WHY GOOD THEOLOGY MATTERS!
Let me begin by saying this. Everyone is a theologian! You may not think it or you may not realise it, but it is true. You are a theologian! Theology in its purest form is the study of God, and everyone - even the atheist - has thoughts about God! Indeed, even Satan is a theologian. In fact I would go as far as to say that Satan may have a lot more sound theology than a fair few who would call themselves Christians. So let’s look at three ways in which good theology helps us.
GOOD THEOLOGY LEADS TO A GREATER LOVE FOR GOD!
A. W. Tozer said that "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." If this is true then it is very important that we think rightly about God. That's why a study of good theology is essential for the Christian life and for growth in Christ. I have found this quote from Jen Wilkin particularly helpful when it comes to how we think about God and the pursuit biblical knowledge. "The heart cannot love what the mind does not know" (Women of the Word). If our hearts are to be engaged in love for our God, then we must pursue a right knowledge of Him. I have known my wife Julie now for some 24 years. That's a long time and if I were to think about the reasons why I love her I would have to say that my love has grown for her the more I have got to know her. This simply makes sense! Our relationship with God is no different; the more we pursue a knowledge of Him and the better we get to know Him, the more our love will grow for Him.
GOOD THEOLOGY IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT TRANSFORMS!
In Romans 12:2 we hear the apostle Paul urge his readers to "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This renewing of the mind comes on two levels. It comes when we submit ourselves to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and it comes through a study of God, through what has been revealed about Him in His Word! We cannot expect to be changed into the image of Christ through simply standing by and letting it happen to us! We will not wake up ten years from now - not having studied God's word and not having submitted ourselves to His transforming power - and expect to be more like Christ! To be transformed we must submit ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit and we must think rightly about God, which means having good theology!
GOOD THEOLOGY PROTECTS US FROM WRONG THINKING ABOUT GOD!
Good theology will help us on a very practical level. It will help us to love our spouses well, it will help us to raise our children well and it will also help us to navigate a world of bad theology that exists. Let me give some examples of what I would call bad theology! In Idaho, April 2016, a girl by the name of Mariah Walton is on a respirator, her lungs wrecked by her illness. She has pulmonary hypertension, which means that when she is not bedridden, she must carry an oxygen tank around with her. This could have been prevented when she was a baby if her parents had allowed her to receive treatment, but they didn’t! Others that I have read of have died because their parents believed that God would heal and they refused medical treatment! This is great example of bad theology!
God in his graciousness has provided for us doctors and nurses as part of His common grace. The fact that God sometimes heals does not mean that He always will. Regardless, there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that medicine (or science in general) is opposed to divine healing. Perhaps the common grace of medicine is the very means by which God exercises the miraculous grace of healing.
Or what of the super star evangelist who flies his private jet to an African nation, holding events that see thousands attend, with the hope that God will look favourably on them. They arrive to be told by that said evangelist that God certainly will look favourably on them if they donate considerably to his ministry! They leave having given almost everything they had, but to no avail! The reason is that this is not how God works, but they have been led astray by false teachers.
Possibly even more subtle and more damaging to us in the West is the promise of health, wealth and prosperity if we would just have more faith, believe more, give more. Someone really should have told the apostle Paul that all he needed was to have more faith to avoid torture and poverty!! Or it may have been helpful if some prosperity preacher had mentioned to Jesus that all this beating, scoffing, rejection and dying on a cross was uncalled for and that he could have "his best life now" if he had only had more faith! Teaching that all we need is more faith to have a peaceful, prosperous and healthy life is simply biblically untrue! The point is this, a right thinking about God and a true study of His word will help us navigate some of the pitfalls that are out there and help us avoid a lot of false teaching that can so easily sound plausible!
So to finish, let me ask a question. What are you doing to grow in your theological understanding? It is my hope that we will be kicking off a very simple theology class in the New Year that will be accessible for everyone. Get on board! Also there is a list of books below that I would recommend to get you started on your way!
Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem (for shorter introductions, you might first consider his Bible Doctrine or Christian Beliefs)
Kings Cross by Tim Keller
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Knowing God by J.I. Packer
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sprout
None like Him by Jen Wilkin