How Important is Theology?

I know that as I begin this post, there may be a few individuals who might disagree with me and that’s okay.

Of course, despite what people often assume, I’m really not looking to pick a fight. This is just a question I have been mulling over lately:

How important is theology?

I am obviously no theologian, nor do I pretend to be, so please take this fact into consideration. Yet, I know many Christians who might, maybe, if backed into a corner, outright consider themselves to be theologians.

There is nothing wrong with this–thinking of yourself in those terms, I suppose. Yet, as of late, as my church body has begun living out what it truly means to make Jesus Christ the Head of our church, theology seems less and less important.

Here’s why…

I Like Fruit

Within my church body we have wildly varying theological and doctrinal differences. It might be fair to say we have some Mark Driscoll’s and some Brian McLaren’s  among us and yet, despite this fact, no one really cares.

There are very few long, drawn-out, heated, or emotional debates over theological differences? It just doesn’t happen and it’s not because people hold their own convictions so lightly as to be willing to sweep them aside (how could you actually call it a “conviction” if that were the case?)

Rather, what we have come to realize as a body more and more, is that in Light of Christ, none of that really matters. What matters is us laying down our lives for our brethren, seeking the Person of Jesus as one Body, making Him head, and following Christ’s lead.

Far too often, I have seen endless theological hang-ups shift people’s focus off of Christ. Where is the logic in that? Often, Christians engaged in theological debates are more concerned with proving their side right than illuminating Christ.

Now, to be clear, I am not suggesting that theology itself is inherently bad or should be ignored. Not at all. I hold strong personal theological beliefs that I have come to rest upon through counsel, prayer, God’s Word, and the revelation of the Spirit.

Yet, you won’t find me chatting up whoever will listen, about the tenets of predestination versus free will or my thoughts on original sin (both of which I hold clear convictions regarding).

You won’t find me engaging in those discussions because at the end of the day, I find them fruitless.

In my experience, theological debates very rarely bare fruit. And I want to be a fruit-bearer. I want to impact God’s Kingdom, not scratch the surface, as it were.

Jake, the Atheist

In college, I was friends with a guy named Jake, who was a brilliant, thoughtful, funny, atheist. Jake loved to debate me on the origins of the universe, Creation, the so-called inerrancy of the Bible, and what have you. I was happy to play along. I was 20 and thought flexing my big, bad-a, spiritual brain muscle at him would impress him at a minimum, if not lead to his very salvation.

I know, dumb.

But at the end of the day, it wasn’t the long, playful, philosophical banter that inched Jake closer to the idea of a God. It was love. He could not understand why I would show him such love, care, and concern. What do you know…love, just like Jesus said:

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” John 13:35 and “By their fruit you will recognize them…” Matthew 7:16.

Jake never came to know Jesus (at least not while I knew him), but I know for a fact that his idea of what a Christian looked like, and thus of who God might be, was altered. I saw him soften. I saw his eyes open. I saw hope, however slight, spring up inside of him.

It was not my convincing arguments or quick-witted tongue that began to woo Jake. It was love, displayed through my love of Christ.

“…let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

Theology is important, in that through a thoughtful process, it helps give us a clearer vision of God, but only so far as it reflects Jesus Christ. If anything, I would say theology is for the individual believer and not the collective group of those outside the church.

That is not to say either, that theology hasn’t convinced individuals at times throughout history that Jesus is Lord. I know it has, but how much of that was a stirring theological argument and how much was the power of the Holy Spirit, a revelation of Jesus Christ, and the Father drawing man to Himself?

Share your thoughts. Let’s debate. How important do you think theology is or isn’t? How much has theology impacted your own relationship with God? Do you find it fruitful or fruitless in relating to unbelievers?


62 thoughts on “How Important is Theology?”

  1. Who is Jesus, without theology? He is just another teacher, another man competing to be heard among the masses. It is only because of theology that we recognize Him for who He is and understand the work that he accomplished for us.

    Without theology, we could all follow Rob Bell into thinking that everything will be fine for everyone, negating the urgency of the Great Commission.

    Without theology, we might join the nuts in Miami who are following a man who claims to be greater than Christ, whose followers are getting tattoed with “666” (see YouTube).

    Without theology, there is no authority in the Bible. Everyone can do what is right in his own sight.

    Theology is not about arguments. It is about ending man’s arguments with God.

    The sweet fellowship you enjoy in your house church would not exist if it were not for the truth that you all have come to know through the proper understanding of who God is and what He expects of you.

    The love of God is a theological tenet that your church holds.

    Without theology, you would not have a church.

    There is so much to be praised in a proper view of theology. I think that your concern is not really about theology, but in bickering and fighting that divides the body of Christ. I hate it, too.

    But Paul said it is necessary.

    1 Cor 11:18-19 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.

    Paul had this wild idea that as divisions arise because people hold different views, this is ultimately for God’s purpose of revealing which view is actually true, so that we all would cling to that truth. Because truth matters.

    Theology is the study of God and how His creation works. May we all study and learn and draw near to Him in truth, not according to each man’s opinion. But, most of all, may we walk in His love and show the world how great He is by our love for Him and for one another.

