We’ve all met (or been) that know-it-all who likes to get into debates about theology for the sake of debating. The know-it-all usually isn’t concerned about helping someone know God better, and his hunger for debate isn’t an act of worship. It’s a boxing match, but with words instead of gloves.
But theology isn’t merely a debate topic. Theology should not only help us understand more about who God is, but also help us answer the question, “How should we live?” It’s ultimately wrapped up in our head, heart, and hands. It’s for all of life.
Theology matters because what we think affects how we love and how we act. Nothing is more important than what we say about God, because what we say shows what we believe, and what we believe changes how we act. This includes everything: thinking, feeling, and doing. Christian theology is to inform our lives because, as we say with the apostle Paul,
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
We are gospel-made people. We are the crucified ones. Theology is anchored in Christ and therefore has the gospel at its heart. In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He replied that it’s twofold — love God and love others. This is a theological statement, because Scripture is clear about who God is and how he works through us to redeem others.
Love God with Good Theology
Jesus said to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind (Matthew 22:37). We usually don’t struggle with whether or not to love God with our hearts or even our souls, but do you love God with your mind? God wants you to know him on every level. It is not wrong to “give your heart and soul to God,” but he wants your mind, too. He wants you to think rightly about him so that you feel rightly about him. He wants you to know facts about him so that you can have a deeper relationship with him.
Of course, we are not saved by knowledge of God alone. In fact, even demons know and believe that God exists (James 2:19). We are not saved by the theology of Avatar, believing that God is a glowing tree, either. The heart, soul, and mind are not separated. God wants it all, together, forever. Through the gospel, good theology brings them together into a fully formed, rightly motivated worship of the God of the universe.
Good theology is not finally about debate, but worship.
Love Neighbor with Good Theology
Jesus said to love our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:39). Theology doesn’t stop with you because the gospel doesn’t stop with you. God is a God of salvation, of reconciliation. Paul was unashamed of the gospel because “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16–17).
The gospel is for everyone. So when Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), he wants us to take his truth to them.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14–15)
So God doesn’t simply want you to have good theology; he wants all people everywhere to have good theology. As his disciples who are called to make more disciples, it is important for us to tell people about him in a proper way. We don’t want them to just know about God, but to know God as he has revealed himself.
Good theology is not finally about debate, but mission.
Theology and Love
Theology is about love — of God and neighbor. We worship rightly so we can share the gospel rightly. We want to know God rightly, and we want to tell others about him rightly. When we tell others about Jesus, we shouldn’t sound just like the Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness who visited them at dinner. It’s not loving to lead people into a false relationship with a false god, so we shouldn’t take our theology lightly.
Good theology is the system of roots that keeps our tree of faith vibrant and alive. It keeps us grounded and centered, yet growing. When we are rooted, we won’t remain stagnant. And neither will those around us.
Forging and sharpening a good theology is valuable, for the worship of God and the mission to others.