Whenever we learn something, we want to know why its useful or practical or good for us. As someone who has been studying theology formally for the last four and a half years, this question is particularly close to home – why study theology at all?
Theology is a practice not just for the theologians, but for every Christian. While we don’t all necessarily have to know the word theodicy and be able to break down the attributes of God into his communicable and incommunicable attributes, the call to study theology is at the heart of Christianity.
Here’s some reasons why:
1. Theology helps us test what we believe. Any system of beliefs is only really worth investing our time in if it corresponds to reality and is internally coherent. A lot of us have a bunch of different beliefs about things that are completely disconnected and ultimately don’t fit with other things we believe. While certainly, Christianity is full of paradoxes that cannot be logically solved, there is a place for exploring the theological story of Christianity and seeing how all the parts fit together. Theology is a key part to understanding the Christian story’s coherence.
2. Theology keeps us humble. Theology is one of the great gifts from God in that, when studied properly, it humbles us. While perhaps we can work out or puzzle through other disciplines, theology is constantly done in light of the fact that our minds are bumping up against a mystery that we really can’t unravel. The study of the Triune God is not something to pass over, but neither is it something that we should think we completely grasp.
3. Theology teaches us how to read the Bible. While Scripture is certainly ultimately authoritative (as my Protestant nature demands I confess), theology does allow us to understand it more clearly. Understanding what Christians have held to be “orthodox” provides us with a lens to understand when our own interpretation of Scripture is accurate or when we might be vying off course.
4. Theology brings us to know God better. Augustine, in his treatise about the Trinity, repeatedly points to his motivation for explicating this difficult doctrine as the call of Psalm 105:4 – “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” Theology is about seeking God’s face. It is the call of God on our lives to know him and is a vital and indispensable part of that knowledge. It extends beyond cultivating an emotional relationship but recognizes that our whole being, mind, body and soul are called to know God, and to seek his face.
5. “Theology is for doxology.” Every class session that I have with JI Packer begins with us singing the doxology because, as he reminds us, “theology is for doxology (worship).” As Christians, we are called to worship God, and theology calls us into worship. It is impossible for a Christian, I believe, to contemplate the Trinity, or justification, or the dual natures of Christ and not be drawn to our knees in praise and adoration.
Those of course, are just a few reasons; I’m convinced there are many more. Theology is for every individual who is called to test what we believe, live humbly, read Scripture, know God and worship him; that is, studying theology is for every Christian. We are called to follow Jesus, we are called to know him, and that includes the study of theology.
Would love to hear if you have any more reasons in the comments.