I’ve seen more references to theology lately than I have in a long time. These theological comments often begin with phrases like —
- “Jesus would never….” or
- “God always….” or
- “Christians must….”
Of course, many using those phrases have no idea they’re doing theology, but they are. Sometimes they’re doing it well. Lots of times they’re doing theology poorly.
Merriam-Webster’s definition for “theology” is
“the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God’s relation to the world.”
That about covers all the bases, doesn’t it — faith, practice, experience, the Person of God, and how God relates to this world. Theology matters in times like these. Take a look at these 5 reasons why it does:
- Our concept of God reveals our theology. Do you believe God is love? And if God is love, how does God express that love? Or, if God is all-powerful, how does God wield divine power? Or is God on our side and against the ___________ (fill in the blank here). Whatever you think of God, those thoughts are theological thoughts that reflect our basic beliefs.
- Our view of the world reflects our theological framework. Is the world God’s creation? Is humankind made in God’s image? And if God created the world and made humankind in God’s image, how do we live in the world and with others? Is God going to destroy creation or restore it? The answers to those questions shape our thoughts, beliefs and actions.
- Our understanding of Scripture relies on an inherent theology. How did the Bible come to us? And, what interpretive tools do we use to understand, interpret, and apply the Bible to our own circumstances. Is the Bible a rule book, a book of hidden mysterious codes, or the story of God’s people? Your answer depends on the theological system to which you subscribe.
- Our relationships are shaped by our theology. Do we believe that each of us is on our own individually? Or do we believe God’s people have valued community and the common good? Should we love our neighbor? How about our enemies? Do we live life altruistically, or with regard to our family, community, and nation first? Is Christ’s life, death and resurrection an example for our sacrificial service to others, or just for our own salvation? Ultimately, these are all theological questions.
- Our involvement in the wider world is driven by our theology. Are people in need our responsibility, or is everyone on their own? Should we work for God’s “will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven,” or is that something that will only come to pass when the Kingdom of God fully comes? Is God going to destroy the world, or save it?
Theology matters because our thoughts and actions toward creation, people, and suffering all matter. But, theology done well takes time, work, and intention. Good theology reflects love of God, concern for others, and commitment to God’s mission of hope and redemption. I can’t think of anything that matters more.