    1. I do not disagree with you on your opening sentences. I hope, that in this post, I underscored the need for theology, however simply.

      However, I disagree with you that the reason the church body I am a member of experiences sweet fellowship is due only to our proper understanding of the Person of Christ and what He wants. Our fellowship has also come from laying aside our own agendas, expectations, and thus theology for the health of the Body. It is not only because of our theology, but despite it, that we have fellowship.

      Again, that’s not to say that people in our body don’t hold their own theological convictions or that some of these have been discussed in pairs (but not in the corporate meeting).

      I also think people can have personal intimate relationship with Jesus and thus be a member of the church without theology. Thus, I think you can have a church without theology.

      I think all you need is Jesus. If theology is the study of the nature of God and religious beliefs than I suppose it could be argued that Jesus Himself is theology. And that is really my point. He is enough and so much of our “studying” distracts us from Jesus.

      It also leads me to consider and ask: Would the church exist without the Word? If there were no Bible, would the Body of Christ be possible? I think it would. I believe we would be much more limited perhaps, but I trust that revelation about Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit would be enough.

      The New Testament church, for example, did not have “our Bible.” They did not have extensive writings about Jesus–they simply knew Jesus. There was no corporate readings of Ephesians or Matthew. There were stories of Jesus being re-told and they had Tanakh or sometimes just the Torah. But no Bible as we know it today, and yet the church exploded and flourished. Jesus was enough.

      Now, since I know you, I also know that you aren’t in the habit of reading countless theologians on a particular subject and then devising your theology, as so many are. I know that you read God’s Word and allow the Spirit to often be the one to direct you and help form your theology.

      But that also begs the question: Are you the only one hearing correctly from God? What I mean is, you and I happen to hold many similar theologies, but we also happen to disagree on a few. But who is right?

      Does the individual who comes to one theological stance have a monopoly on God’s Truth or revelation from the Spirit? If you know that I hear from God, but also happen to disagree with you on say original sin, is it assumed that you are just right and I haven’t heard correctly from God? In your mind, one of us has to be wrong (and I’ll take a wild guess and say it’d be me).

      When really, the reason that this drives me crazy is that at the end of the day (and the End of Days) I don’t think it matters as much as we assume. I wrote about this before…When I stand before God in judgement, I could be wrong, but I don’t think He is going to ask me about my thoughts on predestination or open theism. Maybe He will, but more likely He will ask me if I loved the unlovely, fed the hungry, clothed the naked.

      Sure, that might be “theology” too, but sadly, it certainly isn’t the theology many of us get hung up on. I think we at least agree on that…
      “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…”

  2. One more critical reason why theology is so important:

    I have led many people to Christ who, according to their theology, were already Christians. They were content with their lives, thinking that everything was fine, even though their lives were indistinguishable from regular folks in the world, except for church attendance.

    It is because I was able to show them the truth from God’s Word that they repented from their old lives of sin to choose to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. They now walk in newness of life, enjoying the blessings of righteous, holy living in the power of the Holy Spirit. The theology I presented to them contradicted the lies they had previously believed. And when they realized it, they came to their senses, just like the prodigal son, and they started following Jesus.

    Without proper theology, these people might still be lost, clinging to a religion that looked a lot like Christianity, but was ultimately a counterfeit of Satan.

    2 Tim 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

    This verse is a command to study theology. For yourself, and for multitudes of others all around you who think they know what is true, but have been deceived to the point of death, desperately needing a genuine Christ-follower to tell them the truth.

  3. Theology, literally, means “words about God”. So long as we keep this proper perspective, theology is a beautiful, useful tool. Theology can help us order our thoughts and words about God. Theology can help us draw important boundary lines – calling someone an atheist is a theological statement, after all.

    But you’re right. When we hold our theologies too tightly, we elevate them. Peter Rollins (and a long Church tradition) point out that all our words about God are inherently false, since words are finite and culturally bound, and God is never either of those.

    So when we allow being right to overshadow being unified as a body, we deny what Jesus has done and is doing in our own lives. We might say our Words about God overshadow the Work of God…

    1. Jr.,
      I hope I didn’t come off sounding as though I think theology is pointless or useless. I agree with what you said so eloquently about the purpose and need for theology.

      And I think you said it so well too, that it is when we are determined to be right, not necessarily unified in Christ that do damage. Sadly, it is this type of behavior that, in part, prompted this post.

      Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts.

      1. Hey Nicole!

        I didn’t take even a little bit from your post that you devalue theology. My comments were more of a hearty Amen! to your reframing of the place theology has in helping us look more like Jesus.

  4. I read recently one author state that Christians can more easily tell you what they are against than what they are for. Christianity has slide into the position of living a life in opposition to things and theology many times has become a tool to evidence that.

    Theology’s appropriate station in the Christian walk is both a help and affirming. However, let’s also not forget that the “theologians” of the bible were the ones missing the Messiah.

    1. Ken,
      Amen! What a great point. I have heard that said about Christians too and yes, I think the elevation of theology and not the Person of Jesus, is to blame, in part.

      We are really good at talking about our theology and sub-par at living it out.

  5. Nicole,

    You make my spirit laugh and smile in agreement! I have also been thinking about theology and its relevance in The Big Picture. Your post here was like reading an entry out of my journal.

    Bottom line for me: I am tired, so tired, of blogs and websites written by Christians that treat the relationship of covenant with God our Father like it is collegiate-level homework, citing the writings of long-dead theologians who are so far out of our realm of true influence as to be idle. These same people use theology from a strictly scholarly stand point as a litmus test of Biblical competency, determining amongst themselves if you are worthy of joining into their conversations. Yikes. As a prophet, I have no time for emergent, post-modernistic study fests that are designed not to edify but to prove the others as being wrong and not as enlightened. *facepalm* I have yet to meet the hip, cool, cutting-edge, progressive, emergent Jesus these people preach.

    Let us speak openly: I appreciate what Martin Luther did, but he is not Jesus. I appreciate the writings of Jonathan Edwards and Calvin, but neither of them went to The Cross for my sins.

    Is this to say theology is useless? Not at all. You said:
    “If anything, I would say theology is for the individual believer and not the collective group of those outside the church.” True story, indeed. Theology amongst family is good for sharpening and focusing, but lacks any significance when dealing with The World. The argument could be made for Paul and his Mars Hill sessions, but was Paul debating theology, or was he presenting The Gospel to the learned non-believers at Mars Hill? Again, theology would be wasted on The World, for to understand it one must first be filled with The Spirit. The Gospel, however, pierces both soul and spirit, regardless of the state of being a person has who hears it. Theology is definitely to be discussed amongst The Body.

    I deal in black and white when it comes to theology, and many folks would be disappointed to engage me in a theological debate, since my answers to most arguing points would be, “Because God my Father wants it that way, and He is God and we are not, so deal with it”. Ha! Actually, your husband and I have been dealing in theology, re: Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 14:26, as brothers, and it has been yielding wonderful fruit.

    1. Donald,
      It seems that we both share in the exhaustion that comes from the ongoing Bible-discussion in the name of intellectualism that is prevalent in the church today. But we also both, it seems, understand and agree upon the need for theology only insofar as it keeps Christ central.

      Excellent point too about Paul preaching at Mars Hill. “Theology would be wasted on the world, for to understand it one must be filled with the Spirit,” or at the very least the hearer must receive a revelation from the Spirit.

      Encouraged to know that your conversations with Jonathan have been producing fruit, as well. I’d expect nothing less!

      1. Nicole,

        You know when a person is bringing up a theological issue simply to argue or when they have genuine interest. I find it is moreso the previous than the latter in today’s “churches”, and especially online! Yeesh! You can’t swing a copy of “My Utmost For His Highest” without hitting a self-proclaimed theologian with a blog. And oh how they love to argue based on their, again, self-proclaimed status as being enlightened above the common peasant of a Christian you obviously are. They remind me of the Galatian church: all works and no Spirit.

        So it goes with The Gospel, really. Some folks want to get into pissing contests with us about Jesus, (for their amusement), and some folks, (by the thirst Christ puts in them), have been driven to us by The Spirit. That same Spirit tells us which is which, because it is not a good thing to throw our pearls before swine or offer that which is Holy to dogs. (Wow, did Jesus really say that or is that just another of the old-school Bible-thumping hatred that the emergent church is fighting against? Quick, someone call Rob Bell or Brian McLaren! They now the Bible better than we do!) Yeesh.

      1. I love that he beat around no bush. He was about the miinstry of God. This Scripture brought so many questions to my mind.*Is someone else having to encourage your husband? Pray for your pastor? Feed those in need? Live by example? Love your child? Equip the saints?Here is the definition of Somnolent for anyone else who might need it.som no lent (sŏm’nə-lənt) adj.Drowsy; sleepy.Inducing or tending to induce sleep; soporific.One adjective for the word was hypnotic as though it put others in a trance as well. Interesting. We must guard ourselves against this!

  6. Theology- to me, is man’s understanding and interpretation of the truth. We can be smack-dab on about the truth (good theology) or dead wrong (bad theology). We can also just be in the dark about the entire truth of God (most theology).

    Theology is not bad- it is like poetry analysis or scientific research. It helps us process and understand the truths of God. But it can be done wrong, and it can be taken too far. I think a lot of what we want to be set in stone about our theology just isn’t because we don’t know the whole truth.

    There are theological hills I’m willing to die on, but they are very far and few between. The hardcore truths that matter to me are those God has plainly stated in the Word- about his son Jesus Christ- both his purpose and his person.

    1. Aadel,
      Your definition of theology hits on the head for me. it is man’s interpretation, often times, and is void of any revelation or illumination from the Spirit.

      I’m like you, in that, I’m willing to lay down my life for only a few theological points and like you, they are the ones clearly stated in scripture. Anything that I need a PhD, collection of dusty books, or boxing gloves to prove simply isn’t worth it and proves fruitless in my mind.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and adding to the conversation!

  7. When we strip theology into its nude state we have God’s word. Is God’s Word important? Absolutely, but God’s Word is more than mere text on paper (or pixels on screen for those of us who read our Bibles on iPads and iPhones). If you strip away love from theology it becomes legalism. I mean, Jesus who challenged the theology of his days looked like he was breaking the law. However, His behavior wasn’t about challenging the theology as much as taking it and laying it down on the foundation of love… Godly love that is (sad that I have to define this, since our culture’s definition of love is so weak and puny)

    Love was the fulfillment of the law, and today, Love is the fulfillment of the Gospel message. When we argue theology for theology’s sake, we are arguing based on human knowledge and understanding. When love is the foundation of our theological discussions, we see more than just the text.

