Theology Matters: Because Theology Is Inescapable

Posted by Mat Tomlinson on

 

If you’ve been a part of our church family for a while, you could’ve possibly heard myself or one of the other pastors contend for this reality with you, or plea with you to understand it in hopes that you would more fully grasp its truth and implication(s) for your life.  It’s not a catch-phrase.......it’s not merely a slogan.......it’s a deeply rooted conviction based on the whole of Scripture.  Theology matters.  It is based upon this fact and more (which we’ve quoted before, but bears repeating because of how good it is):  1“What comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.”  - A.W. Tozer.  Theology matters, not only because it’s important, but because you’re already a theologian.

We’re not all “Theologians” with a capital “T” (in the sense of it being our academic occupation, for example), but we’re all “little ‘t’” theologians because all of us - every human on the face of the earth - christians, muslims, athiests, etc. - are all theologians because we ALL have some view of who God is (or isn’t), so fundamental to living as a Christian is a clear understanding of the truth(s) of God.  The moment we have a thought about God or what He’s like; in seeking to understand human existence; the moment we think about divine cosmic creatorship or intelligent design; the moment we pray; the moment we consider any teaching of the Bible or strive to understand it..........believe it or not, we’re engaging in theology.  We’ve defined it outright before, but for the sake of helpful reminding, the word theology means the “science, logic, or study of God.”   Theology, being a theologian, being theological.......is inescapable.  You can wish away the prospect of you being a theological person, but you will only succeed if you never have another thought about God whatsoever.  I’ll say it again, even the atheist can’t do that.  So, the question is not “Am I a theologian, or not?” - the question should rather be, “Am I a good theologian?”  Or possibly even better yet, “Does my theology (the way I know, understand, and comprehend God, what He’s like, and what His purposes are) continually align more and more to the whole counsel of God?”

You may think theology isn’t that important because you think it’s extra-biblical.....something we do or engage in apart from the study of or engagement in the Word of God - there’s bible study, then there’s theology.  Absolutely not.  To use this more poignant term, “biblical theology” (since that’s the landscape of good, right theology - the bible) may be most helpful because it doesn’t hover above the text in abstract philosophical meandering to try to make sense out of it all.  We’re to under-stand Scripture, not over-stand it, right?  Nor is it the intent of biblical theology to press or force anything on the text of Scripture to make sense of it all, like our pre-understandings.  2“Preunderstanding refers to all of our preconceived notions and understandings that we bring to the text, which have been formulated, both consciously and subconsciously, before we actually study the text in detail.” - Duvall/Hayes.

Remember, the Bible is one story - not merely a collection of a slew of disconnected ones.  They’re all telling the same story.  The intent of biblical theology is to humbly approach the whole of Scripture for what it is, carefully seeing how it all fits in harmony with itself, without error or contradiction.  Theology isn’t something we bring to the text.  Theology is what we get from the text.  How is that true?  Because remember, Scripture is “theopneustos,” or God-breathed, and ALL of it teaches (1 Timothy 3:16), and because in its whole, it is the special, divine revelation of God from God to His people.  God is perfect, so He speaks with utmost clarity.  He not only gives us all that we need for life and salvation, He gives it to us clearly.  If God’s Word comes from God, we can rest assured that we’re the ones with the problem of being able to see and understand the harmony of all its parts aright.  Unless you’re not a sinner, you see dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12)...

Is there a danger in theology?  Sure, there is.  Just like there’s a danger in studying the Bible.  David Wells said, 3“Theology without trusting, submissive prayer is no longer good theology; it is merely an academic exercise which may itself pose as a substitute for the process of knowing God.  Where this happens, the means has become the end in a kind of perverse idolatry.”  You may say, “Danger in studying the Bible?”  Absolutely!  Do you see any danger in taking someone who’s never heard anything about God, Jesus, the bible, etc, and giving them a bible, then leaving them in isolation for a year?  If you don’t, I understand.  We preach that the bible is the sole, infallible rule of faith and all one needs for life and salvation.  However, we cannot rid the bible of the parts that teach us of the need for pastors, elders, teachers, discipleship, contending for and guarding doctrine, and many other things.  Also be reminded of this - there are biblical scholars in the world, Christian and secular, who study the bible.......and come to vastly different conclusions about a host of things that one can only begin to imagine apart from being aware of it.

