4 Reasons Why We All Need Theology
“Theology” can be a scary word. Worse, some people think of “theology” as a negative thing, an academic, lifeless approach to God that can rip the soul out of our faith. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Now, I’m not going to say that all theological endeavors lead to a deeper, richer spiritual life, but that should be the goal of theology and that can be the result of theology done right. Here are four reasons why we all need theology
4. Theology determines the goal of our spiritual development.
The goal of spiritual development is to become more like Christ, who is, in turn, the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), the “exact representation of His nature” (Heb 1:3). So really, becoming like Christ means that we become like God. That’s the goal of spiritual development: to become more like God. But how can you know if you’re making progress? You can’t, unless you have some idea of what God is actually like…which is exactly what Theology sets out to tell us.
If you have no idea where you’re headed, then it’s impossible to know if you’re going in the right direction or if you’re making any progress in getting there. Theology defines the goal of our spiritual journey by helping us understand who God is and what He is like. Without theology, there can be no genuine spiritual development.
3. Theology leads to lasting transformation.
Have you ever tried to break a bad habit? It’s not easy, is it? But you know what’s even harder? Breaking a bad habit that you don’t actually think is a bad habit. We’ve all probably had the experience of trying to change something about ourselves that someone else thought needed to be changed. It’s almost impossible, because until we become personally convinced that the habit is actually bad, we simply won’t have the motivation or the perseverance to make the change. It’s really only when our own thinking changes – when we decide that something really is a bad habit that needs to be broken – that we’ll be able to muster the energy to make the change. That’s an example of a principle that I define this way: right thinking precedes right living.
Theology helps us to think rightly about who God is and what He wants from us; that is, theology changes the underlying thinking from which our behaviors emerge. When we try to make changes just at the behavioral level, we will very rarely experience lasting change, but when those behavioral changes emerge from corrections in our thinking about who God is and what He wants from us, the changes will last. If you want to see lasting change in your spiritual life, then you need theology.
2. Theology protects the church and individuals from sin.
Have you ever wondered what makes things right or wrong? The answer to that question is, essentially, that God makes things right and wrong. Some things are wrong because they go against God’s nature. Some things are wrong because they go against the nature of the world God made. And some things are wrong because they disobey God’s revealed will. But it all goes back to God, so it stands to reason that the better we know God – the goal of theology – the more likely we will be to recognize and avoid sin.
The modern world is increasingly complex and God hasn’t given us a direct command about every situation we might face in the world today. Where in the Bible do you turn to find out what God thinks about cloning or genetic engineering or in vitro fertilization? So how do we think rightly about such things? How do we make sure that we’re not dishonoring God with the way we think about such things or with the decisions we make? The answer is: theology. The better we understand God, the better we will be able to navigate complex issues and know how to respond in ways that honor God and are in line with His nature and will.
1. Theology deepens our personal relationship with God
Imagine two people looking at a picture by a famous artist. One person knows nothing about art and the other has studied art for many years. They will both be able to enjoy the painting, but the art student will be able to engage it on a deeper level. She will be able to recognize the skill involved in producing the painting. She will notice symbolism that the other observer misses. Knowing details of the artist’s life, she will see echoes of his personality in the painting.
Theology is like that…if it’s done right. The better we know God, the more places we will see His fingerprints and feel His presence. The more we know about God the more opportunities we will have to point others to Him. The more we know God the less satisfied we will be with shallow worship and superficial teaching. In other words, the better our theology, the more profound our relationship.
Theology matters. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to head off to seminary, but it does mean that we need to stop thinking of theology as a four-letter word. So the next time you have the opportunity to learn some theology, dig in instead of shutting down.