    I often feel that to win the text, we work so hard that we miss the meat of it. That has certainly happened with me.

    To be clear, we do need theology, we do need to stand for God’s truth, but when we do so merely on human interests or to win arguments we make a huge mistake.

    God’s theology is His body, active and living as he has commanded us. It’s more than just words.

    1. “When we strip theology into its nude state we have God’s word.”

      Now that was sexy, Moe. Like a committed lover, like the bride who has given me her heart and body, The Word satisfies. Just thinking out loud, here.

    2. “However, His behavior wasn’t about challenging the theology as much as taking it and laying it down on the foundation of love… Godly love that is (sad that I have to define this, since our culture’s definition of love is so weak and puny).”

      I am so stealing this for my blog. Oh yes.

  8. Interesting post, Nicole. I will confess to being somewhat of a theology nerd. I love it. But I do agree with some of the points you’ve made here.

    I would argue, however, that the declaration of the gospel is, in-and-of-itself, a theological statement. So while spending our time debating over Calvinism/Arminianism may not be fruitful (and which I find particularly frustrating and discouraging many times!), there is plenty of theology that is fruitful.

    Whether we call it theology or not, every statement we make about God is theological in nature, being that it’s about God.

    I like how you discussed the importance of personally holding to a theology, and hopefully, a good and true one! What we believe about God affects the way we view ourselves, others, and the world at large.

    1. Cam,
      I’m always open to links and love to click through and even encourage my readers to do the same. But I’d also like to say ‘hello, nice to meet you..”

      So, why don’t you introduce yourself?

  9. Amen to this. I grew up in a very theology-heavy home, and by the age of 13 I was well versed on all sides of what felt like every theological debate in the history of religion. When I moved out, extremely confused as to what was Truth and what was not, I spent two solid years refusing to read any of the Bible except for the 4 gospels. I realized in those two years that I’d grown up knowing extremely little of what was important to Jesus, and knowing all of what was important to my father and the subculture that I was a part of. And, not surprisingly, it was as if God knew and expected me, amongst the rest of humanity, to need to seek Jesus first, before everything else. And gave us this: “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life.” Since that day, I’ve lost my fear of theology, theologians, heated discussions, and whether I am right or wrong. Because at the end of it all, Jesus himself is all we can know as absolute Truth. And that’s all my very simple, very childlike heart needs.

    1. Lauren,
      Yes, we have all seen the Word which truly speaks of our freedom used as some kind of mental prison or legalistic idol.

      There has to be a right understanding. God’s Word is our daily bread, but it is not God Himself.

      Jesus is it. Period. And yes, it is simple indeed.

      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion!

    2. I love the way you put it: “Because at the end of it all, Jesus himself is all we can know as absolute Truth. And that’s all my very simple, very childlike heart needs.” Thats exactly it.

  10. I think the theology we adopt is very important to our walk with God because it leads us in our walk with God. For instance, I got involved in an argument several years ago with a family member who believes that Christians escape judgement, whereas I believe that Christians escape condemnation but will be judged according to our gifts and how we used them. This is a theological difference and, really, it shouldn’t have become an argument. However, several months after that argument, said family member was put in jail for doing something no Christian should be doing. I can’t help think that his theology of being free from judgement might have affected his poor choices. As Christians, when we develop convictions on our theology, I think we have to determine which parts of our theology are “debatable” and which are not. For instance, I hold the old earth creation vs. young earth creation vs. “God-directed evolution” to be a debatable matter. I will even say that I also hold free will vs. predestination to be debatable. I have my own convictions on both issues. Both issues involve concepts that are too wonderful for us to know completely AND they have nothing, or at least very little, to do with the gospel of Christ. And I personally believe that any theology apart from the Gospel, or maybe apart from what is in the Nicene/Apostle’s Creed is also debatable. As an act of humility, we should also be checking our theological concepts with God to make sure that He approves, since He is the source and reason for our theology. And our theology should never get in the way of sharing God’s love to others, whether they are believers or not, since 1 Corinthians 13 states that love trumps faith, hope, knowledge, prophecy, etc.

    Great job of presenting this question.

    1. Judgment is not the same as condemnation, for the spiritual man judges all things. You are right, I believe, in the mentioned disagreement you had. Through Christ we do not face condemnation for in Him there is none, but we most assuredly will stand before our Father and give an account. Some people in The Kingdom will be judged even more harshly than others.

      Spot-on, tandemingtroll.

  11. Thanks for your thoughts. On some level I completely agree, yet on another, not so much. Rightly understood, in its most basic sense, theology is simply the way we think about God and the way we express our Christian faith. In such a view, everyone is a theologian. I know what you mean, though. I assume your thinking of those who would consider themselves professional theologians, engaging in mind numbing polemics. Agreed. Most of that is useless and if we are not careful causes divisions and nonbelievers see right through us.

