The Need for the Study of Theology

Why theology?

I would venture a guess that you are not here by accident. Chances are that you were told about this blog (probably by me or Justin) and you decided to check it out as a show of support. If this is the case, we sincerely thank you. Even if you happened across this page in your daily internet browsing, I still believe that is no accident. My hope and prayer is that the LORD has led you here and will use this as a means to encourage and educate you. Now that you are here, I want to take the time to let you know what to expect. To accomplish this, I will answer a few questions that you may have.

1. What is theology?

A fair question indeed as sometimes this word can be tossed around without much thought as to what it is actually referring. Some think theology is studying the bible. This is certainly part of it as good theology will first take its cues from the primary source, which is the Word of God. While the majority of the theologian’s work is done here, this does not fully capture what theology is. Some think theology is a study of religion. Once again, this is an element, but it does not capture the entire definition. Still others would say theology is something that seminary students pursue through rigorous research and writing. A completely true, but again lacking definition.    

In my opinion, one of the best definitions and explanations of theology is given by Dr. Millard J. Erickson in his volume on Christian theology. He writes, “A good preliminary or basic definition of theology is the study or science of God.”[1]I love this definition because it clearly and accurately portrays what is involved in theological study. It is centered on God and it is done to know more about God. Just as one might study more about biology or mathematics, theology is a discipline that requires time and effort. No one is born with this inherent knowledge. Most Christians usually first learn about God from someone else. At the point of conversion, it is then up to the believer to continue to grow in their knowledge of God. Theological study is going beyond only studying the bible, only listening to sermons, or only attending small groups. When done correctly, it is an intentional pursuit for more knowledge about God and His work.

2. How do we study theology “correctly”?

The caveat I placed in that last sentence was very intentional. The study of theology is a beautiful and wonderful undertaking; however, it must be done correctly. I would like to take some time to again point to Dr. Erickson’s work as he provides five key aspects of theological study.[2]

  1. Theology is biblical – I referenced this earlier, but theology must begin with the primary source. For Christians, that source is the bible. We believe the bible is authoritative and inerrant (without error or fault in its teaching) and has been revealed to humanity so they can know who God is and what God does.
  2. Theology is systematic – Theology is not reliant on one portion of the bible or one doctrine. Theology looks at the entire revelation of Scripture and sees how it is all connected and harmonious in its message. 
  3. Theology relates to culture and general learning – We can use theology to explain issues around science, humanity, and philosophy. God is present and sovereign in all things, so understanding God more leads to a fuller understanding in other areas as well.
  4. Theology is contemporary – Theology, when done correctly, always relates to modern times and issues. The language of theology at times will reflect contemporary concepts. The danger here lies in over contextualizing the biblical text to fit a specific issue or arugment. A good theologian will let the Word of God speak into these issues and not allow the issues to distort the message.
  5. Theology should be practical – What good is it if we study and study and study but do nothing with that knowledge. One of the primary purposes of this blog will be to call Christians into theological study so that they can apply it. This application will be in how they study the bible, how they pray, how they worship, how they serve, how they teach, and how they are connected to their church. We will engage the head while also calling on the hands and feet.

3. Why should we study theology?

While this may seem out of order as far as questions go, I think it is important that we understand what we are dealing with before we can answer the question of “why”. When you engage in theological study, it is not a dry academic pursuit. It is encountering our LORD in an intimate way. We are telling God that we wish to know him better and we will take the time and effort to do so. This should have far-reaching implications for our personal and public ministries. Engaging in a study of theology, when done correctly, will see you grow in your own faith and use that knowledge to serve the Kingdom of God.

Let’s take a brief look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20[3]to illustrate this. “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Here we have Christ providing final instructions to the disciples. He is laying the blueprint for what the Christian life should entail. It involves the command to go (missions), make disciples (evangelize), and then teach (discipleship). The church today does a good job at the first two, but there appears to be a gap when it comes to true discipleship and teaching. This is where studying theology comes into the picture. It impacts how we can effectively and correctly teach about God from the bible. Dr. Wayne Grudem writes, “To effectively teach ourselves and to teach others what the whole Bible says, it is necessary to collect and summarize all the Scripture passages on a particular subject.”[4]That is the practice of theology! It is studying the Word, gathering sources, and being able to better explain something as it relates to God and His character. We need theology to help us articulate what we believe and in turn, teach others about God. 

