Everyone is a Theologian-Pt. 1

Question: what do you think of when you hear the word “theology”?

My guess is that many of us—not everyone, but many—probably fall into one of a few different categories:
• For example, some of us aren’t even sure of what the word means. We hear it from time to time in church situations, but if pressed, we’re not quite sure we could define it. (For the record, a simple definition of theology would include both “the study of God,” and “what you believe to be true about God,” i.e., a set of beliefs or doctrines.)
• Alternatively, we might say that we associate it with people like pastors or professors. In other words, we think theology is something that “professional” Christian teachers concern themselves with.
• Or then again, some of us probably associate it with something dry and dusty and of little practical use. If you fall into that category, you might be someone who says, “I’m just not crazy about my faith being an intellectual exercise, I don’t want to get caught up in a bunch of doctrines or in the minutiae of things. I really want to concentrate on just loving and following Christ.”
• Finally, it’s quite possible that some of us are some combination of the above.

If some part of that list describes you, then it might be worth thinking about one rather memorable passage Scripture, a passage that I think will begin to show us the importance of engaging in theology—and, in fact, trying to do it well.

Mark 12 finds Jesus being tested with questions from various groups of people. Following this “exam,” a teacher of the law who has heard part of the debate decides to make yet one more inquiry: “Of all the commandments, which is the most important.” Verses 29-31 record Jesus’ answer:

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Okay, you might say–Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself–that’s really important. Got it. But wait a minute. I thought you said that this passage has something to do with theology. Isn’t it about loving God and your neighbor?

Well, that’s true. It does speak to those very things. But consider the following questions: What does it really mean to love someone? After all, when you really think about it, love is one of the most widely defined words in our culture. And who is God? If love is widely defined, God is perhaps even more so. So what is God like and is there really a good reason to love him? And just who is my neighbor anyway? Does that refer to the people across the street or is the definition somewhat broader. And finally, are we supposed to love other people the same way we love God? Or is there a significant difference, whatever the similarities may be?

Those are all pretty important questions. I say that simply because, without the proper answers, I doubt we’re going to love God and our neighbor very well at all.

But here’s the thing: I don’t know if you noticed or not, but in thinking about the answers to those questions, we’re actually doing theology. We’re thinking about, trying to understand what is true about God—not only about who he is, but how he expects us to interact with him and our fellow human beings.

And so the point is this: even the most fundamental thing God requires of us involves doing theology. We have to consider about what is true in order to direct our actions properly.

In the next post, we’ll talk more about the link between good theology and a God-pleasing life, as well as some practical ways we can develop in this area.

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