    I would much prefer to look at theology as a narrative. The grand story of God and the mission to rescue creation from the slavery of sin. Instead of doctrine, speaking in stories connects both Christians and non-Christians on a more intimate level with God. There is an intellectual piece, an emotional piece, and of course the action that is birthed from theology. I teach theology to high schools students every day. The first thing I introduce to them is the concept of “doing theology.” Theology without love as its foundation is no theology at all.

    Thanks for the post. I always enjoy reading. Give yourself some credit. You are a theologian.

  12. It depends. If your theology (not yours specifically, Nicole, just in general) teaches that it’s useless for us to try to make the world a less crappy place, or that one group of people automatically gets more privileges than others, or that all scientists are atheists pushing their agenda onto our children, then I think it’s time to find a new theology!

    However, if your theology is based on the love of God, then it shouldn’t matter if you subscribe to either penal substitutionary atonement or Christus victor atonement.

    1. Travis, you mentioned:

      1. …it’s useless for us to try to make the world a less crappy place = being a social activist, defending social engineering as solutions to sin

      2. …one group of people automatically gets more privileges than others = racism, homophobia, misogyny, evil white-privilege, the 99%

      3. …all scientists are atheists pushing their agenda onto our children = “Intelligent Design” is for the primitives, we are more evolved intellectually, Creationists are all Fundamentalists

      4. …theology is based on the love of God = I need to be made comfortable in the sin I’m in without repentance or change, the love of Jesus accepts my sin and merely makes it okay for me to keep it as an identity

      Hmmm. Interesting, Travis. Let me know how post-modernism and progressive theology works out for you.

      Some advice: Tread lightly when seeking to challenge the Holiness of God, Travis. He does not change, and would never do so simply to become more ‘relevant’ to your generation of hipsters. Careful, there.

          1. And you mentioned my name several times throughout your comment. Sure sounds like you were responding to my comments to me!

            It’s Christians like you that seriously make me want to give atheism a try.

        1. Travis,

          Indeed. If my comments to you can make you give up on Christianity, then what does that say about your Christianity? At no point have I ever said my name was Jesus.

          My response was to you as a whole, not simply to your comments on this post thread. I have no dog in this fight, but was prompted to say what I said with no strings or emotion attached.

          Your comments provided the catalyst to look deeper into your spirit, Travis. Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t feign victimhood status here, since your disguised disgust with Christianity that runs contrary to yours was on display in your comments for all to see.

          As to the Holiness of God and how you react or relate to it, that is between you and Christ. Again, I merely spoke what I heard as needing to be said. I see, however, that it struck a nerve. Curious, that.

          Anyhoos, there’s no reason to react like a petulant child and seek to blackmail Jesus by threatening to become an atheist because of people like me. Tedious, that is. Foot-stomping and pouting will yield nothing in The Kingdom. It might fly in The World, and you might very well find several people to champion your offended sensibilities,but not in The Kingdom.

          His hand is still very much being stretched out to you, Travis. He’s amazing like that.

          1. Boys, boys…now, now. Let’s not get nasty.

            Let’s also not give the naysayers something to point to. You are brothers in Christ and must respond in grace and truth, not one or the other.

          2. @Travis,

            You said:
            “I got a better idea. How about you put on some lipstick so you can kiss my ass?”

            *facepalm* Spoken like a true emergent-progressive. You can easily direct your anger at me, I totally understand, but it will avail you nothing. Your anger is at God my Father, not at me.

  13. Hey Nicole,
    My position is that everyone is a theologian and everyone does theology everyday. Even the Atheist or Agnostic has a theology, albeit a flawed one, and that view/belief about God is revealed in their worldview.

    Your blog question about ‘how important is theology’ is in itself a theological position, kinda ironic. You are a theologian and I agree with you that you have very strong theological beliefs. I would say most of your posts are theological in nature. The question might be are you a good theologian?

    In light of Christ, all of it does matter. We, the body, need to be able to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and all of us must take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

    Theological Relativism is just as wrong as Moral Reltativism.

    Perhaps, instead of lessening theological discussions, we should practise how to have these much needed discussions.

    1. Dave,
      Thanks for the comment. Firstly, I’m not sure why it would be ironic that the question I posed in theological in nature when I never state (in fact quite the opposite) that theology is useless.

      Now, as to the question you suggest that I should have asked instead: “Are you a good theologian?”

      Apparently not.

      And yet, while I take God’s Word seriously and I do study it (but again, I guess not very well) thinking of myself as a theologian is far down on my list. In my reading of the Word, there are many descriptions used to describe me before that of theologian: a saint, heir with Christ, priest, disciple, a bond-servant of Christ, etc.

      In no way do I suggest that theological discussions are unnecessary either. I would whole-heartedly agree with you that it would prove helpful to practice how to have these discussions.

      However, this begs the question that I posed to Dave earlier: Does the individual who believes their theological stance is correct have a monopoly on Truth or revelation? How do two people who both think they are right come to a place which is fruitful?

      It’s not theology that I dislike. It is the esteem in which far too many hold it, the way in which many lord their theology over others, the way in which people become blinded to loving others in pursuit of debate instead of the pursuit of Christ.

