January 1, 2016, I started my fourth year in ministry. The past three years have been some of the most rewarding, yet most difficult times of my entire life. Over these past few years, I have come to love theology. In fact, most of my spiritual gifts deal with theology. Not to say that I am chosen by God to be some great theological mind, but the Lord has given me a desire to study and learn about Him and His Word.
The study of theology is (or should be) a vital part of a Christian’s life. Your theology determines your worldview, Christian or not. For us as Christians, we sometimes devalue theology and categorize it to only academia. Let me just say: Don’t do that! Theology is the Christian’s way of life.
Over the past few years of studying theology and discussing it with fellow believers, I have found two main reasons why theology is necessary for the Christian.
1) Theology involves knowing God.
One definition of theology is the study of God and divine truth. There may be some confusion seen with the above statement because if we are fair in our thinking, we also see that you can have an understanding of theology and not know God. James wrote it, plain and clear, saying even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). What James is saying is crucial in understanding theology; you can know theology and not know God. The fact of the matter is that there are some who view theology as nothing more than academic knowledge of the Bible. In some sense, they are correct.
Theology is the study of God. When we deal with theology, we are dealing with God. When we study theology, we are studying God. As such, when we know theology, we should know God. But it is not the case all the time. In some cases, theology means nothing more to the Christian than any other knowledge.
It ought not be this way.
The study of God ought to include a life that is pleasing to God. Because we study and learn God, we ought to make what we learn applicable in our lives of growing in grace. The primary goal in our theological endeavors should be knowing God. If not, our endeavors of studying theology are in vain, in my opinion.
2) Theology invokes application.
Because there is a possibility to know theology and not know God, it is necessary for those studying theology to properly apply it to their lives. When we do not properly apply our theology, sometimes it becomes academic rather than an act of worship. Yes, you read right. Studying theology is an act of worship to God. We read our Bible to know God. We go to church to know God. We live our lives to know God. Our entire lives exist primarily for one reason: to know God truer and better.
In comparison, it is completely realistic of me to think similarly of my relationship with my wife. Dating has a common goal of trying to understand a person and their personality/attitude/goals in life to figure out if they match the standards you have for your future spouse. While I was dating my wife, we had many conversations about marriage and what we would do in certain situations of disagreement and conflict. These conversations are necessary to any couple considering marriage. However, it is equally necessary to talk about your “love languages.” Generally, your love language is going to be different than that of your significant other’s love language. My wife’s love language is dramatically different than my personal love language.
But let me pose this question:
What would it look like if I knew my wife and what her goals were in marriage, her love languages, and her personality thoroughly but never catered to any of those areas in her life? Of course, my marriage would not be strong, possibly even non-existent because I would never interact with my wife on a personal level. We think of marriages similar to this example and almost cringe to the idea of that much neglect of attention, communication, and pursuit of your spouse, yet when we view theology, in some cases, we deem it alright to treat God this way.
When we study theology, we should treat it as a relationship, if you will. We wouldn’t dare accept it when our spouse treated us in a similar manner, but sometimes we do this with God whenever we do not effectively and correctly apply our theology.
It must be our main goal to know God. The Westminster Short Catechism’s first question in its contents asks “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is that man should “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” To glorify God, we must know Him. We cannot know God without learning and studying about Him. In the same way I must know and enjoy my wife’s companionship (if we can compare the two relationships), I must extend the effort to know God and reciprocate the same love He has shown us through His redeeming grace.