When I told my friend, who happened to be a youth pastor, that I was going to school to study the Bible, he responded, “kids don’t need theology, that only bogs them down. What they need is a passion for God.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. When I told my friend, who happened to be a youth pastor, that I was going to school to study the Bible, he responded, “kids don’t need theology, that only bogs them down. What they need is a passion for God.” Since then, I don’t know how many people have said to me something like, “doesn’t studying the Bible as a subject ruin your relationship with God?” Just think how many times you have heard that “God doesn’t care about your head, he cares about your heart.”
But is that true? Romans 10:1-4 admits that the Jews were zealous for God. They were passionate about Him. But Paul’s desire is that they might be saved. Is it just me, or does that seem strange for anyone else? Paul says that even though they are passionate about God they aren’t saved. And the reason why: their passion isn’t according to knowledge. They have a proper zeal for God but improper knowledge to go along with it.
Now, I said that this seems strange, but if we stop to think about it, it really makes sense. When you are in a relationship with someone, you judge how strong that relationship is by how well they know you. For Christmas, my friend bought me a jacket. At first you may think a jacket is a jacket and all that would matter is whether I liked how it looked. But when he gave it to me he explained why he thought the jacket fit my style. He went on for a couple of minutes explaining why he thought I would like the colors and the stripes on the back of it. It wasn’t too crazy but it wasn’t too plain. What makes the jacket a special gift is that it shows how well he knows me.
Our relationship with God really isn’t any different. The depth of our relationship with God is proportional to our knowledge of him. This is why the Apostle Paul is so concerned with our knowledge. In the book of Ephesians he begins by praying that the Lord will give the Church (us) a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ. In the third chapter, Paul prays again that we will have the strength to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Theology literally means the study of God. Most of the time, however, we use the word in a broader sense to cover the study of all that pertains to God and His relationship with us.
So, this is where theology comes in. Theology literally means the study of God. Most of the time, however, we use the word in a broader sense to cover the study of all that pertains to God and His relationship with us. Theology looks to organize the material in the Bible into subsections. We call these subsections doctrines. For instance, we may study the doctrine of salvation, or the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of the Church or the doctrine of the end times. There are a nearly limitless number of doctrines because anything that the Bible talks about could constitute a doctrine. People can even study the doctrine of family or the doctrine of friendships by doing a study of what the Bible has to say about these topics.
Theology exists to organize topics of the Bible and help make them more understandable and memorable. That is why theology is so helpful in developing a relationship with God. If our relationship with God is developed through knowing Him more, then theology helps us to know Him better.
Theology’s main job is to help us get to know God better. But there are a few fringe benefits as well.
The more I learn about this the more my mind is boggled with the awesomeness of God, and that’s fun.
For instance, in my opinion, theology helps make Christianity more fun and interesting. I can think of at least three things that make it so interesting. One is simply that God is interesting. There is an infinite being who created me. He is in control over everything that happens but He is still able to have a relationship with me. The more I learn about this the more my mind is boggled with the awesomeness of God, and that’s fun.
Another thing that is fun for me, and for many Christians I know, is learning how the things we believe actually developed over time. It was a surprise to me how much of what we believe now is the result of some debate back in the day. Someone would come up with some new idea about God and the Church had to respond by going to the Bible to see if this new idea was true.
Theology has also helped me understand my own family and friends more.
Theology has also helped me understand my own family and friends more. Within my own family I know people who believe all sorts of things about God. Some don’t believe in God at all. Others believe that if they have a good relationship with God, He will bless them with good health and plenty of money. Theology has helped me understand both sides better (and understand why I think they are both wrong).
The difficult thing with theology can be where to start. We have already seen there are many topics that we could study. How do we know where to start? In some sense there is a logical order that we could follow. For instance, it makes sense to start with the doctrine of the Bible, because this doctrine explains why Christians set the Bible as the foundation for everything we believe and practice. On the other hand we may want to start with the doctrine of God. After all, our goal is to know God better and we would have no Bible without a God to provide that Bible.
I personally think there should be some foundational doctrines that each of us should look into:
- The doctrine of the Bible: the Bible is the source of all that we believe about God. A Christian should know why they believe the Bible to be the Word of God. Although the Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, the Bible is also one book with a singular thread of redemption through Christ that can be traced from the first page to the last. A Christian should know what the Bible is about.
- The doctrine of God: the goal of theology is to know God better. This will require knowing the three persons of God (i.e. the trinity) and their relationship with us and with each other.
- The doctrine of salvation: the major question that the Bible answers is how can God, being just, pardon guilty people condemned to death and bring them back to new life.
- The doctrine of the Christian life: salvation from sin is not the end of the story. We are saved to new life in Christ Jesus. The doctrine of the Christian life looks at what this new life should look like.
Truthfully, there are many other doctrines that would also be great to explore. The doctrines above are foundational to the Christian faith, so we should all be solid in our understanding of them. But don’t stop there. Study what you find interesting. Talk to your friends and family. Find out what they believe about God and things related to God. When you watch TV or read a book, look and see if they mention anything related to the Christian worldview. Then go the Bible. Search the Scriptures and allow them to change your thinking, so that more and more, you grow to have the mind of Christ.