      I don’t want to hear people talk theology all day. I want to see them live it out. (Although you might argue that we don’t want to see “bad” theology lived out, only good theology, which usually means *our* theology).

      Overall, I feel that many people who are quick to debate theology (and I’m careful to say “debate” not just discuss) feel they have a corner on Truth and simply want to win.

      Yet, theology should lead us to the opposite conclusion–it should lead us to realize just how little we know–how much of Christ is cloaked in mystery–how small we are in light of Him.

      I love this quote from Henry Nouwen, a catholic priest and author, ““Theological formation is the gradual and often painful discovery of God’s incomprehensibility. You can be competent in many things, but you cannot be competent in God.”

      I think that so many who feel they have got theology “all figured out,” approach a position of feeling competent in God. That is dangerous.

      You said that we need to be able to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” I don’t know that that is humanly possible. Perhaps supernaturally, but not humanly.

      Is it our job to demolish arguments referring to God outside of the church? I don’t think so. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps my poor theology can’t back this up, but I don’t see many (if any) examples of this in scripture.

      It’s our job to reflect Christ, love one another, bless those who would curse us, make disciples and a whole host of other things, but I don’t know about putting down all arguments about God. But, I don’t pretend to have this all figured out. I admit that I don’t know, so please correct me if I’m wrong on this.

      As for within the church, I’m all for gaining clarity and unity of vision. I desire to be a peacemaker, however, not only a fire extinguisher, putting out arguments left and right.

      The apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament to churches who were in crisis or at the very least being tested. There were divisions, arguments, factions and while Paul did encourage the saints to know God’s Word, above all he encouraged unity. Not unity in theological discussion, but unity in the Person of Christ. He ever-pointed people to Jesus as the ultimate unifier.

      That is simply what I desire to see a return to within the church. For people to lay aside theological doctrine that have no effect on one’s salvation. For instance, was the world created in a literal 7 days or a figurative 7 days? Is this where we should spend our energies?

      As I stated above to Aadel, as well, there are only a handful of theological points that I would die for. A few would be Christ born of a virgin, thus the Son of God. Died on a cross for the sins of the world (or the chosen, depending on your personal theology) risen on the third day, the Triune God to name a few. So much of the other things we discuss ad nauseum simply pale in matter of importance.

      Rather, I desire to see people take up their crosses and like Paul proclaim regarding Jesus: “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death…”

  14. I just wanted to add that theology is like eating steak. You can be satisfied having steak at the Golden Corral all-you-can-eat night, and you might save money. Or, you could spend some more and go to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, take one bite, and realize the depth of flavor you’ve been missing. Sometimes digging in deeper is really really with it.
    Eternal life is knowing the One True God and Jesus Christ whom He sent.

  15. I totally agree with what you are saying. A couple of thoughts.

    First, at the end of the day as far as what we are supposed to DO I think it theology matters less. For example whether I believe that a person has no choice whatsoever and everything is predestined or if I believe the opposite that we have total free will (almost no one is this extreme) I am still commanded by Jesus to go and love people. In either example I can’t make a convert anyway. Either God decides or the person does, but for sure I don’t. So my job of sharing the gospel and making disciples is the same regardless. Maybe we should focus more there.

    Secondly, there is a difference between dogma and theological ideas. For example in over 2000 years the church as a whole has never had a dogma of atonement. There are atonement theories and theologies but no one atonement theory by itself seems sufficient. On the other hand we do have dogmas that make us all Christian. For example, the trinity or the fact that Jesus was fully man and fully God. Nicene/Apostle Creed stuff etc.

    Finally and I’m sure I’ll get blasted for this but this is the problem with Protestantism in general. We make doctrine out of atonement theories and then split from each other. One pastor stands and says the Bible says one thing, while another stands and says it says something different. Both say the Bible is the ultimate authority and then they proceed to tell us what that is. Who decides.

    I’m protestant by the way and I don’t plan on changing. I’m just saying that is the hole in the plan so to speak. Go easy reformed friends. Just pointing it out.

  16. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Theology is important only insofar as it helps the individual make sense of the biblical narrative. But i have never met, or even heard of, anyone who became a believer because of theology. There may be some, but not that I know of, and yet there is so much emphasis placed on it from the pulpit. As one person has recently said; “you will go to your grave believing a thousand heresies”, so what makes us think we are right and the other person is wrong?

    The only thing that is really important is love; love of God and love of neighbor.

  17. I think theology is vital to the health of the church. Theology is the “study of the nature of God and religious belief.” Whenever you engage in a Bible study, in a church service (whatever that looks like), whenever you study about Jesus (God), you are doing theology.

    Massive generalization on the way… Ok, I warned you. I think the church has been dumbed down to a significant degree, and a good percentage are clueless about the nature of God, his attributes, characteristics, Scripture, why they believe what they claim to hold as truths, what truth is, etc. Theology needs to be injected into the Church in a major way. Not arguments, not fights, but solid theology, aka, teaching on the nature of God and the subsequent doctrines.

    You essentially said it is vital it all point to Christ, and I agree with you. The OT points to His coming, the NT points to His coming, life, death, and resurrection, and theology gives us Christology, the specific area of theology devoted to the person, work, and nature of Jesus. Theology is undervalued, under-taught, and the Church (big C, universal), is suffering because of it.

