“Since the main message of Scripture is the unfolding mystery of Christ, who reveals his Father and reconciles us to him, theology is a central concern of every believer.” (Michael Horton, The Christian Faith)
It has been on my heart for a while now to begin a longterm series of posts centered on systematic theology. My hope is that these short, sweet, and to-the-point posts focusing on key terms, concepts, and doctrines of the Christian faith will benefit your soul. I pray that they will give you a greater vision of our God and spark within you an even greater passion for his revealed Word.
Each post will include 4 points: the term’s definition, why it matters, its gospel relevance, and a talk back opportunity. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on each subject in the comments!
It seems only fitting to begin with the most basic question: What is theology?
Theology is the study of God.
When a person decides they want to study theology, they are making a conscious effort to know God better. They are purposefully examining his character, his actions, his history, his plans, and so on. But even a woman who has never heard of the word “theology” is forming her own opinions about God based on the information around her. Every day the world, our families, our schools, our churches, and our culture compete to affect our perception of God. We are constantly making decisions to either accept or reject each piece of information presented to us. In this most basic sense we are all theologians. The question is whether or not we are good theologians.
So what makes a good theologian?
If theology is the study of God, then a good theologian must go to the right place to study him. We cannot be good theologians by seeking the world’s wisdom about him. Similarly, we cannot be good theologians by seeking to know God through mysticism or solely through personal experience. Any pursuit of “knowing God” which is not rooted in and informed by the revealed Word of God is inherently flawed. As good theologians, we must go to the source and learn about our God through the means he has provided.
In his Word, our Heavenly Father has given us the ultimate resource for knowing him. In it, we not only get a clear picture of who he is, but who we are and how our lives intersect with his glorious plan. It is only through carefully studying this gift of self-revelation from our God that we can increase our knowledge of him, our world, and ourselves.
Why It Matters
Why should we care about theology? What motivation do we have for being good theologians? Life seems easier if we don’t have to worry about an authoritative God bossing us around and it certainly seems more convenient to shape God into our own image. What could be the benefit of having a correct, deep, and vibrant understanding of the Lord?
For the Christian, the answer to these questions is simple: We love him.
When you love someone you desire to know them and as those who’ve tasted the goodness of God through salvation our hearts cry out with the Psalmist:
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)
If God is the very source of true joy and pleasure, then it would behoove us to know him better wouldn’t it? This is why we study theology: not because we are particularly studious, or think that reading is fun, or because we find big books full of difficult words exciting, but because we are captivated by our loving and gracious God. We want to know him better and learn how to please him! The indwelling of the Holy Spirit causes us to crave more of the knowledge and presence of the Lord in our lives.
In his grace and mercy, the God of the universe has made himself known to his creation. Though Adam and Eve (and subsequently all the human race) chose to rebel against his authority, he did not leave humanity in utter darkness. Instead, throughout history he chose to reveal himself to the world through his prophets and provided a way of salvation through the greatest prophet of all, his Son, Jesus Christ. It is through faith in his Son that God provides a means for mankind to know him once more in the way he always intended.
In studying the Word of God, we not only learn what the gospel is–the power to save men and women from their sins–but also how the gospel gives us the ability to truly know God. A person could “study” God over the course of their entire life, but without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (which is given to the believer at the moment of salvation), they would never truly know God in the fullest sense.
Therefore, it is our delight as those who’ve been redeemed by the blood of Christ and given the Holy Spirit to diligently study our Bibles. We desire to be good theologians because we have been reconciled to our Creator in whom is life, joy, and pleasure forevermore!