Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Theology--Getting to Know the One We Love

by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.

Theology is the framework of our understanding of God and his ways upon which we are able to design a godly life as persons and as community.

Often theology is considered about as interesting as eating sawdust or watching grass grow—and just about as useful. Both perspectives could not be further from the truth, for theology, in its most basic form, is simply what we believe about God and his ways. It ranges from the simple yet profound lyrics of “Jesus Loves Me” to the complex multi-volume Church Dogmatics of German theologian Karl Barth. It has a place in the seminary, but it also has a place in the Little Lambs Sunday School class.

Now, just so we are clear, theology is not the foundation of our faith; our faith is founded on a person: Jesus Christ. Rather, we might think of theology as an adjustable, yet stable framework on which to design a godly life as persons and as community. Stability comes from two sources: the framework is firmly attached to the ground and it is secure, such that adjustment requires effort. It is not adjusted on a whim.

How does this apply to theology? Theology is an adjustable, yet stable set of ideas about God and his ways, firmly attached to Jesus Christ. While Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, our theological understandings are subject to correction. The theological thinking of the larger church is an excellent resource for adjusting our own theology, for the thoughtful, reasoned correction of hundreds of years has produced a stable framework (see below for some resources).

Each of us and all of us together has a theological framework, for we all have understandings about God and his ways. The unfortunate truth is that many of us have thoughtlessly built our framework and it does not correspond to the way things actually are. Often we do not even know what sort of framework it is, for we have not thoughtfully considered our beliefs.

If we truly love God, we will want to know about him, just as when we love a human, we want to know about that person [1]. If we love God, we will thirst for knowledge about him and the knowledge for which we thirst is theology.

Do you thirst for the knowledge of God? If not, ask God to make you thirsty. If you are thirsty, what are you doing to satisfy that thirst?

Further Reading in Theology (available in the Sanctify library; see Laura)
Bitesize Theology, by Peter Jeffrey
5 Minute Theologian, by Rick Cornish

[1] Idea courtesy of John Mark Reynolds, "The Glory of Jesus Christ: The Way Forward in the Dialogue Between Religion and Science," The Norton Lectures at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, March 18, 2009.

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