What Is Theology Really? Why You Should Care

What is theology?  Augustine of Hippo defined theology as a reasoning or discussion about God. Theology is the knowledge of how to live in the presence of God, wrote 17th century Puritan William Ames. We should all be theologians, serious theologians.

Human ambition corrupted true theology. And it’s definition changed from reasoning with God about God, and for God to just reasoning about God. The theology practiced by Enoch through walking and reasoning with God has been replaced by writing about God in obscure books and taking about Him behind the corridors of elite campus halls.

Does this kind of modern theology glorify God?

No, this is why.

Often:

Modern theology is disconnected from everyday believers.

Modern theology reduces eager Bible students to armchair theologians (outsiders of little knowledge).

Modern theology promotes elitism and factionalism through its obsession with comparing ideas rather than proclaiming Christ.

Modern theology majors in minors that are mostly of no eternal consequence.

Modern theology is obsessed with ideas about God and the universe instead of the God of the universe.

But…

You and I need to the reasoning-with-God type of theology. Such theology permits the power of Christ to transform you since it is born from an encounter with God and crafted from conversations with God.

Good news.

Not all theologians focus on reasoning about God only.

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7 Quotes On Why You Should Be A Theologian


Theology divorced from life is arid intellectualism. A Christian life not based on sound principles will end up in sterile activism or sentimental fluff.
– Timothy George in Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson’s The Pastor Theologian

the ultimate truth is the truth of God, and that He is the foundation and source of all other truth. Everything we learn— economics, philosophy, biology, mathematics— has to be understood in light of the overarching reality of the character of God.
– R.C. Sproul, Everyone’s A Theologian

By putting theology through unnecessary scholarly zealotry, it becomes abstract and inaccessible to converts and potential converts. So in my humble opinion, the main focus of Christian theology should be for mission and discipleship; because any other pursuit becomes futile in the long run. 
– Clement Akran, What is Christian Theology and Why Does It Matter

Theology is for everyone. Indeed, everyone needs to be a theologian. In reality, everyone is a theologian—of one sort or another. And therein lies the problem. There is nothing wrong with being an amateur theologian or a professional theologian, but there is everything wrong about being an ignorant or a sloppy theologian. Therefore, every Christian should read theology. Theology simply means thinking about God and expressing those thoughts in some way.
– Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology

I am convinced that there is an urgent need in the church today for much greater understanding of Christian doctrine, or systematic theology. Not only pastors and teachers need to understand theology in greater depth — the WHOLE CHURCH does as well. One day by God’s grace we may have churches full of Christians who can discuss, apply and LIVE the doctrinal teachings of the Bible as readily as they can discuss the details of their own jobs or hobbies – or the fortunes of their favorite sports team or television program.
– Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology

And true theology is thinking biblically-informed thoughts about God. Theology is not an academic discipline consisting of esoteric terms, but sound doctrine that gives life and strength to every child of God made alive in Christ.
– David Shrock, Theology Is Not Just For Theologians

the rightness of theological reflection cannot be measured ultimately by its conformity to criteria laid down by a professional elite, but by its ability to inspire women and men to costly Christian discipleship in implementing the biblical message of grace and liberation in Jesus Christ.
– Antony E. Harvey, Theology in the City [/box]

There’s hope.

5 Simple Reasons Everyone Should Be A Theologian

A theologian is someone who devotes his or her time reasoning and discussing with God, about God, and for God. Good theology brings us closer to each other and also to God. It makes us one with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Here are 5 reasons you should become a theologian today.

1. God Wants You To Be a Theologian

God invited us to be students at his feet well before we surrendered our lives to Jesus. “Let us reason together,” God said in the first chapter of Isaiah. “Who do you say I am?” Jesus reasoned with his disciples. And he added, “The Holy Spirit shall guide you into all truth.”

2. Good Theology is Life Transforming

The Bible is awash with examples of people who reasoned with God. Gideon, who was in hiding, became a great warrior and judge for Israel. Moses was transformed from being a murderer to the most humble person on the face of the earth. David changed from being an unknown and neglected shepherd to become the man after God’s heart. Clopas became an instrument of peace when he encountered Jesus on the way to Emmaus. It all happened because they met God who in turn reasoned with them.

3. Real Theologians Are God’s Laborers

Paul encouraged his young charge to be a theologian (2 Timothy 2:15), “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The goal of sound theology is not to be right but to answer Jesus’ call in Matthew 9:37-38, to send out as laborers into God’s harvest.

4. Sound Theology Is The Gateway to Knowing God

Theology is critical because you get to know God. Christianity is not an invitation to get things from God – forgiveness, protection, escape from hell or health and wealth – it’s about having a relationship with the Triune God.

Theology is about knowing Him. Paul wrote (Philippians 3:8), “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” To which Jesus commanded (John 17:3), “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

5. True Theology Brings You To The Knowledge of Truth

You have heard that “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” But did you know that statement is an extension of a fundamental point? Jesus previously said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

Sound theology grounds us in the word of God. It heals us from the errors of Jannes and Jambres who were (2 Timothy 3:7) “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” Unlike Moses, Jannes and Jambres didn’t spend time reasoning with God, about God, and for God. They formed a theology about God that opposed the truth, corrupted their minds and disqualified them from the faith (vs. 8).