And finally, for the sake of brevity in this blog (we’ll continue to write about all this), the end, the goal of theology.......biblical theology.......is for worship.  Listen to what Joe Thorn writes in his book “Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself”:

4“You know you need to check yourself.  Daily.  Especially when it comes to your theology.  Not only because there is always the danger of getting theology wrong, but also because of the danger of your theology hosting the parasite of pride.  Pride can attach itself to your theology and feed off it to such a degree that you will believe it actually belongs there.  This demonstrates a very basic problem in your doctrine; even if the propositions of your theology are correct, the end of theology is missed, for the end of theology is worship.  Good theology will always lead to humility and worship.  It displays the greatness of God.  It shows that he is transcendent, sovereign, holy, and good.  It reflects the beauty of Jesus and the gospel, and the wonder of God’s justice and mercy coming together in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Good theology uncovers the truth about ourselves—that we are men and women made in God’s image, who exist for his glory, but have turned inward and ugly through our own sin.  Without the hope of the gospel we are objects of wrath and await destruction.  But in Christ we are reconciled to God.  Humility is properly born out of this theology.  In seeing the greatness of God and who we are as his creation, we become characterized by a spirit of growing awe, wonder, and meekness, and are drawn to worship.  We can exalt and exult in the God who has not only made himself known but also invited us to draw near to him as he draws near to us.  Developing a theology that leads to worship requires you to approach doctrine devotionally—that is with the aim of a life of worship devoted to a Person, not a principle.  It means you will read Scripture, and even theology books, with the goal of knowing Christ deeply and making him known clearly.”

Now what?  Well, there’s lots I could say about what to do next or where to go from here.  The content in this post may not be new or revolutionary to some of you (if not, then just let it be affirming), but to some of you, it very well may.  If that’s the case, here are some things in summary for you to consider:

1.)  Embrace the fact that you are a theologian.  Embrace and be thankful for the fact that He's given you the mental capacity to know Him and learn more about Him.  Embrace that this also means that there are things you are probably wrong about - things you even believe about God.  And if we could concede that we don’t know everything there is to know in Scripture, then we can understand that there’s way more to Him than we think (just like the picture of the iceberg).  We’re reminded that even after this life He’ll continue to “show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  We’ll be learning more about Him for eternity, but embrace the process now.  He will help you.  He will correct you.  He will give understanding.  He’s given us His Spirit and leaders and teachers in the Church.  

2.)  Remember that the end of theology is not a compilation of facts about God.  It is knowing Him to glorify Him, which is to enjoy Him and make Him known.  We glorify what we behold, and we witness to what we behold.  Let that be a humungous vision of God.

3.)  Read more.  You’ll never hear us say that any resource is above Scripture, and we know there are things out there (yes, even in the Christian book stores) that aren’t just unhelpful, but outright not good, but don’t let that stop you from seeking resources we would recommend to you.  God has sovereignly and providentially gifted some people in history in astoundingly gracious ways to pen incredible, true, right things about God as a help to the Church, and there are riches to be found in them.  We want to point you to those things, and we pray they’ll be used mightily of the Lord to magnify the scope of your understanding of God and His Word.  Can it be difficult?  Yes.  That’s why we’re here.

 

Here are just a few trusted resources we’d recommend here (we have much more - please ask):

“Everyone’s A Theologian” - R.C. Sproul

“Essential Truths of the Christian Faith” - R.C. Sproul

“Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know” - Wayne Grudem

“Bible Doctrine:  Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith” - Wayne Grudem

“Systematic Theology:  An Introduction to Bible Doctrine” - Wayne Grudem

“Concise Theology:  A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs” - J.I. Packer

“Doctrine:  What Christians Should Believe” - Driscoll and Breshears

 

References/Citations:

1Tozer, A. W. (2013-11-28). A. W. Tozer books: The Pursuit of God and Other Classics .  . Kindle Edition. 

2Duvall, J. Scott; Hays, J. Daniel (2012-05-08). Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (p. 139). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

3http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=10

4Thorn, Joe (2011-04-05). Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself (Re:Lit) (p. 113). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.