Theology is your friend, not your enemy, no matter who you are. Before our whitey tighties get in a postmodern wad over that hear me out:
Theology Isn’t Only For E-Hard Basement Dwelling Theologians
With the advent of church-theory driven seeker sensitivism and a competing rise of Neo-Calvinist hard-rationalism on the other end, the word “theology” has become a word with negative connotations attached to it.
The tragic assumption for many is this: Theology is only for people with mere head knowledge of Scripture (a book), but no heart knowledge of Jesus (or the Father, or the Holy Spirit). The common retort against serious systematic study of the Bible is usually along the lines of:
“God doesn’t live in a book!” or
“The pharisees were theologians too,” or
“God is about a relationship (or insert “love” or “people” here) not all this theology and doctrinal stuff.”
While each of those statements contains some relevant truth in them, they all mischaracterize the nature and function of theology in the average Christian life.
Far from being only for the over educated old white dude with Andy Rooney-ish eyebrows and a permanent scowl: Theology is for everyone; and, in the end, everyone is a theologian.
The word theology comes from two Greek words – “theos,” which means “God,” and “logos,” which means “words.” The simplest definition of theology, then, is “God words” or words about God. Whenever someone speaks of God or the characteristics of God, he or she is speaking theologically and doing theology.
Oprah Is a Theologian
That means this: Whenever anyone opens their mouth and makes any statement about God they are making a theological statement: Rick Warren, Snooki, Oprah, and Joel Osteen all have a personal theology that they share every time they speak or write about anything pertaining to God or godliness.
There is no escaping this no matter what group, denomination (or non), or philosophical worldview you ascribe to.
The maniac with a megaphone, the politician pimping God for a vote, the pimply faced emo kid using His name as a curse word. Yes, theologians every last one of them.
Ray Lewis, the theologian and super scary beast man, said last week after the Ravens beat the Brady Bunch, “No weapon formed against this team shall prosper…” That, my friends, is a theological statement…albeit a twisted out of context one.
Even if a person despises the formal Christian education culture or any doctrinal debate, yet they speak words about God, Christ, Holy Spirit or Scripture in general, they have assumed the position of theologian. An unbelieving atheist, in a twisted way, has a theology and can function as a theologian.
The question is not whether we are theologians (ones who speak words about God), the question is whether we are theologians that are committed to carefully speaking the true words of God. If we are committed to truly know God, love people, and be in right relationship with Him, then we better be committed to knowing and sharing His word as faithfully as we can (2 Timothy 2:15).
For the sake of God’s holy name and rep, we all should be the best theologians we can be.
Also, for the sake of the Holy Spirit we better be the best theologians we can be. If the Holy Spirit wrote a book for us (He did!), we are not being “Spirit led” by building strange fires apart from it (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Theology Is For The Mind AND Heart
Theology helps fuel the mind with God’s own thoughts about Himself, and warms the heart with a passion for Him and others (admittedly I’ve jacked that sentiment from Piper). When we begin to cherish (heart) what we know (head) about Him, we are becoming good theologians (and disciples). Those who are satisfied in knowing little of God may well be satisfied in cherishing little of God.
Let’s not construct barriers Christ never mandated; We are called to love God with all our “heart” and all our “mind.” It is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). Those who would separate the two are creating a false dichotomy. A passion for Scripture context, church history, and ancient languages may very well be the evidence of a heart aflame for God’s glory.
Some may quip, “Well, I am just about Jesus and experiencing God.” So is the true theologian. Completely immersing oneself into the mind expanding, soul stirring, heart igniting words of Jesus is a primary way of being all about Christ while experiencing Him.
What About That Mean Turd E-Theologian?
Granted, some hyper critical theological nitpicks can create irreparable damage in a church body or a Facebook status. But when a person sets his theological sights on everyone but himself on a weekly basis that reveals more about his heart than it does about serious biblical studies. A spirit of division and criticism is unwarranted and unbiblical..
But what do we make of the Bible drill champion “theologian” who has no heart of love, no fruit of the Spirit, shares no gospel and is lost as a ball in high weeds? This person is not an indictment on theological studies any more than Nickelback is an indictment on Rock and Roll.
Sometimes we swing the judgment pendulum so far the other way we altogether forget Pharisees need grace too. Give it to them until they are changed from the inside out.
But let me say to some of my precious “young, restless, and Reformed” audience: a true study of God should make a person the most humble, loving, giving, servant to all men. If your theological study takes you inward into an endless spiral of introspection and selfishness, let me be clear:
You’re doing it wrong.
And to everyone else: Theology is not the culprit. Theology is your friend. At least for this side of the eternity, until the veil is finally taken away, and we see and know Him face to face (1 Cor 13:12).
What say you my fellow theologians?