    Study to show thyself approved. Ok, study what? And what do we call that study? Theology in action.

    My .02. Thought provoking post, keep it up!

  18. I love this post! I actually just recently wrote a blog post about a recent encounter I had with this kind of situation:

    I became a Christian in college, and I am the only one in my family so far who follows Christ. My sister is agnostic and my brother is an atheist. When I first gave my life to Christ, we butted heads so much. They would ask me why I became I Christian, and I would get defensive, trying to use what little theology I myself knew. So fruitless.

    It wasn’t until I let Christ in to change MY heart and allow me to love in spite of the questions (and occasionally attacks). Since then, I’ve seen so much more fruit. I’m still the only Christian in my family, but now when they ask me questions, they honestly want to know more about my faith.

    Theology does have it’s place, but, in my experience, faith, hope and love come first.

  19. Nicole,

    A “Theological Litmus Test” for you and your readers. (ahem…clearing throat)

    So, is it “The Ten Commandments”, or is it “The Ten Suggestions”?

    Keep in mind, there is no room for further talk. It is one or the other, and no, “Yeah, but, see, you know, it’s just that….”, allowed. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. And then zip it.

    Your answer will tell us everything about your faith. Hope this yields results.

    1. This is exactly the problem with theology. First, the ten commandments were part of the OLD covenant which was given to Israel. Second, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was he mentioned two; one was part of the ten, and the other wasn’t. Love God and your neighbor.

      Do you love God, or do you love your theology?

        1. I’m not going to because it’s irrelevant. Theology in and of itself is not bad. In fact it is necessary. The problem comes in when we start to think that our theology is right, and those who don’t agree with us are wrong. That’s when theology moves from something helpful to being an idol.

        2. Donald. In retrospect I will answer your question…sort of, because it illustrates my point.

          MY theology says they were commandments to Israel, but to us in the new covenant they provide an insight to the heart of God. When Jesus spoke of loving God and neighbour, that was his point. One must remember that the Pharisees followed the letter of the law as far as the ten commandments goes, but Jesus still called them a brood of vipers.

  20. What you are right about is that people need to see and experience God’s love through us. I believe you are quite wrong to say that theology doesn’t matter or isn’t important. What we believe should (but doesn’t always) affect how we live, how we see and understand God so that we can follow Him, and how we treat others.

    I do think that a lot of people who aren’t Christians get tired of hearing the doctrinal debates between Christians, and some of those get awfully unChristian! We need to learn to have conversations filled with grace for all we are speaking with, both those who agree with us and those who disagree. The error is that so often we treat other Christians as pond scum because they have a slightly different view of (name your topic). If I heard how Christians treat other other and I were not a Christian, I would wonder what possible gain I could find by becoming a Christian.

    1. I would agree with you Cal. And, I would ask; if it doesn’t affect how you live, do you really believe it? I ask this question because it is very personal for me. For most of my Christian life I said I believed a lot of theology but it didn’t affect my life too much, but it is only very recently that I have started to really believe, and it has affected how i live. The sad part is that I see that same attitude in the majority of people who call themselves Christians.

  21. Even this understanding, though, is informed by your theological position. I think you are meaning perhaps the WAY we do theology, and whether or not we hold our convictions with humility and an open hand (but even that approach is informed by how one views God, so…). Thus, the importance of theology is shown even in the way you approach theology, since that is informed by your view of God (aka, theology). In fact, I daresay, theology is of the UTMOST importance- but it ought to produce love and compassion and humility and a willingness to hear out others.

  22. God’s word is powerful, sharper than any two edged sword. We have to speak God’s word in Love as we witness to unbelievers. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. This type of Love can only be obtained through abiding in the Vine. I focus on abiding in the Vine, which enables God to produce the Fruit of the Spirit, then I speak the truth in Love as I witness and live out my life in front of them. I have discovered who I really am is who I am when no one is looking.

  23. I place all theology into two groups. You have the first group that contains things like predestination, evolution vs creation, Calvinism, pre post and mid trib…………….. All of these are debatable matters and do not affect salvation. For all of these they can be a lot of fun to debate with another mature believer where the spirit leads that it is ok to do so. None of these are normally appropriate to talk about to someone that you are sharing the Gospel with. (there are a few exceptions primarily if you are led by the Holy Spirit to answer a honest question on one of these subject matters) The other set of theological beliefs I believe are critical to be correct and that we must share them. For example who is Jesus Crist is he the son of God or is he a good man or…. The answer to this is critical and relates directly to salvation. These are the theological questions one should be answering because these are the questions that are necessary to be answered for someone to understand the Gospel.
    In all fairness I know that this is not the meaning that Nicole was going for but I think it critical that we as lights in this world show a pure light to those the Good News and not be afraid of it because it has theology in it.
    I do have to fully agree with the heart that this post was written with. Myself I have tried before to argue someone into heaven. Guess what it does not work. It is the Love of Christ and his sacrifice that matters not how well I can put together a rational argument. So we should all strive to be as Paul was to the Greeks (someone correct me if I am wrong about the group he was talking to in this case) to know nothing but Christ and Christ crucified. Not to tickle the ear but to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a clear and unashamed manner!
    I shall now step down from my soap box.

