"The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." – Genesis 17:8
Theology. It’s a scary word to a lot of Christians but it doesn’t need to be. In fact, you probably do theology a lot more often than you realize. Every time you make a statement like “God is good” or “He is risen” you are engaging in theology. Your theology may be unorganized and intuitive but there’s no doubt that it affects the way you think, speak, and act.
Since so much of who we are flows from our underlying beliefs (whether we openly acknowledge them or not), it would be wise to examine our theologies, judge them by God’s Word, and adjust them accordingly. Theology doesn’t have to be scary. On the contrary, as Christians, studying God and the doctrines we hold about him should be a joy! Here are three reasons why every Christian should consciously do theology.
1. Doing Follows Believing
Our beliefs form our actions. Consider the 62-year-old man who was told he had cancer. He “quit his job, sold his car, stopped paying his mortgage and dug into his life savings so he could treat himself and relatives to expensive restaurant meals. He even sold all his clothes but for the black suit in which he expected to be buried.” A year later he found out that he had never even had cancer. That misdiagnosis caused him to act in ways that he otherwise never would have acted.
While this is an extreme example, it illustrates the fact that actions follow belief. If we believe the right things, we’ll generally act right. If we believe wrong things, we’ll often end up with wrong actions as well. Since theology forces us to confront our underlying assumptions and beliefs about the most important questions of life (Who is God? What is man? What is the meaning of life? What happens when we die? etc.), we’re given the chance to see whether we have right or wrong beliefs. In turn, we’ll see whether our actions have been grounded in firm, truthful doctrine or the shifting sand of false belief.
Our actions matter; our beliefs do too; theology helps us examine both.
2. How Can We Defend What We Don’t Understand?
Too many Christians don’t know what they really believe. Sure, they may believe that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” but they’ve never considered what all of those things really mean, at least not to any depth (John 3:16). And it shows when opposition shows up and demands answers. People have questions about the Trinity, how salvation works, why Jesus had to die, and so much more. If we’ve never consciously thought theologically, we’re not going to have many answers. And it will show.
“Christianity has been successfully attacked and marginalized… because those who professed belief were unable to defend the faith from attack, even though its attackers’ arguments were deeply flawed.”
― William Wilberforce
This doesn’t mean that studying theology will equip us with all of the answers that we need for every situation. There are, after all, some things that we will never fully understand or be able to explain. But there’s a whole lot that we can comprehend if we’d only roll up our sleeves and get to the hard work of studying.
Our ability to evangelize and witness will be greatly increased by engaging in theology.
3. Theology Can Draw Us Closer to God
‘Theology’ comes from two Greek words: ‘Theos’ or ‘God’ and ‘Logos’ or ‘Word.’ Theology is a word about God. If you’ve ever been in love, you probably remember your first months together. You talked endlessly, learning everything you could about them. You told each other stories about your past, shared your aspirations and fears, and spent hours on the phone in near silence. And why? Because love creates a desire to know.
Theology is the way we learn about God. In theology, we hear the stories of his past, we listen to his aspirations, he comforts our fears, and we’re led into hours in his presence in near silence as we meditate on him. Love for God should create a desire to know him more and theology helps us in that pursuit. James encourages us to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Theology is one way we can do just that.
Theology is the natural response to falling in love with the Lord of Glory.
There are dozens of other reasons why theology is important but these are the three that have encouraged me the most as I’ve sought to learn and, in turn, to teach God’s Word. It is my sincere hope that each of us would recognize we’re already doing theology whether we recognize it as such or not; we ought to do it well.