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What Is Theology?

Bible scripture with book mark

This post is also available in: Norsk (Norwegian)

What do you think about the word theology? Depending on your background, that word can elicit everything from a disinterested shrug to joyous worship of God. For many people in the contemporary Christian church, their reaction is closer to the former, sadly. Fortunately, it can also be the latter. That word can be a particularly sweet word that can fill your soul with joy and a deep longing for God, to know him and everything about him.

How can that be? How can such a supposedly stale word like theology invoke joy? Well, let us take a look at the etymology of the word, which means the history of the word. To do that, take a look at John 1:1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1 ESV

As you may know, John didn’t write his gospel in English. The New Testament was originally written in Greek, Koine Greek specifically, which is an ancient form of Greek. When we read the Bible, we’re reading a translation of the ancient biblical texts. Here is the original Greek of John 1:1 with the transliteration (pronunciation) underneath.

?? ???? ?? ? ?????, ??? ? ????? ?? ???? ??? ????, ??? ???? ?? ? ?????.
En arche en ho logos, kai ho logos pros ton theon, kai theos en ho logos.

John 1:1

Do you see it? In this verse (among others), we find the two component-words which our modern word theology is derived from: Theos, which means god, and logos, which means word, but it can also mean discourse, reason, or thought in certain contexts (and of course in John 1:1, it refers to the Lord Jesus Christ himself). Thus, the word theology literally means “words about God,” “teaching of God,” and so on, which is what theology basically is: Theology means knowledge about God.

Everyone Has a Theology

Everyone who has a view of God has a theology, whether or not they would call it that. It might be a view that they got from their parents and their tradition, or it might be the view that they heard from their Yoga teacher, or it might be an opinion that they idly formed for themselves while they were eating pizza one afternoon, and so on.

Clearly, those are all terrible ways to learn about someone. In order to get to know someone personally, you have to hear from them personally. How can we do that? Where does God speak to us? In the Bible, of course. God, because of his abundant grace and infinite love, has made himself known to us. From atop his throne in heaven, he has spoken, presenting his people with his perfect word, which he perseveres from generation to generation, so that all of his adopted children can get to know him personally and trust him completely (Matt. 22:31; John 5:39). We don’t need anything more to learn about God. As Paul says, Scripture makes us “complete” and equips us for “every good work,” every single one, not just some (2 Tim. 3:17).

Therefore, to have good theology simply means to have an accurate, biblical view of God; to have bad theology means to have an inaccurate, unbiblical view of God. Obviously, this means that good theology is vital because bad theology kills. As Jesus said, eternal life depends on knowing the true God:

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17:3 ESV

Theology and a Living Faith

Unfortunately, a false idea has arisen within contemporary Christianity, which teaches that theology is something for those cold, intellectual types. They want a “living faith” now, not an “intellectual faith.” As if learning more about God would actually destroy your faith and turn you into some stale intellectual who is incapable of uttering the word “hallelujah.”

Honestly, does such a relationship exist anywhere in the world? Can you know so much about someone, like your spouse, that your relationship with them becomes solely intellectual? Is there a certain point when you simply have to tell your wife that, “Honey, don’t tell me anything more about yourself. If you do, I don’t know if we’ll be able to hug anymore”?

Now, it wasn’t always like this. This anti-intellectualism is a relatively new development. And it is such a grievous development because when people neglect theology, they’re neglecting both an essential aspect of their worship and their personal relationship with the infinite God of glory.

Think about it. It doesn’t make any sense to tell your wife that you love her while doing your best to avoid learning more about her, especially if she’s trying to tell you more about herself and what’s important to her. Imagine a husband telling his wife that, “I know that’s important to you sweetie, but I don’t care. I just want to be with you.” Does that sound like a healthy relationship? No, not at all.

The notion that one’s faith cannot be both living and studious simultaneously is inherently self-contradictory. To ignore theology is to ignore God.

Study the Word

Therefore, I want to encourage you to dig deep into God’s word by studying your Bible and reading good biblical theology. Nothing should fire you up more than the thought of cultivating your relationship with God, getting to know him more and more, learning all you can in this life about his majestic transcendental nature as you bask in the endless treasures he has sent down from heaven: his perfect Word.

Remember that God is seeking people who will worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23). Don‘t you want to answer that call? Don‘t you want to make him happy? Or do you only care about yourself? Modern Christians like to emphasize the spirit part, but the truth part is equally important. The Lord commands us to love him not only with our entire heart but also with our entire mind (Matt. 22:37).

If the Spirit of God has blessed you with a mind capable of comprehending more of God (which he clearly has since you‘re able to read longer articles like this), it is your duty as his precious child to do so and seek him with everything you have. We must do our best to make our worship as true, affectionate, and faithful as possible so that it can be as delightful and pleasing as possible to our Lord with whom we will joyfully spend eternity.

Soli Deo Gloria

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