So, What Is Theology Again?

theology divorced from life is arid intellectualism.

You don’t need to take a class in theology to become a theologian. You only need to accept Christ’s invitation in Isaiah, “come, let us reason together.” I repeat, every Christian should be a theologian. A serious theologian.

Because…

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:5

Reading the parable of the sower should give you a rude awakening. God plants his living word in our lives. Isaiah says they God’s word will never return to him void.

But…

  1. The evil one can snatch the word away if you don’t understand it.
  2. The word can be thwarted by persecution because you failed to let it grow roots in you.
  3. The word can be choked by worries of life and deceitfulness of wealth.
  4. The word can bring fruit to your life if you understand it.

This is why you should be a theologian. You need to take the time to understand God’s word; guard it against a lack of understanding, shield it from persecution and protect it from wrong beliefs.

Listen to Joshua Harris in Dug Down Deep:

[box] We’re either building our life on the reality of what God is truly like and what he’s about, or we’re basing our life on our own imagination and misconceptions. We’re all theologians. The question is whether we will be good theologians or bad theologians, whether what we know about God is true or false. [/box]

The functional definition I gave for theology shows us how God helps us become theologians. Theology is reasoning with God, about God, and for God.

1. Theology as Reasoning With God

Sound theology begins between you and God on the day you came to Christ. It is God pouring his thoughts and plans to you through his living Word. In turn, you share your thoughts and understanding with God. This is between you and God; it’s a private matter and a relationship between you and God.

2. Theology is Reasoning About God

The focus of this exercise is aligning your conversations with God or people Godward. You share your understanding of God to God and people or learn about God from other people. The things you share will come from your reasoning with God exercise and not personal opinions.

A comment by Jason C. on a post by C. Michael Patton at Credo House explains this point better:

[box] The God/man relationship is a vertical one. We know no more about God than he chooses to reveal to us. The man who seeks God is wholly dependent on God allowing himself to be found. The importance of a correct theological understanding is that it allows us to distinguish between truth and falsehood. To determine that we are actually pursuing a subordinate relationship with the Creator of the universe, and not with a construct of our own minds, a mental disorder, or a demon. [/box]

3. Theology is Reasoning For God

The error of modern theology is it reduced the knowledge of God to mental consent. The reasoning for God demands you surrender your body, mind and spirit to the lordship of Christ. You realize your words are not yours but for the glory of Christ.

I pray after reading this you’re motivated to consider devoting all your time for the excellence of knowledge of Christ. Please, join me in prayer as I repeat the words of Paul for you and me (Ephesians 1:17-18, italics mine):

Let us pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give us the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we may know what is the hope to which he has called us, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Thanks Edmond for this word in season. I pray God to use this to open the eyes of many that it is not what they know about God, but the God they know and obey; the God with Whom they have a personal relationship.
    Thanks.

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    1. That’s the problem with ‘modern theology’. God invited us to something better the true theology, reasoning with God and allowing his power to transform us. True theology is born in a relationship with God. It is of faith. I think the problem today is we associate theology with reading obscure books by academics who are not in touch with the reality of Christian life. The Bible is the foundational text of true theology.

      My upcoming post is going to be advice from theologians who are in touch with the church by serving in the church as elders, pastors or church members. One of the theologians I asked told me the best theologians are not academics but lay people. That shocked me. I will not pre-empty his advice. I will let you know when I publish the post.

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  2. It is my opinion that theology has always promoted elitism and factionalism through its obsession with comparing ideas rather than proclaiming Christ. I believe Jesus speaks of this many times throughout the Gospels. Theology, to me, is not about living through Christ. The term “religion” is not a proper name for what we have through Jesus. In fact, I believe the term “Christianity” is also not accurate. I’ve heard it said that rather than being Christians, we need to be “in Christ.” Man has indeed complicated, manipulated, rationalized, corrupted and watered down Christianity. Theology, to me, is the study of religious faith, practice, and experience. It is a system of religious beliefs or ideas. So, yes, there is Christian theology, that I cannot deny. But I agree with the Apostle Paul that all I want is to know Christ and Him crucified. Thanks for your post, though. It was very thought provoking. I’m looking forward to more.

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    1. You’re so right. But we need to reclaim the word theology, from its origin it had nothing to do with academia. The present form of theology only began recently. From the origin of the word theology is just thinking about and with God- knowing the Triune God. I love the word because it reminds me that knowing Christ is not entirely human effort, I need Christ the true logos, I need the Holy Spirit to guide me into all truth.

      Defining theology as the study of religious faith and practices only started recently. And most universities are realizing that definition is skewered so they’re replacing their departments of theology with department of religion. My desire is for us believers to desires to know God like Paul, after all this is eternal life knowing (logos) the Father (theo).

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