What are the tasks of theology? This question, asked by Roger Olson in the 3d chp of Reformed and Always Reforming, is a question I wish more would ask. Here are his four points:
1. Theology critically determines whether a given claim is Christian or not.
2. Theology critically determines what is important from what is not:
a. Dogmas — essential to the faith.
b. Doctrines — essential to a group of Christians but not to all Christians.
c. Opinions — interesting but not determinative of fellowship.
This isn’t hard to see: divisions in the church are often shaped by what goes into which of these groups. I know groups that divide over the KJV (or the textual tradition behind it) and there are others who don’t think the Trinity constitutes the ground of the gospel and fellowship.
3. Theology constructively develops dogmas and doctrines out of the biblical material — in conversation with the Tradition.
4. Theology constructively relates what it finds to the contemporary world.
Conservative evangelicals are, according to Olson, focused on #1 and #2, think #3 is mostly done, and are nervous about #4. Postconservatives, agreeing that #1 and #2 are indispensable, are more involved in #3 and esp #4, and believe theology is never settled and an ongoing task more than do conservative evangelicals.