Lately I've been swimming in the deep end of theology. In addition to my "day job" as a pastor, I've been doing some adjunct teaching at Grace University in Omaha, NE. (This is one of the reasons my posts on this site have been so sporadic the last few months.)
Specifically, I've been teaching a class on Trinitarianism (yup, that's what it's called), and have been drilling deeply into Theology Proper (the doctrine of God), the Trinity, Christology (the study of Jesus Christ) and Pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit). It's been AWESOME. And I've learned a ton.
While I've been on a number of different learning curves of my own so far this semester, one of these learning curves concerns the role of theology in the Christian's life. Here are two big lessons I've learned in this area:
We NEED Sound Theology
When I've told others I'm teaching a class called "Trinitarianism," I've had some react with incredulity that I'm devoting 13 (or so) weeks worth of classes to the topic. Some of the questions I've heard sound something like this: "Can you really talk about God for 13 weeks?" and "My main goal is to love God - do I really need to study him (with all the theology, history, and terminology that goes with that) to do that?" In both cases these questions - often innocently and with understandable intentions - are asking whether we really NEED to go to all the trouble of "doing" theology like this.
My answer is yes. Yes (we can talk about God for 13 weeks). And yes (studying God can serve the loving relationship we want to cultivate with him). And yes we NEED theology, and we need to value the role theology plays in our lives as individual believers and in the life of our local churches.
Yes, we can talk about God for 13 weeks. (And it's not even boring - at least not to me!) The doctrine of God is like a diamond with many different facets - the way God has revealed himself in Scripture as triune, God's attributes, the history of how he's worked in the world as recorded in Scripture, a history of how humans have tried to "put together" who he is, who God is in himself, the mission he's on, and so on. Each of these facets "catches light" and illuminates truth and insights that deserve reflection, application, and (more often than not) worship!
Yes, studying God can (should!) serve the loving relationship we want to cultivate with him! A simple illustration will suffice: When I was first dating the woman who is now my wife, I got to know what she liked and didn't like, I learned about her background and her dreams for the future, we spent time in larger social groups so I could see her interact with others, and more. In short, I "studied her." I learned everything I could ABOUT her because it helped me get to know HER, and helped cultivate a meaningful, loving relationship between the two of us! So let's stop pitting the STUDY of God against a LOVE for God. These two things should serve each other in some sort of circular, self-perpetuating fashion; they should not be seen as opposites!
Yes, we NEED theology and the valuable role it plays in our lives and churches.
We need MORE than Sound Theology
So...theology is necessary. It's THAT important. But it's not enough, in-and-of-itself. James 2:19 tells us that even demons have right theology (they believe there is one God). But their response is all wrong. At the knowledge of God they shudder instead of submitting. They rebel instead of repent.
So a right theology is not enough - at least not if we define theology primarily in terms of what we KNOW at a cognitive level. We also need to respond rightly - with faith, trust, awe, worship, and obedience.
It's somewhat (and by "somewhat" I mean "very") sobering to know that it could be possible for a student to get an "A" in Trinitarianism but miss this heart-level response God wants from him or her. It's more sobering to know it's possible I could get through this semester of teaching ABOUT God and miss an opportunity to get to know him better myself.
By God's grace, as we study him closely in this task of doing theology, may he bless us with a greater understanding of and deeper relationship with himself!!
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.