What Is Theology?
Theology is like a box of crayons.
Depending on what master you serve, your box of choice may lean towards Crayola or the brand that must not ever find itself in the household of the faithful, RoseArt.
Theology is simply the study of God--and how we study our God will determine what “crayons” we have in our “boxes”. This analogy isn’t to support the idea that we can “put God into a box.” But rather it is an example of how our theological frameworks are formed.
If our theology of God is weak, there will be fewer moments in which we operate from an informed worldview. If our theology of God is strong, there will be many opportunities to see how the assortment of crayons in our collection, help us build meaningful and lasting thoughts and practices that reflect His true nature.
There are two Greek words that make up the word “theology” and those are theos (“God”) and logos (“word”).
These words simply allude to the fact that through God’s Word, He has made Himself known to mankind. The study of God leads us to consult His self-revelations that teach us about who He is. Only in The Old and New Testaments of Scripture, can we know Him as He has intended.
Through studying God’s Word to learn of who He has triunely revealed Himself, we come to form our doctrinal beliefs about Him. This is done through understanding how to rightly read/study Scripture, in interpretation and proper application of what we read. Remember the crayon box analogy I mentioned earlier? Well, the more we study who God is, the more crayons fill up our box. And the more crayons we gather, allows us to form a worldview and box of doctrine, that we “color” with or live out of.
The cool thing about God is that He cannot be boxed in. So the more we learn about Him, the bigger the volume of our theology of Him, grows. You may start off with a 24-pack of “crayons”, and as you grow in the grace and knowledge of God, expand into a 48-pack.
You see, the crayons we have allow us to “fill in the lines” of everything around us. Knowing God’s character, enables us to assess ourselves not according to our neighbor, but The One who created them. It teaches us how to view the world through a lens that is saturated in what God commands, instead of what the world allows according to its own limited wisdom.
There are many who teach and believe that the “crayons” don’t matter to our faith. They believe “doctrine divides” and that “theology puffs up”. And they’re partially right. Theology in the hands of sinners, has the ability to rub up against our sinful natures and influence us to do bad things with it.
BABEL TOWERS AND THE GARDEN OF EDEN
Do you recall the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11? Here we have a people who wanted to thrive in their own vision of self-sufficiency and independence. This is seen in their desire to build for themselves a city and tower with tops that reach the heavens, establish a name for themselves, to avoid being dispersed. God sees the byproduct of their sinful motives on display (Gen. 11:5) and confuses the language of the “children of man”.
In order for the people of Babel to commit this offense against God, they had to believe something about Him. And with it, they sinned against God. Their “crayons” in their theological box of God, gave way for them to color disobedience into their choices. They had to choose to obey Him or to disobey Him. And with what they knew about Him, they chose the latter.
We see this same narrative play out back in The Garden. In Genesis 3, we see the crayons that Adam, Eve and The Serpent had in who they believed God to be, that shook this whole thing up! Adam’s crayons caused him to be presently passive, Eve’s caused her to insert things into God’s mouth that He didn’t say, and The Serpent’s displayed that from his fall from Heaven and onward, nothing changed in the way he walked or what he believed about God.
Irregardless of the amount of theology that one has studied, every single person walking this earth has things they believe about God. These things cause them to act out on or refrain from doing certain things. If we live as if this doesn’t matter, we are deceived. We simply and logically cannot love a God that we know little to nothing about, except what our feelings and experiences model for us. As we saw with The Garden and the people of Babel, when dealing with sinful people with a sin nature, we cannot rely upon our feelings, experiences or what we in our own knowledge, believe is right or true. We need the wisdom of The Lord that is only found in His Word, that The Spirit uses to sanctify us, conforming us into the image of Christ. If you think your experiential and feeling-based moments in this walk foundationally will lead you into true intimacy with God, you haven’t quite understood how intimacy develops.
I don’t know a friendship or marriage out there, that has thrived or even been built, on anything other than shared truths about the individuals involved. In order to build solid friendships and healthy marriages, you’ve gotta learn people. What makes them tick, what makes them smile, what they consider morality issues, what they find offensive, the things that annoy them--only these things can give way to true and lasting intimacy in relationships. If we think God is any different, yet believe these things are vital for high-functioning relationships and marriages, we need to take a review of our doctrine.
Love and knowledge are inseparable and any ideology that seeks to pit them against each other, fails to understand the inevitable connection between the two. Knowing God should be the goal of our studies. Our knowing God should cause us to have a “knowing” faith. A "knowing" faith, should develop in us a Spirit-wrought conviction that leads to right living and deep loving.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD & NEIGHBOR
It’s no secret that God calls us to love Himself and our neighbors as well (Mk. 12:30-31).
But, where does He call us to do that? Well, in order to even know that we’re supposed to do both, we must go to The Bible and see what God says about Himself in it. We can’t pull these theological principles from out of a hat or a best-selling book. We must seek Him, via His Word to know.
Scriptures like John 8:31-32 tell us, as Jesus told the Jews in the text, that by abiding in His Word, that is the mark of true discipleship. This abiding lends the knowledge of Truth, as well as the freedom that Truth brings. There is an element to Truth that is inseparable from God’s Word and His character. Our goal should be to seek to know the truth of God, better than we know the lies of this world and the enemy.
With such a great struggle for truth with millennial Christians, we mustn’t wave off theology like it belongs to Satan. There are so many young people leaving the church in droves because they are being discouraged from finding answers to their questions about God. Millennials all over are being told to, “just love Jesus,” but aren’t being equipped on how to do that and where to start.
If there’s anything I can offer to the conversation surrounding this, it is: Theology in humble and submitted hands, will always lead to a heart that loves the triune God more and puts to action proper application of the words it reads.
Don’t be discouraged by those who the only time they talk of theology and doctrine, is to pit it against true love for God. Rather, be encouraged that the same Spirit who carried men along as they spoke from God in writing Scripture, is the SAME Spirit who will lead you in all truth, as you study The Word (2 Pet. 1:21). He will cause the things you read, to become the very opportunities He places before you to work out the knowledge in your mind. The truth of God’s Word will be the means that God uses to sanctify you, growing you as a Believer.
The conscious community and idolatrous movements of our day, have no room to entice those with an informed, knowing faith. The more we love God with our minds, the better we will know Him and then experience the sweet joy that knowledge causes us to propel us in loving our neighbors well. In a time where the current political climate is fighting for our love of God and neighbor, we know through His Word, where to find our instruction and conviction.
To know God, is to love God. To love God, is to know God.
Only in His Word, will we discover the Truth that informs our love.