Grudem also identifies three benefits that studying theology has to our lives. The first is that it “helps us overcome wrong ideas.”[5]The world of Christianity is often infiltrated with incorrect and harmful doctrine. Some of these are on secondary issues, but sometimes essential foundations of our faith are put to question because of poor theology. We must take our study of God seriously so that we are aligning our faith with what is true and good. Studying theology is how we can ensure our faith is robust and able to persevere through false doctrine. 

Grudem then writes that a proper study of theology “helps us to make better decisions later on new questions of doctrine that may arise.”[6]As important as it is to know correct doctrine against false doctrine, it is also beneficial for us to have a foundation of solid theology for what lies ahead. Challenges to our faith or new spins on Christian belief are not a thing of the past. Some may argue that Christianity is more scrutinized today because of cultural concerns. As new ideas surrounding our faith are placed before us, we need to study theology so that we can have the wisdom and background to critically look at them. 

Lastly, Grudem writes that studying theology “will help us grow as Christians.”[7]I have already mentioned this idea, but it bears repeating. When we study God, we will know Him better. And when we know our LORD better, we will grow as Christians. We should not shy away from studying theology because it seems too difficult. We should not think we do not need to study theology because we are not biblical scholars. We should want to know as much about God as we can and that is the primary concern of theology. 

4. Who is this blog for?

The seminary that I am currently a student at, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has a fantastic slogan that I feel answers this question best. They hold that as an institution of biblical and theological education, they exist “For the Church.” That is exactly our hope for Mystery Revealed Theology. We want to encourage and challenge active lay members of Christian churches to become biblical and theological scholars. This type of scholarship is not reserved for those in seminary, it is something we should all take part in. While some of us cannot afford the time or investment involved in seeking out this kind of training in a formal environment, we hope that this blog can offer some tools and perspectives to bring basic theological training to you. From that point, we then hope you take this training and put it into practice in your own lives. That as you study and grow in your knowledge of the LORD, He would be faithful to show you how you can serve Him. We need Christians who have a solid grasp of basic biblical and theological concepts to be actively serving in their churches and their individual contexts. And we hope that we can help you discover these things through theological study.

As I was thinking about what we wanted this blog to accomplish, my mind went to the verse that is on our home page. Colossians 1:25-26 says, “I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.” The mystery revealed that Paul was talking about is Christ. Christ is the word of God fully expressed and fully understood. In his exegetical guide to the Gospel of John, Dr. Murray Harris says that Christ as the word of God is “both the inward and expressed Thought of God, the accurate expression of the Father.”[8]Because of Christ, everything else now made sense. Humanity could better know and understand God. What the Old Testament was testifying to, what the disciples witnessed, and what Jesus himself revealed was put into new light. The veil had been moved, the scales had fallen off the eyes, and the LORD had revealed Himself through Christ with us. 

Paul continues and explains the significance of this revelation in verses 27-29, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.” Because the mystery had been revealed to Paul and saints, it was then imperative for them to go and proclaim about Christ, teach about God, and give all their energy to it. For many, the Bible and theological study can seem like a mystery. We wish to help you discover how to approach that mystery. We wish to see it revealed to you. We wish to see you then go and reveal it to others. We are compelled to do so because it was Christ who did so first for us. 

We pray that this would be a blessing to you and that we could encourage you during your own journey of growing closer to God and serving the Kingdom.  

Written by Zach Stallings

[1]Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rded. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 8.

[2]Erickson, 8-9.

[3]Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this post are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989).

[4]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 27.

[5]Grudem, 28.

[6]Grudem, 28.

[7]Grudem, 29.

[8]Murray J. Harris, Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: John, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 18.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: