The story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-14) has baffled Bible students and scholars probably since it was recorded. It’s a terrible story, but an important one. Here’s my take on what the story means, why God asked Abraham to do such a barbaric thing, and how it foreshadows what God ultimately did in Christ. Here’s the link to the audio —
“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.
The book of Hebrews was written to encourage Christians of the first century to remain faithful despite persecution. Examples of great heroes of the faith like Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Elijah and Elisha; and, events like crossing the Red Sea, the battle of Jericho, the survival of the lions’ den and fiery furnace inspired Christians then and now. But, there is a downside to faithfulness. Sometimes faithfulness to God doesn’t end triumphantly, but instead with the faithful being beaten, persecuted, displaced, and killed.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus knows what suffering is about. He endured the shame of the Roman cross in anticipation of the glory of the presence of God. The popular song, “Even in the Valley God is Good,” summarizes our response to suffering. For the first century Christians and for us, the most important thing we can remember is that God is present with us regardless of whether we triumph or whether we struggle.
Our lives contribute to the story of God begun by those in the hall of faith listed in Hebrews chapter 11 through 12. Just as we need them, they need our faithfulness to finish the final chapters in the story that God began in their day. Faith in the face of adversity is still needed today, and our faith builds on the witness of those who have gone before.