BYU Studies Quarterly

BYU Studies Quarterly


David Paulsen


Mormon studies, Joseph Smith, theology


In his illuminating book The Story of Christian Theology, Roger Olson states:

Christian theology does not begin at the beginning. That is, Christian theology began well after Jesus Christ walked the earth with his disciples and even after the last disciple and apostle died. . . . The apostles [had] tremendous prestige and authority. . . . While they were alive, there was no need for theology in the same sense as afterward. Theology was born as the heirs of the apostles began to reflect on Jesus’ and the apostles’ teachings to . . . settle controversies about Christian belief and conduct.

These words invite consideration of a fundamental question: Why was theology unnecessary before the death of the apostles? Pertinent to this inquiry is John 15:16, where Jesus declares to his apostles, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit” (emphasis added). Clearly, this apostolic authority is not something that can be chosen—it was a divine calling issued by the Lord himself, the fruits of which are evidence of the call’s divine origin.