Theology can seem like a scary word to some people. For some, this phrase evokes images of libraries and stuffy book lovers sitting on the library floor studying enormous volumes of work by the like Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics or H. Orton Wiley’s three-volume Systematic Theology. For many others, you picture a college or seminary where professional pastors and prospective professors go, but come back to your neighborhood church with bigger words and ideas than you can account for on your child’s language arts assignments. And for some, the idea of a scientist sitting in an ivory tower composing and scheming up some new and novel idea just trying to make your life miserable that’s surely unbiblical. Surely, it is not something for the young or inexperienced Christian, and there is no way a frequent person that has been in the religion a while, like you, could grasp or understand it, you hardly get by on Sunday with the sermon and your devotions which don’t necessarily register. For many of you I am confident that you are merely confused in regards to this subject, I’ve probably met someone just like you also in a similar boat, and just wondering what’s theology to start with. It’s a good question to ask. The fact that you even ask it shows that you take seriously your connection with God, because this word and it’s many subject areas do come up in ways we are not always conscious of.
“Theology” is a phrase that’s been used since the 3rd century to mean”talking about God” or the”science of God.” In and of itself, theology gets at the character and relationship people have with God and what the term”god” means to people. To the Muslim it’s talking about Allah and the teachings of the Quran and the four other sacred books of their Islamic faith. To the Jew it is Jehovah/YHWH and the keeping of the Law. Both monotheistic traditions believe in a single”God,” but what they believe about that”God” is vastly different from Christians. For polytheistic (many god) traditions it might mean doing something for one god to avoid the wrath of another. For the Deist, it may just be about finding general truths in most traditions and living a moral life and going to heaven. Everybody believes different things and that essentially is what theology is and aims to talk. It is discussion about God or gods as well as the relationship that exists between them and us and us with others.
What Makes Theology Christian?
Christians, think about their religion. Christian faith is all about both a matter of reflection and a consequence of that reflection. It considers why Protestants uphold an importance of this Scripture and Catholics look at both Scripture and Tradition. To answer the question then of what makes theology Christian, it all comes down to what we believe. One such example of this in practice is that the many beliefs about the Church itself.
For many people the Christian Church should just be a body of believers, while for others they think it should be a mixed group. There are certainly other thoughts out there also on the topic. Christian theology however forces us to think in an orderly manner about the basic ideas of our Christian faith. Theology is, at least to good extent, intellectual reflection on the act, content, and consequences of Christian faith. It’s used to sometimes help communicate an understanding of certain elements of our Christian religion asking things such as:
• Where did these different approaches come from?
• What are the merits of such an approach?
• What difference or impact is made to the business of Christian living?
Christian theology is about trying to understand why the Christian Church is dedicated to ideas that seem complex and, at times, somewhat implausible. When we look at the question of what’s theology, we might consider such difficult concepts about the relationship of Jesus Christ humanity and divinity. Christians affirm that Jesus is both 100% human and 100% divine, but some might ask why state this when it is simpler to say that Jesus is truly human. Theology answers these challenges and provides voice to not only what we believe, but why we believe it.
Does Theology Only Make Faith Unnecessarily Complicated?
When answering the question of”what’s theology” it is not uncommon to hear a question about theology making faith unnecessarily complicated. And, I believe that concern is warranted, but to an extent. I often find it helpful to recall what Anselm of Canterbury said on the matter of theology, and that it is”faith seeking understanding.”
As I said in sections above, Christianity thinks about its religion. We make various claims about God and what we are taught and read about God and the connection we have with God. However, we are also people that are interested and have questions, occasionally questions about divorce and remarriage or infant baptism. In essence we say and profess something, but now we answer the why aspect of it. It would seem easy to just say well the Bible says xyz about divorce, but what about sexual or psychological abuse that leads you to exit a marriage? Are they biblically justified in leaving that union? The solution on this matter gets somewhat more complicated, because now contextual components are needed not just from the Bible’s teaching about marriage and divorce, but it’s teachings on violence and the duty of care spouses have into the marriage and how those cultures where the biblical writers write approaches and experienced things. Occasionally, you will need to appear at historical Christian and other writings of that time to learn what was going on and then approach the matter from an educated opinion with a set or recommendations and motives. This is placing theology into practice, it’s an area called Biblical Theology and that gets involved with matters of hermeneutics and exegesis and other elements of biblical literature and study.
Another factor in answering the matter of the being complicated is that Christians do experience non-Christians. Sometimes non-Christians want to know more about the Christian faith and understanding more about it. Maybe they are interested or not sure about what they believe. Perhaps their parents never highlighted the importance of faith growing up and they feel like they are missing out. Or maybe you are in a school course debating atheism. Simply stating that”because the Bible says so” isn’t likely to fly in these circumstances. In fact, for the curious or agnostic they may simply think and believe that Christians worship a book rather than an all-powerful God who actually existed. They would require some background on why the Bible is important rather than merely a book or moral teachings and sayings. Theology offers people in such situations an explanation of Christian religion and it helps people understand why Christians differ on particular points of importance such as baptism by immersion or by sprinkling.
Perhaps the most compelling reason regarding the value of theology and to do it even though it appears complex is the discipleship of the mind. Deut. 6:1-24 and Matthew 22:37 both deal with the importance of our belief in God and living obediently, which happens to include loving God and others with all our being. The Apostle Paul makes an appeal to us in Romans 12:1-2 about the significance of the renewal and transformation of our mind onto the things of God so we might worship God correctly and follow God’s will. When we engage in theology in the contemplation of the action and being of our religion we are getting a look at the inner dynamic of a life of religion and its own desire to know what is considered.
Other Benefits of Theology
Of course, there are other aspects of engaging in theology for the everyday Christian. One such example is that it provides you a deeper individual enrichment and appreciation of one’s faith. Perhaps the most exciting thing about Christian parties and time I have spent with other members of the family of God is in celebration and contemplation of ideas for engaging others for the sake of the Kingdom of God. We read and study the Scripture and other Christian writings or videos for insights and ideas to help that process along and answering challenges.
Another advantage is that there will be a sort of excitement that comes when one wrestles with God. Augustine once exclaimed this idea in saying that theology was and eros of the mind. Anyone acquainted with Greek and the words for”love” or even familiar with human intimacy, will know that this is where the term erotic stems from. Theology is an erotic feeling that engages us with our Creator. It is”a feeling of longing to know more about God’s character and ways.”
And lastly, the most significant advantage of theology that I can imagine is that it has a transformative impact on people’s lives. This happens not just to us personally as we grow and learn, but in addition it is foundational to why we do things. It’s at the heart of Christian outreach and social services that are conducted in certain manners. It’s about saying that there is a God who loves others and calls us to be His hands and feet in a hurting and lost world.