In our day theology seems to have fallen on hard times. It is misunderstood and misrepresented, and therefore, often devalued and unappreciated. But, I would simply like to remind us that theology matters. It matters because of who it is about and who it is for.
Theology is about God. Our word “theology” comes from 2 Greek words, “theos” (God) and “logos” (word). Therefore, it is a word about God, and since everyone says or thinks something about God, then everyone is a theologian. The question begging an answer is, “Are you a good theologian?” What we say and think about God matters.
Theology is about God, and it is for the individual christian and the corporate church. What we confess and believe about God affects the way we live, love, and worship. InThe Pastor As Public Theologian, Kevin Vanhoozer writes, “Theology serves the church to the extent that it helps disciples fulfill their vocation to put on Christ and to grow into ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13.) The real work of theology is indeed public: growing persons, cultivating a people. It is about helping individuals and communities to grow into the fullness of Christ. In sum: the real work of theology is the work of getting real–conforming people’s speech, thoughts, and actions to the mind and heart of Jesus Christ, the source and standard of all truth, goodness, and beauty.”
Does the overall tenor of my “speech, thoughts, and actions” reflect the truth, goodness, and beauty of the Lord Jesus? If not, then at some point my theology or understanding of theology is faulty or deficient.
Theology should always work to make a difference and aid in devotion. To that end, I want to encourage us to be intentional in the coming new year to 1) grow in our Bible reading, and 2) read a good systematic theology book. There are many to choose from. May I suggest 4 for our consideration? (I have listed them from basic to more in-depth.) 1. Christian Beliefs: twenty basics every Christian should know by Wayne Grudem; 2. Everyone’s a Theologian by R. C. Sproul; 3. Know the Truth by Bruce Milne; and 4. Systematic Theology by Louis Berkof.
I’d like to leave you with the stirring words of the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck:
And the essence of the Christian religion consists in the reality that the creation of the Father, ruined by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God and re-created by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God. Dogmatics shows us how God, who is all-sufficient in himself, nevertheless glorifies himself in his creation, which, even when it is torn apart by sin, is gathered up again in Christ (Ehp. 1:10). It describes for us God, always God, from beginning to end–God in his being, God in his creation, God against sin, God in Christ, God breaking down all resistance through the Holy Spirit and guiding the whole of creation back to the objective he decreed for it: the glory of his name. Dogmatics, therefore, is not a dull and arid science. It is a theodicy, a doxology to all God’s virtues and perfections, a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving, a “glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). (H. Bavinck,Reformed Dogmatics, I, 112 (Baker Academic, 2004))
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.