Sunday, April 21, 2013

What is theology and why does it matter?

Merriam-Webster defines theology as "the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world." 

Christian theology is not white-haired old men with numerous degrees speaking in strange words.
Christian theology is not someone's personal opinion supplanting the Word of God.
Christian theology is the study of God.

Why is it so important?

In Hosea 4, God brings a case against His people: 
"Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel,
For the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land,
Because there is no faithfulness or kindness
Or knowledge of God in the land" (Hosea 4:1).   

Hosea 4:6 states that God's people perish for lack of knowledge. The knowledge they are lacking is the knowledge of God that 4:1 indicated. Not only did the people perish for lack of knowledge, but even the land and the animals--all of creation suffered as a result of the sin that resulted from their actions (see v.3)

In Ezra 7, there is a picture of a prophet who had thrived despite being in captivity. Because the hand of the Lord was graciously upon him, King Artaxerxes sent out a decree for Ezra that he and other Israelites would be allowed to go to Jerusalem and that their neighbors were to give them everything they needed to live and to rebuild the temple. Why was God's hand gracious to Ezra? Ezra 7:9-10 tells us why: 

"For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel." (emphasis mine)

The importance of "doing" theology has not changed with the New Testament. In 2 Timothy 2:15, we are exhorted to study God's Word in an intellectual way:

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."

Also, Jesus Himself is recorded in all three synoptic gospels as reminding His followers of the command in Deuteronomy. Indeed, He considers it the foremost command of God:

"Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength'" (Mark 12:29-30). (emphasis mine)

How do we love the Lord our God with all our mind? By studying His word every bit as rigorously as any academic pursuit...and even more so. Theology is not an attempt to "logic" God right out of His Word! It is an act of worshiping God with all your faculties in an effort to know Him more, not just with emotion, not just with your heart, but with everything you are--including your mind!


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