Why Theology Matters: Part 1
Here’s something I hear a lot when talking theology: “Do all those ideas even matter? I don’t care about that stuff, I just want to follow Jesus.”
Honestly, I really connect with that line of thinking. I’m a pastor’s kid from the south. I just about drowned in the Bible belt. I grew up in a place where there were at least 2 churches for every denomination in every town and at least 4 Baptists. I remember thinking many times, “why can’t we just agree on Jesus and quit the arguing?” It seemed like the more a person cared about Greek words, Bible translations, and church history the less good they actually did in the world.
The reality is that I’ve always had a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The truth of the matter is that yes, sometimes we do get so caught up in the finer points of things that we forget to, you know, live like Jesus. But the other side of the coin is that theology, or the study of God (theo: God, ology: the study of) is a basic function of every believer. Sure, studying something doesn’t sound very sexy, but the reality is that every relationship requires knowledge. I love my wife a lot. I love her because I know her. The times I don’t love her very well usually come from a couple of things:
1. I have bad information about who she is or what her desires really are
2. I’m not acting on the information I have.
The better we know God, the better we can love him. The more we know God, the better we can follow him. But it doesn’t just stop there. Scripture compels each believer or questioner to dive into theology. Here’s one instance:
It comes from Genesis 1 verses 26 and 27. The author tells us:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures t hat move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Humans have been made in the image of God. Male and female, young and old, all races and cultures. We are in the image of God. This concept is called Imago Dei. In other words, we reflect God. We were made to be like him and to reveal him. Our relationships reflect his desires. Our emotions reflect his. Our dreams and visions and creativity and drive all come from the image in which we were created. The thing that makes us human, more than any other trait, is the image in which we were made. Now, sin has marred the image of God in us. We have fallen. When we fell, we hit hard and the image broke. Our relationships, emotions, desires - all have been broken.
Here’s the theological implication: the more we know God the more we know ourselves. We can only be everything we are created to be through the knowledge and love of God. The better we know him, the better we know ourselves. Therefore, for anyone to truly discern their purpose, the intricacies of human nature, and the fulfillment of the human experience one must do theology.
I recently read a blog that illustrated how important this is. John Piper recently wrote a blog about lyrics in worship songs. In it he brought up a point common to his theological perspective and recurrent in his writing. He said: “There’s a thread of teaching in some songs today that seems, to me, to lack the gravity of God’s passion for his glory above all else (Piper).” In this and other teachings from Piper the chief desire of God is his own glory and the chief end of humanity is to give God his glory. Now this post is not designed to argue against this point of view, but to show the value of thinking through your theological perspective. I would argue strongly against this perspective of God’s chief passion. His greatest purpose in his working in the world is reconciliation with his people. He, as the scriptural analogy puts it, loves his people like a husband loves his wife. His glory is in loving her. He cares for her and fights for her. He is jealous for her love because of his love for her. His passion for his glory does not come in the selfishness of a person who wants their own name lifted up, but in the passion of a person who wants the one they love to reciprocate that devotion. Now, there will be time later to flesh out theological perspectives, but the point here is this: how we see God affects how we see ourselves, our purpose, and our mission in the world. The study of God leads to the revelation of human purpose, and the conclusions we come to deeply affect us. Some might argue that ignorant bliss would be easier, but I would simply respond that choosing to not learn about someone is choosing to not love them very well.
Why do you study God?
Do you think it’s important?
I can’t wait to talk it over with you.
Piper, J. (2017, August 07). When Worship Lyrics Miss the Mark. Retrieved September 13, 2017, from http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/when-worship-lyrics-miss-the-mark