Theology can seem like a frightening word to some people. For some, this word evokes images of large libraries and stuffy book fans sitting on the library floor reading 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 the local 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 writing 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 inexperienced or young Christian, and there is no way a common person who has been in the faith some time, like you, could grasp or understand it, you hardly get by on Sunday with the sermon and your devotions that don’t necessarily register. For many of you I’m sure you are just confused in regards to this subject, I have probably met someone just like you also in a similar boat, and just wondering what is theology to begin with. It’s a good question to ask. The fact that you even ask it demonstrates that you take seriously your connection with God, because this word and it’s many subject areas do come up in ways we aren’t always conscious of.
“Theology” is a phrase that has been used since the 3rd century to mean”speaking about God” or the”science of God.” In and of itself, theology gets at the nature and relationship people have with God and what the word”god” means to people. To the Muslim it is talking about Allah and the teachings of the Quran and the four other holy 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) customs it might mean doing something for one god to avoid the anger of another. For the Deist, it could just be simply about finding general truths in all customs and living a moral life and going to heaven. Everyone believes different things and that essentially is what theology is and aims to talk. It’s discussion about God or gods as well as the relationship that exists between us and them and us with others.
Christian theology is talking about God in Christian ways. Christians, think about their faith. Christian faith is all about both a matter of reflection as well as an outcome of that reflection. It looks at why we do the things we do and why. 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 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 ought to be a mixed group. There are certainly other ideas out there too on the topic. Christian theology however forces us to think in an orderly manner about the basic ideas of our Christian religion. Theology is, at least to good extent, intellectual reflection on the action, content, and consequences of Christian faith. It’s used to occasionally help communicate an understanding of certain elements of our Christian religion asking things such as:
• Where did these different strategies come from?
• What are the merits of such an approach?
• What difference or impact is made to the business of Christian living?
Committed Ideas of Theology
Christian theology is all about trying to understand why the Christian Church is dedicated to ideas that seem complex and, at times, a little implausible. When we examine 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 a few may 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 think, but why we believe it.
Can Theology Just Make Faith Unnecessarily Complicated?
When answering the question of”what is theology” it is not unusual to hear a question about theology making religion unnecessarily complicated. And, I feel that concern is justified, but to an extent. I often find it helpful to recall what Anselm of Canterbury said on the topic of theology, and that it is”faith seeking understanding.”
As I mentioned in sections above, Christianity thinks about its faith. We make various claims about God and what we are taught and read about God and the connection we have with God. However, we’re also people who are curious and have questions, sometimes concerns 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 simple to just say well the Bible says xyz about divorce, but what about sexual or emotional abuse that leads you to exit a union? Are they biblically justified in leaving that marriage? The answer on this matter gets somewhat more complicated, because now contextual components are needed not only from the Bible’s teaching about marriage and divorce, but it’s teachings on violence and the responsibility of care spouses have to the marriage and how those cultures where the biblical authors write approaches and experienced things. At times, you will need to look at ancient Christian and other writings of that time to learn what was going on and then approach the matter by an educated opinion with a set or reasons and recommendations. This is putting theology into practice, it’s an area called Biblical Theology which gets involved with matters of hermeneutics and exegesis and other elements of biblical literature and study.
Another consideration in answering the matter of this being complex 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 certain about what they think. Perhaps their parents never highlighted the importance of religion growing up and they feel like they are missing out. Or maybe you are in a college course debating atheism. Simply stating that”because the Bible says so” is not going to fly in these situations. In actuality, for the curious or agnostic they might simply believe and think that Christians worship a book rather than an all-powerful God who actually existed. They would need some background on why the Bible is important rather than merely a book or ethical 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 like baptism by immersion or by sprinkling.
Perhaps the most compelling reason as to the importance of theology and to do it even if it seems complex is the discipleship of the mind. Deut. 6:1-24 and Matthew 22:37 both address 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 concerning the importance of the renewal and transformation of our thoughts onto the things of God so we might worship God properly and follow God’s will. When we engage in theology in the contemplation of the action and being of our faith we are getting a peek at the inner dynamic of a life of faith and its own desire to understand what is believed.
Other Benefits of Theology
Needless to say, there are other aspects of participating in theology for the everyday Christian. One such example is that it gives you a deeper person 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 ideas and insights to help that process along and answering challenges.
Another benefit is that there tends to 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 their mind. Anyone familiar with Greek as well as the words for”love” or even knowledgeable about human intimacy, will know that this is where the term erotic comes from. Theology is an erotic feeling that engages us with our Creator. It is”a sense of longing to understand more about God’s character and ways.”
And finally, the most important benefit of theology which I can think of is that it has a transformative impact on people’s lives. This happens not just to us as we learn and grow, but it also is foundational to why we do things. It’s at the core of Christian outreach and social services that are conducted in certain manners. This is why the many food banks out there are sponsored and conducted by Churches and Christian organizations. 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.