theology matters

I wrote this back in June 2008, while reading what has become one of my favorite books. In light of my recent discussion about theology, I figured I would go ahead and repost this :)

Inspired by a book I’ve been reading, When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference. I have learned more about theology for real life than in taking survey of theology in college. Here’s how the author, Carolyn Custis James describes theology:

  • “Theology is knowing God”
  • “Theology is never an end in itself”
  • “Jesus always talked theology. More than anything, he wanted his followers to know his Father, and by far the shortest route to knowing the Father is to know his Son.”
  • “Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten who theology is all about.”

“Technical definitions, which describe theology as the “study of God,” the science of God,” or the “queen of sciences,” can contribute to this problem.  Sometimes these lifeless definitions make God seem like information to store in a database or an object to inspect under a microscope. In contrast, the picture of theology that Mary [of Bethany] and Jesus give us is taken from life itself and reflects the compelling warmth of a relationship.”

“Interestingly enough, the word often used for theology in the Bible is the relational word know. Moses used it to express his longing for an intimate relationship with God when he prayed. (Exodus 33:13) and David described the benefits of such a relationship when he sang “Those who know your name will trust in you (Psalm 9:10a). The Hebrew word used in each case is the same word used elsewhere to describe the tender intimate relationship between a husband and wife. For example, Adam was said to know his wife Eve, implying both knowledge and intimacy.”

“This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

I love this idea that theology is relational, because it IS! And I think we have lost the true meaning of what it means to really know a person. There is depth and intimacy to this word. It is beyond surface level. Everyone has a theology of God, we just have different understandings of who God is.

Hillsong’s To Know Your Name is a great example of a good way to understand the meaning of the word know. Here is the chorus:

know You gave
The world Your only Son for us
To know Your Name
To live within the Savior’s love
He took my place
Knowing He’d be crucified
You loved, You loved
A people undeserving

We all know God in different ways, some of us have misperceptions of who God is. The whole point of this book is to help us recognize that without theology, we suffer, and the very fact that we know God, and we know who he is and what he has done, that knowledge will make a difference in our lives when the storms come. Good theology trusts that God is in control, that God has a plan. Faith in knowing that no matter what happens, God will take care of us, that he is good and holy. “It is only as we grow in our understanding of God that we will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts and find the meaning we ache for.” Then we can recognize that “Our troubles are not signs of abandonment, but are evidence that he is mightily at work. He uses trouble to draw us closer and open our eyes to see more of Him.”

I find comfort in knowing that God is in control, that he has plans for wholeness, not for evil, so why should I be afraid? “God runs the world as if you were his only concern. He orchestrates everything, perfectly timed to serve His purposes for you. He has a fully formed plan for each of us.”

Theology is not an academic concept only for pastors. Theology is for all of us, men and women, no matter who you are or what you do. Degree or not. Our theology determines how we handle tough situations, and circumstances. Theology has shaped me to pursue joy, as Paul encourages us to learn to be content, and be joyful in all things.

Next week: women and theology-reclaiming our theological heritage

How’s your theology?

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