Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Why bother with theology?

Why should anyone be concerned with theology? Surely the best way to persue an intimate relationship with God is prayer and experience rather than study? Isn't that all a bit dry? Surely Jesus is concerned with my heart not my academic study?

For a start there is always theology. Everyone has theology, so we need to decide whether it will be good theology or bad. Whether we'll work at it and study it or not. Even if we just unquestioningly accept all that people tell us about what the Bible says, thats still having a theology.

Our relationship with Jesus is a relationship with a real person. Jesus the man taught and dealt in propositional truth, truth that He then commanded His disciples share with the world. It seems clear from the great commision that Jesus wanted His followers to live in a certain way following knowledge of Him, and He wanted them to be taught how to live in this way. It is impossible to separate a knowledge of Jesus and His teaching and a relationship with Him. You can't relate to Jesus unless you understand Him. You have to get to know Him if you're going to turst Him, like in any relationship. Now, thats not to say that all Christians need to have the intellect of Edwards or Calvin (hooray!). A child and a theology professor can both say Jesus is Lord, both mean the same thing and both be right. It's jsut that one may have a deeper understanding of what that statement means than the other. But that doesn't make the theologian more of a Christian...obviously.

How will we worship and relate to God properly if we don't know Him? And we must treat God properly, because He is a jealous God. Theology tells us about God, and who He is, and what He's done and how that affects us. How can that not be worth studying? How can it not be worth getting to know. It was theology, a realisation of God and where we stand before Him that bought us to the point of conversion. The experience of Christian life is a great one...an amazing one. But it is theology that informs our experience, that tells us what we are experienceing and whether it is valid. The Bible, and Pauls letters particulaly tell us of normal Christian experience, or how to pray, to live, to enjoy fellowship and fight sin. Thats got to be worth looking at in depth hasn't it? Theology is practical. We won't be able to relate to God, to follww Him properly and to live a life worthy of Him if we don't know what He asks for.

What about our Christian practice though? Surely thats more important than just studying? Well, our theology shapes our practice. In Philippians 1:1-10 Paul prays that the Philippian Christians will be filled with 'knowledge and depth of insight that they may be able to discern what is best'. So here Paul clearly thinks and prays that what we believe will change how we behave. If we have a deeper knowledge of how God wants us to live then we will be able to let that knowledge guide and inform our decisions at every level.

Neither is theology a dull, academic thing that is seperate from worship. Romans 1-11 is possibly the most challanging and comprehensive theological discourse in the Bible. And what does it drive Paul to? A tremendous amount of worship at the end of Romans 11. Because, i guess, because of what thinking and writing that truth showed about God to Paul. And he couldn't help Himself, he just explodes in praise. Theology is thrilling! It tells us how amazing God are, how terrible we are, and what He's done about that, and our correct response to that. Studying theology should do that to us, it should make us love the Lord more and want to love and serve Him more. Psalm one shows us that theology shores up our faith against attack, and helps us to bare fruit. An amaemic faith, devoid of passion and truth will never posses the nerve to die for the things it believes in. And the faith that isn't worth defending soon becomes not worth professing.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly. The world needs people with good theology. We are all called to give a reasoned defence of our faith. So that we must do. When we're asked why we think Jesus is God, we must be able to answer. We must know why we believe what we believe. And we must be deeply convicted of that.

I had a great time this morning reading chapter one of Grudem's 'systematic theology', but only because it made me hungry to read the Bible, hungry to know more of God. And that is what studying theology should do. It should puff you up with knowledge, or make us proud that we can out argue other Christian. It can't get much worse than using God's Word to win arguments.

These are obviously incomplete half thought out thoughts, so i want to finish quoting two people much much wiser than i a;

Luther 'the cross is our theology'

Mike Reeves 'why did Jesus go to the cross if a quiet time could have done it?'


Cat said...

Good post! Theology is very important - but Good Theology is essential...if good theology gives us a thirst for God and the bible then we must be careful of bad theology that satisfies our desires of the flesh.

Good theology points to God and the Cross... Bad theology always seems to point to ourselves - something we need to watch out for!!

Thanks for sharing that.

Welshie said...

it's good this study programme thing innit?!

(and you meant 'shouldN'T puff us up with knowledge', didnt you?!)

hope you're having fun!