everyday theology

So I went to Bible college. Not really–not Bob Jones or the like…more of a small liberal arts school. I feel like Anderson is actually more of the crazy red-headed step child of all the Christian-affiliated colleges in SC. But I was a Christian Ministry major, and I absolutely loved it. I learned so much and had so much fun. Did it get me a good paying job that I love to supplement bi-vocational ministry? No. Would I take it back and do something differently? No way.

Anyways, I say that because I’ve been thinking about theology lately, and all the trappings that come along with studying it. This past Sunday at the Gathering, my friend Jon made a simple statement that hit me hard. He said that “Scripture is always relational, not academic.” It was a good reminder for me, and it revealed how my mind sometimes reverts to the latter when studying the Bible, a result of my days at Anderson, no doubt. You see, the problem is that I’m, well, a nerd. I just eat this stuff up, learning about the Bible, theology, Church history, etc.

And just like ministry, or marriage, or any other God-inspired practice–theology can be turned into an idol, a deceiving tool of Satan for pride, disunity, or any other evil. Theology is the study of God, which implies a pursuit of relationship and knowledge of Him, just as ecologists love and learn about our earth. However, like usual, destructive people can take something that is intrinsically good and make it bad. We can make theology about theology, instead of about God, leading to a knowledge that does nothing but puff up. We can use it to become aristocrats above the masses with our -ologys and -isms. It can be turned into a weapon to show the guys on the “other” side of the camp how wrong they are.

But it is not meant to do so. Theology is not the end goal, it is a means of getting to know our God. He is the goal. Theology is meant to be done with humility and produce humility, because the more you learn about God, the smaller you get and the bigger He gets. It is relational. There is no reason to fear it, for we are all beginners and will always be beginners. If you’ve ever encountered someone who made you feel insignificant with their knowledge, you can be quite sure that they actually don’t know theology, because they don’t know Him.

I think theological education is important–and I say that not knowing if I’ll ever go to seminary or not. What I am saying is that it should be taught in our churches, in our small groups and Bible studies, and it should be something Christians learn on their own. But it should never be divorced from active participation in ministry, even if it is being done at a school. It should never be done outside of biblical community to help hold you accountable. It should be centered on Scripture and not primarily on theologians. And it doesn’t have to include the big words if they confuse…the ideas, beliefs, and concepts are what matter.

But it should be done. Because it is practical. It is not some aloof, up in the clouds concept. Our personal theology is the summation of our beliefs about God, and in the midst of our messy, broken world we have to keep going back to that every day, time and time again, to reconcile things we see and hear and experience with the truth about God. There has been an unfortunate separation in our culture between intellectual knowledge that is gained in school or seminary and practical knowledge that is gained through preaching and ministry. In reality, there should be no line because they don’t effectively happen divorced from each other. The mind has to stay connected to the heart.

It is important because Christianity in America is in an intellectual crisis. If you don’t believe me look around at how many people are leaving our faith–how many college students move away from home and turn their backs on God. If you still don’t believe me, take a member from RandomChurch USA and stick them in a room with a Jehovah’s Witness. Then sit down and watch the intellectual massacre that ensues.

Theology can be death or it can be life. If it is only a subject in school that produces distant knowledge, then it is death. But if it is the lifelong journey of a humble, relational pursuit of God–it is life. Because when its approached humbly and correctly, it is the path that leads us to the Way, to the Truth, and to the Life. And if it is done everyday, in the midst of our living, talking, and thinking, then lets me and you both strive with all we have to make sure it is the latter.

1 thought on “everyday theology”

  1. truthat, friend.
    "God will not hold us to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in the deepest reverence say, 'O Lord, Thou knowest.' Those things belong to the deep and mysterious profound of God's omniscience. Prying into them may make us theologians, but it will never make us saints." -A.W. Tozer

    When i read this a few years ago it was like the holy spirit smashed a brick on my face and said "wake up! this is you." I was fat on teaching that made me so prideful i ignored my sins; it was not good at all.

    It is a horrible fact that the teachings of the pure, deep, rich truths of God are relegated to "christian schools," rather than our small group bible studies, or even sunday morning/night. Luda's call to us to taste and chew and digest for ourselves is only part of the answer; those who have been trained and understand are called to be saints.

    My theology directly affects the way i love people; the more i know of God, His perfection and beauty, the easier it is for me to follow Him in faith, and to surrender my life in humility.

    Good post.

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