Theology Matters: "Why Good Theology Matters"
During this time of physical, emotional, and social uncertainty, we can benefit from the certain truths found in God’s Word. These biblical truths form the foundation of what we know about God, his creation, and his plans for us. When we speak about our knowledge or understanding about God, we are referring to our theology. As Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch Christian philosopher, once wrote, “theology is knowing God.” Now, while the term, “theology,” may sound a bit pretentious, everyone is a theologian because everyone has a particular knowledge or understanding about God (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:19).
But, good theology is more than just knowing God. If knowledge about God were the only qualification for good theology, the demons would make excellent theologians (James 2:19). On the contrary, good theology is also the application of Scripture to all areas of our lives. In other words, we must be doers of the word and not hearers (or readers) only. Consequently, when we engage in a disciplined study of God but fail to apply what we learn to our lives, we are like the man in James chapter one who looks intently at his face in a mirror, goes away, and at once forgets what he was like (James 1:22–25).
Good theology is more than just knowing God, but it is not less than a disciplined study of God. In other words, good theology involves using our minds in the process of comprehending, questioning, reasoning, and synthesizing the various truths we find in God’s Word. Throughout Scripture, we are encouraged to grow in our knowledge and understanding of God (Proverbs 2:1–6; Isaiah 1:18; Jeremiah 3:15; Hosea 4:1–6; Matthew 22:37; Philippians 1:9; Colossians 1:9; 2 Peter 3:18). Without this scriptural knowledge and understanding of God, we cannot rightly know him or worship him (John 4:24). At best, we will end up worshipping an “unknown god” (Acts 17:23) or a god made in our own image instead of the God of the Bible.
Additionally, without this scriptural knowledge and understanding of God, we cannot rightly live for God. A.W. Tozer, a 20th-century American pastor and author, writes the following in his book, Knowledge of the Holy:
A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.
Of course, Scripture is clear that to truly know and understand God, we need the illumination of the Holy Spirit that comes at salvation (1 Corinthians 2:11–13). Without the Holy Spirit, we would view the narratives of Scripture as moral fables, the miracles in Scripture as religious myths, and the truths of Scripture as antiquated foolishness (1 Corinthians 2:14). Scripture is also clear that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is necessary to truly benefit from a disciplined study of God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Consequently, while it is true that our relationship with God is based on faith, it must be based on an informed faith.
A Firm Foundation
I once attended a church where this sort of disciplined study of God’s Word was considered irrelevant, even harmful, to one’s faith. Studying theology, it was believed, tended to lead to a lack of gospel witness and even to theological liberalism. This church also did not see the need for extensive teaching of God’s Word or expositional preaching. Instead, the pastor preached on a handful of themes and topics, which he regularly rotated and repeated using different passages of Scripture. Not surprisingly, this church held to several peculiar doctrines regarding English Bible translations, church history, personal holiness, and revivalism.
In the same way, when we personally neglect a disciplined study of God’s Word, we rob ourselves of the certainty, grounding, and hope that good theology provides. Instead, we remain like the immature believer described by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter four who is, “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). No wonder there are so many professing Christians today who get caught up in cults, deviant doctrines, and conspiracy theories. Additionally, in uncertain times like today, many Christians are often quick to turn to man-centered theories and remedies for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression instead of anchoring their souls with the firm foundation of God’s Word (Psalm 18, 46, 91).
Why It Matters
As I wrote at the start, during this time of physical, emotional, and social uncertainty, we can benefit from the certain truths found in God’s Word. It is my intent over the course of the next several articles to answer the question, “Why does theology matter?” In other words, I desire to demonstrate how good theology not only informs us about God, his creation, and his plans for us, but also applies to all areas of our lives.
The prophet Jeremiah writes in Jeremiah 9:23–24:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
Church, let us pursue a study of theology so that we might better understand and know our God and, as a consequence, live in obedience to his will and for his glory.