Written by: David Lawler, Pastor/Elder
There once were two young men sitting at a table in the mess hall of their Christian Bible school. One said to the other, “You know, I don’t need theology, I just need Jesus.” The other young man replied, intending to challenge his peer’s thinking with a question, “I see. And who is this Jesus?”
The young man, looking shocked by his fellow bible school student replied, “He’s God in the flesh who came to save mankind from sin and…”
The other young man interrupted him and stated, “friend, you’re doing theology.”
Much like this confused student, many see theology as an intellectual study that is reserved or only for pastors, scholars and theologians. But the reality is that everyone is a theologian.
Everyone is a theologian because everyone was made by God to know and even “study” Him—and that is what theology is. Theology is the study of God. Jesus says, “This is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
In Jeremiah 9:23-24 we read, “23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
There’s no one alive who doesn’t have a thought about God—whether they think He exists, doesn’t think He exists, or isn’t sure if God exists. Everyone thinks something about God. And this is a reality because… Everyone is a theologian. But not everyone is a good theologian.
It’s not mean to say that. In fact, it’s impossible not to say that. The atheist who thinks God isn’t real and the Christian who worships Jesus as Lord cannot both be right. At least one of them is wrong about God. At least one of them is a bad theologian.
So why does theology matter? There are at least three reason we find in Jeremiah 9:23-24.
1. They boast in the Lord
Good theology leads to the Lord. It continually points the person further and deeper into relationship with God. As stated in verse 23 and the beginning of 24, it’s not about boasting in our own wisdom, our own might or our own riches but boasting in the Lord and His perfect attributes.
Any person who studies theology and grows increasingly arrogant and boastful in their own wisdom or knowledge has missed the true intended purpose of their study — God.
Theology is not only a title we use to clarify a type of study but a definition of a discipline for all Christians committed to God and His Word.
This is why theology matters. It is the study of God to boast in Him and to seek to understand and know Him more.
2. They seek to understand and know
We will never completely understand and know the full vastness of God, but we can still faithfully seek to understand and know Him more each day.
For example, I understand and know my wife more intimately than most people, but that has not come quickly or without some study. This is because, to understand her I have to ask important questions in our time together and to know her I have to intently practice and put into my mind the things that make my wife, Shanna.
Much like in marriage, we do this in how we seek to understand and know God better. When we are studying the Word we ask important questions like: How does this text help me better understand the character, mercy, grace, justice or specific attribute of God?
Questions like this help us to not impose a thought or idea; or even more dangerously a doctrine into the text of the Bible we are studying — but to more clearly seek and learn who God is and who He says that we are.
This is why a true study of theology leads us to a better understanding of who we are as Children of God because it is a study based upon the words of the Lord, and not us.
3. They delight in what God delights in
At the end of verse 24, the Lord speaks of what He practices and delights in: "steadfast love, justice, and righteousness“
Studying God’s attributes is much like a color blind person putting on a pair of EnChroma glasses. You’ve probably seen one of those videos online of a color blind person putting those glasses on for the first time. It is powerful and moving. Their entire outlook and understanding changes about the world around them. That is what it is like to study the attributes of God — and that is why theology matters.
Studying theology is looking through the lens of the Bible and delighting in the character of God and the knowledge and understanding of who He is.
It is one thing for us to read the words of our Bibles and think on the things of God that are good, but it is another thing entirely to study God’s Word to become complete and equipped for every good work (1 Timothy 3:16-17).
Church, I encourage you to study your Bible. If you long for the voice of God, this is where we will find it. He is not dull or mute to speak. He has written down His words for us in a deeply theological book that tells the grand narrative of the love He has for His people through the person and work of His son, Jesus Christ.
So when we study the Bible, we learn to love Him and grow in our relationship with Him, sharing theses truths with those around us. That is what true theology does and what a good theologian aims to do in their study and practice.