One of the reasons I enrolled in seminary back in 1999 was to cure my theological ignorance. I was tired of being misled by autocratic pastors and high-sounding authors. After I began school, it didn't take long for me to see how naive I was about God. Although it raised all sorts of new questions, a seminary education was worth the time and money. That's because it forced me to continually ask myself the question used for this review's title, which Grenz and Olson claim is theology's fundamental query (94).
However, not every Christian can attend a Bible college (or even wants to). Even so, he or she should have 1) a well-defined theology, and 2) critical thinking skills. "Who Needs Theology?" helps encourage the believer along this path. It is the authors' desire that Christians leave behind credulity and the half-truths of "folk" theology in favor of a more profound lay, ministerial, or even professional level of theology. Of course, there are some pitfalls of theological study. A student can neglect their heart and embrace what the authors call "academic" theology, which is so cognitive that it has no practical worth. However, we should not be afraid of such detours. They can be avoided by remaining in community with other Christians and maintaining a personal relationship with God.
"Who Needs Theology?" isn't overly dry and dense. The authors write in an accessible manner, and even use examples from the "Peanuts" comic strip to drive home some theological points. Their explanation of the differences between Christian dogma, doctrine, and opinion helped me understand these categories better. Practical advice is saved for the last chapter, where study resources and methods are recommended. However, I wish the authors had spent more time emphasizing the value of the classroom. Studying alone is good, but ultimately it's like trying to learn karate out of a book. As with martial arts, the best way to learn theology is from a gifted teacher and by interacting with others. They do recommend teaching as a way to learn, which is a good point. But taking on that role prematurely can be perilous and should be done with care.
One of my theology profs had struggling students read this book and write a report for extra credit. That would have been a valuable exercise for the whole class, because "Who Needs Theology?" is a great introduction to the value of critical thinking and crafting a solid theological foundation. If you're curious about theology, or wonder why you should bother to study it, start here before diving into deeper waters.