When I entered my first year at a Christian college, I thought I was pretty advanced in spiritual matters. I had grown up in church ever since I was born; and the older I became, the more I strived to portray the image of a “good Christian girl” who did daily devotions, shared Bible verses on Facebook, and answered all the questions in Sunday school and youth group meetings. So when I looked around myself in college and realized nearly everyone I knew was either as knowledgeable or passionate as I was – or much, much more – it totally threw me for a loop.
I remember that aside from freshman composition, the first course I had to take was on “The Making of a Christian Mind.” It was in this class that I was introduced to the word “theology” and the importance of loving God with my mind, as Matthew 22:37 instructs us to do. All the terms and concepts I began to learn were overwhelming. Nonetheless, it was phenomenal to see how the pieces began to come together in a way that I never imaged they could.
You see, the Christian culture I grew up in has a very malnourished view of what one should strive to know about God. The impression was that it is unnecessary to know anything about your faith besides how to “get saved,” appear as morally decent as possible, and avoid hell when you die. That’s what faith is supposed to be, isn’t it? Believing something whether you understand it or not? Believing it just because the preacher tells you to every Sunday morning? No need to study Scripture for yourself, as long as you can recite the twenty-third Psalm and John 3:16. No need to understand what salvation actually is, as long as you raise your hand to receive it at the end of the revival service. No need to understand what the attributes of God are, as long as you just adore your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Because surely you can love God when you don’t really know much about Him, right?
This kind of philosophy is nonsense, to put it frankly. It does not please God to approach Him with your hand out while your eyes and ears are shut. I find it devastating to think that the Church could have such a view of their own faith.
So how do we remedy this issue? With knowledge. Scripture has a lot to say on the subject of knowledge, but one of my favorite passages is Romans 10:2-3, where Paul says passionately, “For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (NASB). This is exactly what good theology seeks to amend. Zeal without knowledge is baseless and unstable. Knowledge about the righteousness of God enables us to truly subject ourselves to Him in genuine, truth-filled love, which is much more valuable (though not always as outwardly impressive) as ignorant religious zeal.
Here’s the kicker, and it’s ironic: Every Christian does theology whether they are aware of it or not. Theology is not really about dusty books, long words, and eloquent explanations. It is simply the mindful pursuit of the truth about who God is and how He operates – though I will note that there is nothing essentially wrong with books or vocabulary or other aspects that relate to religious scholarship. But even a little child who declares that God is their Father and that He loves them is participating in theology, regardless of whether or not they realize it. Theology is the study and knowledge of God. Doctrine is the summation of what we find and believe as a result.
The fact of the matter is that you cannot have Christianity without Theology. You may neglect it, you may misunderstand it, or you may even idolize it in a sinful way, but you cannot totally escape from it. So I challenge you - especially as women in a manipulative, emotion-driven society – to actively embrace the world of good theology. Dive into Scripture and learn the basics of sound, God-centered interpretation (also known as “hermeneutics,” which we will cover in future). Crack open a book by one of the Puritans. Subscribe to Ligonier Ministries’ monthly Tabletalk publication and make use of the Bible studies toward the end of each booklet. If you encounter words or phrases that you don’t understand, stop and look them up; and if you ever get frustrated, return to the essentials and begin again. Be humble as you learn. Ask God to mold your mind and heart. We have nothing to fear in approaching theology with the motivation of knowing and loving the Lord, because He wants to be known by His children. He would never have revealed Himself to us in the first place if this were not true.
For more theologically sound resources visit our Recommended Resources page.