A few days ago, I was sitting on our little patio enjoying the fresh air and morning sunshine while working on part two of False Preachers, Teacher’s and Prophets. I began on a writing frenzy about how we, as mere lay people, can’t always know the truth of the Word of God if we don’t know how to read, study, and understand it to begin with.
I headed inside for a coffee refill; I felt led to my bookcases in search of a reference book or two to help me with this article. I sort through a stack of “TableTalk” Magazines[i] – on the top of the stack is the February 2018 “Doing Theology”. I opened and read the short article just inside the front cover entitled, “Doers, Not Hearers Only” by Burk Parsons. My first thought… Thank You Holy Spirit for confirming yet another article.
Throughout many of my articles, and in some stories in my Book, I make the statement “I am not a Theologian”. After reading this short article, I must now stop doing that. What first leapt off the page I read was, “…everyone is a theologian — the question is whether or not we are good theologians. The fundamental problem in our day is that many professing Christian don’t think they need to study theology, while many others don’t seem to care about theology or are simply too lazy to study it. Christians, however must care about theology. How could we not, when it tells us about the One that saves our souls?”[ii]
So what is Doing Theology? Simply stated, “Doing Theology means studying Scripture and studying the words of our faithful forefathers who faithfully studied Scripture. It means studying the historic creeds and confessions of the church, which serve as helpful summaries and explanations of what Scripture teaches. It means studying books on systematic theology but also biblical commentaries, as well as books on hermeneutics (the method of interpreting scripture), church history, historical theology, and even Christian living (how to apply theology in all of life), for theology rightly understood is theology rightly applied in life.”[iii]
Although we can attempt to describe Him, or explain His ways, or try to fully put in plain words who He is… we will never be able. He is infinitely and eternally higher than we are. The Apostle Paul sums it up perfectly…
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and decisions and how unfathomable and untraceable are His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it would be paid back to him? For from Him [all things originate] and through Him [all things live and exist] and to Him are all things [directed]. To Him be glory and honor forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33-36 AMP
Yet, even as big and indescribable as He is, He wants for us to know Him, He wants a deep and unwavering relationship with His children. Theology is both the art and science of knowing what we can know and understanding what we can understand about God our Father. We do this by studying and digging into His Word to discover what He has revealed to us about Himself. With this knowledge will precisely and accurately recognize, love, worship and proclaim the God of the Scriptures, not the God of our personal creation.
And as we do this, we come to know Him, as the Creator of all things, the Sustainer of all things and the Judge of all things. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He was the Creator at the beginning and He will be the final Judge of all things at the end.
2 Timothy 4:2 tells us, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.”
So just what is Biblical Theology and why do I, as a believer, need to “do it”? Theological questions surround our life. The questions in our mind about God, such as is He a distant and disinterested Being or is He a loving and gracious Father? Is He concerned for His children or apathetic to our plight? The results of these questions form and guide our lives. This is where important conclusions to these questions must be the result of careful study and evidence.
We continue our pursuit of knowledge of the Word in order that we might attain spiritual maturity. It is impossible to please God without an adequate, and ongoing, development of understanding of the Scriptures. Studying, knowing and developing Biblical doctrine is absolutely required for Spiritual growth and maturing in our faith. Intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures is insufficient for spiritual maturity. After all satan has biblical knowledge; we read about his quoting the Old Testament prophet when he was tempting of Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-11… and he was hardly spiritual.
Anyone can memorize scripture and repeat it back perfectly. It is not until we receive the Word of God in our heart and allow it to transform us through the power of Holy Spirit that spiritual maturity comes.
Spiritual maturity requires theological study; there will be little spiritual growth without it. Clearly there are countless individuals who have dedicated their entire lives to the study of the Word, exploring the intricacies and nuances of words, dissecting and answering the challenging question of our faith.
Nevertheless, every Christian is a theologian. Every one of us ponders the questions about God – His nature, His being, our salvation, eternity in His presence; the list goes on…We each formulate theories about how God works even if it is done informally. There are those that would say that even the atheist is a theologian in that he has down his own study to consider God if only in order to deny Him.
So, since every Christian is to be a theologian, the question becomes – will we become sound theologians? The answer is obvious. The goal for every Christian must be to become a biblically sound student of the Word who develops an understanding of the doctrine and willingly submits fully to the authority of the Word of God.
What not to do as a theologian
Whether we recognize it or not, those that study the Scriptures are all theologians. This happens when we read the scriptures and form opinions on our own. Without realizing it, we are having thoughts of who God is, what He expects of us and a whole list of other questions. Many of us don’t recognize that we are “doing theology” and that can make it difficult for us to do a course correction when necessary. Without realizing it, we can find ourselves thinking thoughts that are true or that our self-evident thoughts run counter to time honored beliefs of centuries of theologians and sound biblical doctrine.
While we are called o be theologians, we must recognize the need for assistance from our Church, Pastor, creeds and teachings throughout history to help in our study. The use and study of centuries of learned Holy Spirit inspired men and their teachings are useful in gauging our own thought about scriptures. If what we interpret is so very different than the teachings and writings of sound theologians of the past… we might consider our private interpretations again.
It is essential as we study that we avail ourselves to the variety of teachers and their writings. We tend to, at least I do, go to the same writers for interpretation or commentary about passages or topics. It is essential to hear from many difference writers.
Theology in the Age of Social Media
It is so easy and so readily accessible to find insightful articles, well written blogs, and great interviews on the web. This should not, and can never, take the place of opening the Word of God to read and study for ourselves. In addition, social media must never be a substitute for sitting under the teaching of a sound, educated, and qualified preacher on a regular basis in order to gain knowledge and discernment of what is being served up on our timelines.
Be on guard against arrogance… that we “got it covered”… that there is no one anywhere that can teach us anything new. Guard your heart and mind from sideways thinking that a single Pastor has all the answers. It has taken the Church 2000 years to uncover what it has uncovered so far from the Word of God. We cannot think that we have uncovered it all in 10, 20 or 50 years. Do not be so arrogant to think that you cannot learn from a lay person – that today’s theologians, teacher, preacher or authors, even some without formal training cannot bring profound truths from having experienced God faithfulness and studied God’s Word all their lives.
We must “do theology” from a position of humility. We must never think we have learned it all or that the lone theologian we study has every answer or that the preacher we sit under is our final authority. Each of them is a fallible human. Do not let your pride be come puffed up and arrogant. Recognize that every one of us is fallible, and we need to learn from each other in order to continue to learn and grow and mature in our spirituality.
“We must never think that we have arrived or that our theology
has no room for improvement” Robert Rothwell
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Note: Emphasis, highlighting and formatting features placed on Biblical Scriptures are solely the actions of this writer and are used to set apart the text to the reader.
Scriptures marked AMP are taken from the AMPLIFIED BIBLE (AMP): Scripture taken from the AMPLIFIED® BIBLE, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by the Lockman Foundation Used by Permission.
Unless otherwise noted, scriptural references are from the NIV – New International Version© Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
Graphic ©Ann C Cuddy 2018
[i] https://tabletalkmagazine.com/magazine/ from R. C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries
[ii] TableTalk Magazine; Ligonier Ministries and R. C. Sproul; February 2018, page 2