  24. Reading your blog generously—as I usually try to do with most text (I’m hardly perfect)—I think you may be using ‘theology’ differently from its technical definition. Simply put, theology is the study (-ology) of God (theos). Most evangelical churches believe that the Bible is God’s revelation to humanity. Therefore, in a broad sense, anything we get out of the Bible is theology. Anyone who tries to read/understand the Bible is a theologian (although some are better at it than others, academically trained or otherwise).

    Reading this blog post in particular, I find it oozing with theology! :-) For example, you state, “What matters is us laying down our lives for our brethren [John 15:13; 1 John 3:16], seeking the Person of Jesus as one Body [Rom 12:4–5; 1 Cor 12], making Him head [1 Cor 11:3; Eph 4:15; 5:23], and following Christ’s lead [Matt 10:24–25, 38; 16:24; John 12:26; 1 Cor 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21].” The biblical citations inserted are but a few of the many which support your statement. (You later quote Matt 7:17; John 13:35; and 1 John 3:18.)

    We must also not forget that the gospel itself is theology. In fact, the story of redemption is the metanarrative (i.e. the underlying plot) of the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. This is the mother of all theology! And we are commanded to proclaim this theology to the unbelieving world with boldness (Matt 28:18–20; cf. Acts 4:13, 18–20; Eph 6:19–20)—in both words and deeds (James 2:14ff).

    It seems to me that you use ‘theology’ as a term to describe the fringe elements (as I see it) of biblical teaching which often turn into internal church arguments where we lose the gospel for being right on what is secondary to the Bible itself. As an example and as you pointed out, a common trap is predestination vs. free will. This is one biblical antinomy (i.e. two positions that are supported but seem to be contradictory given our current understanding) that, as J.I. Packer states, is only resolved in the mind of God (at least on this side of the new heaven and new earth). IMHO, Luke 22:22 is a great example of the Bible binding together predestination (‘it has been determined by God’) and free will (‘Judas will be judged for his decisions’).

    But why would I want to die on this hill when the Bible itself is not clear that one position is eminently correct over the other? Furthermore, much smarter and abler people than I have debated this point from both sides for much longer than I have been alive and have been unable to come to a conclusion. It is the height of hubris to believe I have the most defensible position on this topic. It is also extremely obtuse of me to fall on my sword for an issue the Bible itself dedicates relatively so little space to and does not deem important enough to present a systematic understanding on.

    We shouldn’t deny that these discussions can be fruitful in the right context. But, we must never forget to preach and live out the gospel first and foremost.

    There is one other qualifier I’d like to point out regarding your post. Perhaps this is a reiteration of what I’ve already said, but it is important enough to bear repeating. You state that it is love that draws people to God, or at least helps them understand the love of God better. “It was not my convincing arguments or quick-witted tongue that began to woo Jake. It was love, displayed through my love of Christ.” I fully agree that we are unable to argue anyone into the kingdom of God. However, I would emphasize that we are unable to love as God has called us to love if we do not understand God and what he is teaching us about loving him and others. Theology helps us in growing closer to God, worshipping him more fully, and living out our Christian discipleship. In many ways, I find the distinction between theology and love/living a Christian life arbitrary. These concepts (as I have attempted to explicate them here) are so intertwined, I find them inseparable. In essence, how we live our lives reveals what we believe, that is, what theology we hold.



  25. I think the issues is not so much if we need “theology” or not. I think, from humble opinion, we have to clearly define what we are considering theology to be. Are we referring to “Word of Faith Theology”, “Systematic Theology”, “Practical Theology”, “Calvanism”, etc. ?
    I think we need a series of short succinct and easily understood “doctrines” that explain what we believe so that believers and non-believers can all be on the same page. I think these teachings should focus on the “essential” aspects of the faith. However, I think we should purposely avoid arguing over disagreeable matters as the Bible teachers. We have to keep in mind that the Bible is filled with absolutes, principles, and recommendations. We can all probably agree on the the absolute matters such as: the way of salvation, trinity, baptism, atonement, etc. Yet and still, we should purposely avoid building doctrines around controversial issues such as women preachers, music style, church attire, etc. I think these discussions tend to be more divisive than unifying. Also, one has to consider the fact that Jesus was a very plain and practical preacher. He simply taught using illustrations and instructions. With that being said, any doctrine that is used should be focused more on the “how” than the “what” if we are to model our teaching after Jesus. Just think about this for a moment. The longest “sermon” that he ever preached was the sermon on the mount and he preach on roughly 19 different topics in short one liners. He didn’t spend enormous amounts of time in the Temples or seminary schools teaching theology. Those were the religious people of that day and the Apostle Paul. Interestingly, in Phillipians 3:13 Paul talked about “forgetting those things which are behind …”. He also talked about how the previous teaching was considered “dung” in Phillipians 3:8. This lets us know that what matters most is not how much theology we know, but how much theology we are living. Despite what many think, theology does not change people. What changes people is the Word of God when it is understood and applied to “real” life situations. Remember that Hebrews reminds us that unless we “mix it with faith (belief in action)” it will profit us little.

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