Theology is a scary world
Written by Joseph Watson. Media by Max Gensler
To many people, even on a Christian campus, theology is something to be wary of. The thought of diving deep into Christian thought and conversation can be really intimidating. You could, and probably would, find that believers you’ve known for a long time who are “put off” or even scared of discussing theology. I think there are many reasons for this. Some reasons are understandable while others are highly damaging to our faith. The truth is that theology, for many people, can be a touchy subject. From my own experience it is similar to discussing politics. Perhaps before moving forward, I might do well to define theology. Theology defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary is “The study of religious faith, practice, and experience, or the study of God and God’s relation to the world.”
This definition attests to the fact that everyone — even you — are a theologian. That’s right! You are already someone who, whether Christian or not, is engaged in theology. However, it would, quite frankly, be highly ignorant to assume that everyone is a good theologian. Nonetheless, I believe everyone would do well to engage with others in studying theology. You should shy away from theology only as much as you would shy away from God himself — not to equate God with theology, but rather to say that Christians should want to talk about God because He is life’s greatest pleasure. If I were to define theology myself, I would say that theology is a pursuit of joy.
To put this into perspective, imagine back to when you were a child. Perhaps you remember your parents teasing you, and making you chase after them. Your parents may have had pity on you and would playfully pretend to let you catch them and then they’d fall over. Then they would stand back up and you’d do it all over again, but for some reason as a child you never got bored of that simple pleasure. To me this is what theology is. It is God allowing us to catch Him for a single moment and then letting us go, providing the opportunity to chase after Him again.
Theology may be a scary word, but the God we strive to know is not. He is abounding in love and mercy. When Paul encouraged the Romans he said, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15 ESV) If I am to give anyone the privilege of being called my beloved father, he would be someone I trust and who I am excited at the thought of spending time with. Who better to brag and say something worthwhile about than the one whom you trust and love? Better yet to talk about the one who loves you greater than you could even begin to fathom — not only through what he says, but by the things that he physically did!
The greatest pitfall of any theology is to have a “dead” theology. Theology is not just for the high-minded individuals of our day. For if even Augustine, possibly one of the greatest early church writers, had not lived out his faith, his writing would have been for nothing. Theology that doesn’t cause you to faithfully respond simply isn’t theology. Like I said, theology is a pursuit of joy. That means that we as human beings must think of theology as a verb. As the book of James would put it,
“What good is it my brothers if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ”Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? so also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
I hope that despite the maddening start of the semester you will consider taking up a lifestyle that attempts to know Christ. The reality is that we can choose to sit back and theorize who God is, or we can engage and come to know Him through His word and what others have to say about Him. For in reading both the Bible and theological works (although certainly not as authoritative as the Bible) we come to see new ideas and new parts of the beautiful gospel. In this pursuit of theology we should always have our eyes on the gospel. For it is in the gospel that we find our hope for a thorough and rich theology. God has enabled us to think, talk, and read about his infinite goodness, and endless joys. Therefore, do not see theology as a scary word, but as a lifestyle of satisfaction in pursuing Jesus.
This is an article that is part 1 in a series called Theology Is… This series is about encouraging students to take up a lifestyle of faith that engages their mind and actions.