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Theological Trail Blazers
By Karen Stiller, Ron Csillag and David Guretzki

If following Christ is a journey, it's a relief to know that there are guides on the trail today. Ultimately, of course, we find our own way through the mountains, valleys and tangled woods. But there are godly leaders who blaze trails for us, who seek to make our walk easier. They may point out the dangerous gully we did not see on the side of the road or encourage us to turn our gaze to new, unexplored directions. They may, purposely or not, start a scuffle amongst the travelers and even slow things down a bit.

Here are a few of those trail blazers working in Canada today. These people are theologians, a group we often dismiss as being "of the Church but not in the Church." Tucked away in a dusty office away from real problems facing everyday Christians. But the theologians you are about to meet are not cut off from the reality of the Church today. They shape it. Sometimes they quake it. They do not always agree with each other. They too see through a glass darkly. But surely they gaze more intently into that glass than many others.

"A theologian is someone who assists the people of God in thinking clearly about who they are and what they are called to do," says Stanley Grenz, one of those profiled below. These five thinkers have something to say to the Church and its people. There are many other voices out there, male and female; this list is by no means exhaustive. But it is a start in knowing better some of the leaders who are helping the Church to better know God.

Stanley Grenz: Bridging Academy and Pew
By Karen Stiller

Stanley Grenz stands at the front of the crowded college chapel. On cue from the worship leader he lifts his instrument to his mouth. The music of the trumpet is clearly heard. A lovely noise. Worship begins.

The theological voice of Stan Grenz also reaches a wide audience. He is a theologian who writes for scholars, church leaders and lay people. He is the author or co-author of 22 books and many more articles. For the last 12 years Grenz taught theology and ethics at Carey Theological College and Regent College. This year he leaves Carey/Regent for a new position at Truett Seminary. He told Faith Today that he will spend the first year commuting between his new academic home in Waco, Texas and his old home of Vancouver.

Commuting between different worlds is something Grenz does well. According to David Reed, professor of pastoral theology at Toronto's Wycliffe College, this is why Grenz is so effective in his writing. "He engages the pew as well as the academy," says Reed. "Not a lot of scholars can do that. He is an evangelical who has the respect of the wider theological world."

Knowledge of the contemporary world peppers his work, with references to the X-Files and Alanis Morissette. His latest work is The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei.

"This book is a highly academic piece that will be read by scholars, affect how they teach, read by students and affect how they lead. It will have a trickle down effect," says Grenz.

It is the trickling down of insight that Grenz sees as one of the primary tasks of a theologian. Pastors use Grenz's work in their seminary training, and then in turn teach the lay people. "The real task of a theologian is to be a servant to the people of God in our mission in the world. My desire is to offer my resources, to be faithful, not successful."

This may mean playing the trumpet occasionally. Grenz told Paul Beckingham, a Carey colleague, "When I play my trumpet I'm ministering outside of my main gift. When I play my trumpet, God is teaching me lessons of daring and humility" the daring and humility found in both trumpeter and theologian.

(Reprinted by permission from Faith Today magazine, Nov/Dec 2002. For a no-risk trial subscription, visit www.faithtoday.ca or phone 905-479-6071 ext. 255.)

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