I don’t know about you, but sometimes I fight feelings of emptiness and nihilism when it comes to doing theology; and yet at the same time it has become the love of my life, because it is where intimacy with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ reposes most! But there are a million distractions, and things of life that would like to squeeze out any possibility of spending thoughtful, intentional, and dare I say, heart-shaped intellectual time with God in Christ.
There are many reasons why this sense of futility or emptiness might set in, and in particularly acute ways for evangelical Protestant Christian thinkers. Here are a few reasons that come to mind:
1) There is no value placed upon deep theological thought within the environs of modern day Protestant evangelicalism.
2) Theology, at points, just seems all too academic with no apparent touch points with “real” life, and “real” people.
3) If you think too deeply you almost become outcast, and are accused of focusing on things that don’t really matter; what really matters, in contrast, and ostensibly, is that we have some sort of warm hearted felt experience with God, and this somehow abstracted from any deep and rigorous thought about what that looks like.
4) Related to the above: There is often a false dilemma created by evangelicals; either, as it goes, the thinker must be involved in real life daily stuff that matters, or be relegated to the dead halls of the Christian thinkers where everything remains abstract and aloof from the apparently concrete lived experiences (which are the standard for determining genuine spirituality, apparently) of what it means to truly live a simple, heart warmed Christian experience.
5) Thinking theologically and deeply that way, apparently, takes too much time to develop; what counts towards being a real life evangelical Christian is that we make more immediate real life connections with real people; and as a result we mystically connect and grow in fellowship with God and others, albeit devoid of any intention or rigorous theological thought.
These are some reasons that might contribute to the seeming futility of doing theology as an evangelical. Underneath the resistance to this there seems to be a kind of nihilistic attitude towards Christian thinkers who are wired to think deeply; and in place of such modes, the “Christian experience” becomes the standard of what it means to be truly Christian and thriving. In other words, feeling good and happy about oneself seems to be the King. Desiring to live as a Christian thinker in such an environment contributes to this kind of battle and sense of emptiness that often can hit an evangelical thinker. There is no value placed upon such platitudes, and in fact such platitudes get relegated to the realm of “hobbyhorse” with no real meaning for what it means to be a healthy vibrant thriving Christian person. Beyond that, unless an evangelical thinker gets a PhD in theology or something, and is able to secure employment in a seminary or bible college (the only sanctioned places among evangelicals where rigorous intellectual activity is sanctioned and acceptable), there really is no value (like towards employment) for such people in the evangelical church–they are usually lauded as novelties in the church, and known for being a very smart person who traffics in things too elevated for what really counts toward being a vibrant thriving evangelical Christian person. What a shame.
*The picture of Rick Warren is somewhat ad hoc; I just found it when searching google image, and it seemed fitting as typifying a kind of evangelical posture I was bemoaning in this post (especially the banner behind Warren).