What comes to mind when you hear the word theology?
Is the thought, or emotional response, positive or negative?
I know for some us, moving past our connotations to the word theology and getting to the concept of theology can be challenging. For one reason or another, theology either scares us or makes us want to check-out mentally. That was my experience with it, and maybe yours too.
In my mind theology was nothing more than the deep conversation (or debate) about something spiritual or God-related. A concept, I thought, that was irrelevant to my life; even my Christian life. I thought knowing that Jesus came to die for my sins was enough to help me live the Christian life. I've been discovering though, that if I want to "get better" at doing the Christian life (or even know what it means to live the Christians life), I simply need to know more. Think about how this concept works in other venues.
If I want to lost weight, I need to learn (or study) how, so that I can apply it and lose weight. If I want to play the piano, I need learn (or study) to learn how to play. You're most likely going to school to learn (or study) how to do something or be something. What's my point? We study & learn because that knowledge hopefully will help us do something (either new, or to improve-upon).
As Christians, we are called to be like Christ. That's an incredibly difficult thing to do if we have no idea who Jesus was while He was on earth, what He stood for, or what His words mean. The same goes for loving God & loving others. Those tasks are going to be difficult to complete if I know nothing else aside from the fact I'm "somehow" supposed to do them.
How would you respond If your friend came up to you and asked "Hey, could do something for me?" but said nothing else after that? Wouldn't that leave you a little directionless? Wouldn't you respond with something like, "Yeah sure, what? or where? when? how? why?" When we ask those questions, we are seeking-out more information in order to respond to our friends request to go do something. Otherwise, completing our friends request will be a guessing game, and we'll most likely not do what he or she wanted us to do. It's no different with God.
God has called us to respond; to be set apart, to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. He's called us to love others as we love ourselves. He's called us to influence our world and culture, without falling for some of it's destructive patterns. If we want to obey God and live according to His standards, we need to ask questions and actually think about what He means when He speaks to us through the Bible. Otherwise doing the Christian life is a guessing game, and we're risking not doing what God has actually called us to do.
But being a theologian isn't something reserved for only those who enjoy reading history, greek or hebrew. There are those who consciously learn about God, but I would say there are even more of those who sub-consciously learn about God. The reality is we (Christians and non-Christians) are constantly being bombarded with questions, perspectives, insights, experiences, and reasons relating to, and about, God. What I want to point out is that these theological influences come from many avenues: songs, movies, television, tweets, posts, articles, books, etc. all of these avenues have the potential to shape how we view God in some way.
Here's are some examples. You saw a movie with "gods," and so you connect the character of God with that of Zeus or Poseidon from Wrath of the Titans. You hear a song that mentions failing love, which could influence how you read "God's love never fails." You miraculously found a parking spot at the store, and someone you're with mentions God's blessing you. Through some avenue (books, media, conversation) you learn about starving children around the world and you hear the question "how could God allow that?"
Because our theology is constantly, sub-conciously influenced, my hope and challenge for you is to consciously be getting accurate theology. Why do so many people have a different (and at times inaccurate) view of God? Because their theology only consists of their own experiences and influences. Where does good theology come from? A careful study of the Bible (to read out of the Bible, not read-into the Bible). Someone with good, accurate theology, is able to obey and follow God much closer, than someone who doesn't. Theology isn't just some foreign language or distant concept, it's what influences how we view God, and how we live out the Christian life.
(This post was originally written for LCBC's Saturate Blog. Check it out here http://networkedblogs.com/wwFJI )