? Mueller's lucidity, again, is instructive:
Unbelieving ministers or teachers do not deserve the name of theologian; and in the sense of Holy Scripture they are not theologians, though they may have apprehended the doctrines of the Word of God intellectually and be able to present them clearly and correctly. In other words, there is no theologia irregenitorum, or theology of the unregenerate, since the souls of the unconverted and unbelieving are not inhabited and actuated by the Holy Ghost, but by the 'prince of this world,' that is, Satan. Eph 2,2.The unregenerate have no theology, but speculate in futility (Rom 1:21) and understand darkly (Eph 4:18), so that "Unbelieving ministers or teachers do not deserve the name of theologian."
Holy Scripture always describes a true minister of Christ as a penitent, believing child of God, who ascribes to divine grace both his sufficiency and his call into the ministry. 2 Cor 3,5; 2 Tim 2,1ff. A true minister of Christ, or theologian, is therefore a sanctified believer (pp. 33-34).
While this in no way minimizes the need for true theologians to contend earnestly (Jude 3) or take thoughts captive (2 Cor 10:5), it does grant a settled confidence and dependent humility to their efforts. Theologians are born again, not trained, so we can trust in God to regenerate the irregenitorum , remembering that were it not for His grace, we too would still see His Word in futility and darkness.
So, the next time the theologia irregenitorum is paraded before you, respond like David, a true theologian:
But I, like a deaf man, do not hear;
And I am like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
Yes, I am like a man who does not hear,
And in whose mouth are no arguments.
For I hope in You, O LORD;
You will answer, O Lord my God (Ps 38:13-15)
On Monday, we'll see what Mueller has to teach us about how God cultivates and trains His true theologians.