One of the great joys of my life is opening up a new book. I especially love reading books about theology. Theology, as a word itself, may cause vastly different responses. Perhaps it may elicit indifference, or disdain. Perhaps joy and excitement. Perhaps confusion. Perhaps horror. What is theology? Depending upon whom you ask you may get several answers. But being a fan of words, I would like to look simply to the word itself.
The word “theology” means literally “words about God” though “the study of God” may be more fitting. The prefix -theos is the Greek word for God. The word is constructed in much the same way as other fields of study where the prefix designates the course of study. For example, biology is the study of living things, and psychology is the study of the soul. How is theology different from these other courses of study?
Theology is the study of the Creator God who has revealed Himself both in creation and through His Word. This supernatural, or what is sometimes called revelatory (after God’s self-revealing of Himself), aspect distinguishes theology from every other -ology out there because the subject in view is necessarily above the one studying. Theology then, if done properly, is inherently reverential or approached in an air of humility. The enterprise itself is not seeking to dissect God, as some might falsely presume. Theology, or the act of thinking about God, is an act of worship whereby the creature considers the God who has spoken, and that, chiefly through Word, contained in the Old and New Testaments.
The field of theology has in many ways been muddied. Even today, there are those whose theological structures may be profound, voluminous, and intricately established. However, there is nothing brilliant about an intricate series of ideas if they are inconsistent, and even antagonistic, with the source material. A Christian cannot and must not function in these ways. But this is all too common today with those who would claim to represent God and yet silence Him over and over again. As Ecclesiastes reminds us, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl. 1:9 ESV) The same error of false theologies existed in the days of the Old and New Testament (cf. Ezekiel 20:16; 1 Timothy 4:1).
With these things in mind, how can we hope to honor God with our own pursuits of theology? It is only by means of recognizing the task at hand. The study of theology is properly a call to “think God’s thoughts after Him.” By God’s grace alone everyone knows something about Him (cf. Romans 1:18-23). The only question is whether or not your theology lines up with what God has said. In other words, are you a God-honoring theologian or not. Herein lies the value of theology.
Theology is meant to lead to doxology. Our knowledge of God ought to lead us to worship Him more and more. Reflexively, the more we worship God the more we want to know about Him. What faithful husband has no desire to learn more about his wife? What healthy relationship lives in stagnation? If we know that our relationships with people cannot remain stagnant and prosper, why would we presume this to be the case with the Almighty? God has spoken, and it is our sacred duty as His creatures to listen carefully.
What are you believing about God today? Is it reflective of what He’s delivered through His world and Word?
The inestimable value of theology for you today is akin to a pair of glasses to those who would be otherwise blind. Theology enables us to see the world rightly. Theology enables the person to see themselves rightly. Theology, empowered by God’s Spirit, enables you to see God rightly. Contrary to popular thought, we do not exist in a cosmic abyss of indifference and chance. We live in God’s world. We live as His creatures. We live to praise His name.
The only question then that you must wrestle with, O theologian, is whether or not you will bring glory to God by means of His justice (if you neglect Him, and remain indifferent towards His Gospel call to repent and believe in His Son), or will you bring glory to God by means of His mercy (rejoicing in the gift of our Savior, the eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ). No other system of thought has eternal consequences like theology. Therefore, no other system is immediately as pressing today.