What is an “armchair theologian”?

Perhaps you’re familiar with the term “armchair quarterback”.  In me, this term invokes a positive and a negative image. In the positive image, there is an enthusiastic sports fan with a passionate love of the game. He keeps up with the teams, the players, the coaches and the stats. He watches every match he can playing the game vicariously. He develops strategies, constructs plays and has opinions on performances. Yet, he never leaves the relative safety of home.  He’s an outsider and he knows it.  In the negative image, there is a blob of a man wedged into his lazy-boy with a beer clutched in one hand and a remote in the other shouting belligerently at the TV apparently convinced that he knows the game better than everyone on the field, especially the referees. He is an outsider and doesn’t seem to know it.

An armchair theologian is also outsider to “the game”. He looks in to the academic community of theologians with a keen interest in the topics being discussed. He knows  schools of thought,  scholars/preachers/pastors associated with them and so forth. He listens to and reads them whenever he can. He develops opinions of his own about the different subjects. Perhaps he understands he’s an outsider and perhaps he doesn’t. Perhaps he presents himself as a “player” and perhaps he doesn’t.

Of course, I see myself in the positive image. I’m an outsider and I know it. I try to post in such a way as to demonstrate that I’m aware that I’m not an insider, a player. I would appreciate it if any scholars who stumble across this blog would relate to what I write with this in mind. And since I’m not part of your scholarly community, please don’t be offended if/when you feel that I’m not “playing by the rules”. Treat me the way you would a foreigner with a low-level mastery of the language and a small amount of knowledge of the culture who is eager to communicate, to relate.

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10 responses to “What is an “armchair theologian”?

  1. I just came up with the term “armchair theologian” and started to Google it and found your website. Maybe, I am kind of it. But I do not see myself as theologian at all. I am not even a fan, but rather a concern Christian.

    I just read my book, and get disappointed when people seem to ignore it. And I believe that all that argumentation and complications of what it’s supposed to be simple is what brings the big arguments.

    In the council of Jerusalem, everyone heard James, because he spoke full of The Holy Spirit. Nowadays, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not even a requirement for a scholar.

    None of the Apostles had a degree in theology, but all of them were full of the Holy Spirit and God’s wisdom.

  2. amtog

    a commenter on this blog once said that we’re all theologians “whether we like it or not”. i think what he wanted to say was that in so much that we think about God, we are theologians. and exactly what we think about God is often revealed by what we say we believe about Him. true, you’re not a paid pastor/professor sort of theologian (nor am i) but you obviously think about God. thanks for visiting.

  3. Chris

    Enjoyed your thoughts. From my personal perspective, if you are a Christian, you are also a theologian. By that I mean that once one becomes a believer he/she begins to question where is God in my life, in the world, how should I reflect the light/love of God in my dealing with others, etc. I consider all of these to be theological questions and questions we should be asking ourselves. Reading theology and scripture should prompt more and deeper introspection and study to help us grow in faith.

    Thanks for the opportunity to read and reply!

  4. Maybe I, an atheist, fit the term “armchair theologian” better, because the only place I’ve ever found God is on my TV screen.

  5. Mary Mitchell

    I’ve often thought of myself as an armchair theologian too. I had even thought of starting a blog to share my ideas on biblical thought. But I see you beat me to the punch. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your post.

  6. amtog

    Thanks for visiting Mary. As you can see, I don’t blog much these days and the internet is a big place, so there’s plenty of room for your reflections.

  7. I think you’ve got it wrong… if you’re a born-again believer, or better yet a born again Berean, you have a seat at the Lord’s table, Mephibosheth… if that doesn’t make you an insider, nothing will.

    But it’s essential for each of us to work out our own salvation, or rather study to show ourselves approved unto God, able to rightly divide His word and thus make at least a little sense of what the eggheads are saying this week. But don’t be put off by fancy degrees and big titles… they can use big words and talk over our heads (I’ve got a friend like that, his Facebook posts are pretty much incomprehensible, though he means well), anyone that can testify like the ex-blind man in John chapter 9 (“one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see”) has his theology straight, the rest is just gravy.

  8. Naama

    This is not an accurate portrayal of a theologian because there are not many true theologians in the strict sense of the term since they have not had a direct revelation from God.
    What we typically call theology today is really pseudo-theology, The product of non-theologians musing about the spiritual experiences of others, and trying to understand those experiences through the use of their own reason.
    Scholars carry the most baggage with being armchair theologians because they treat scripture like an intellectual pursuit like figuring out the lyrics of their favorite song. The consequence is the message is confined to the pages of the bible and cannot come out into real life applications

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