Theology for All #1: Where it All Begins

At any given moment, you will worship (give first place to) what you most value. And what you most value will be driven by your theology. Why do you give in to pornography? In that moment, you value porn more than the glory of God. Why are you a “professional worrier” (as a counselor, I get that a lot, because in our culture professional worry sounds a lot less sinful than professional luster or professional hater)? Because in that moment you value your fear more than you trust in God. In that moment, your theology is failing you. Now, let me be clear. I am not passing judgment on you. All you have to do is read the history in this blog to see my path and my own battles with life-dominating patterns of sin. My goal here is to shame no-one, but to strengthen fellow believers not just to battle sin, but to better glorify the One Who made them….through theology. Yes, theology.

            Theology has traditionally been treated like the crazy uncle at family reunions- he’s there, but you try not to talk too much about him. Churches stay away from talk about theology like politicians stay away from accountability. But is that wise? Is theological study only for the academic elites? I have heard a lot of preaching and teaching over the years and am convinced that we need better theology in the church. Not watered-down, but put on the bottom shelf. So we’re going to take a journey. We’ll call it “Theology for All” in case you want to check in every now and then and only look at these posts. Why do we need theology at the popular level? Because we all have a theology…and a lot of them stink. Satan exposes us daily. We often are woefully unequipped to challenge his claim of supremacy over areas of our lives. And too often the help that is given from pulpits is either a message of “you just need to try harder,” “if you just loved Jesus enough you wouldn’t struggle with this,” or “don’t worry about it, we all sin.” None of this is helpful. Lifting up the God of the universe with the glory that is due His name is.

            So, where do we start? To quote the great theologian Maria Von Trapp, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” What is systematic theology? I think Wayne Grudem gives the best succinct definition: “Systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic.” This study is going to be intensely biblical.

            Why should we do this? Well, in addition to the first two paragraphs of this post, let me give you a few reasons. First, we were created to glorify God (Is. 43:7). This is not some mystical concept that should only be explored in the hallowed halls of academia. It is a concept that is fleshed out at the level of daily living. “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). As we study our God, we will know Him better, which will drive us to obey Him more fully, which leads to His greater glory. Second, a deepening theology will drive us to growth and worship. Proverbs 1:7 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. The more we understand and glorify our God, the more we will grow in our walk with Him. Theology will also drive our doxology. Our worship will be fueled by our theology. Too often, we replace the work of digging deeply into the character and nature of our God with a cheaper, easier substitute “experience” that involves a lot of emotionalism. What if that passionate response in worship is supposed to flow from a heart that is full of the glory of God, rather than a heart that is simply being stirred at a more surface level? Third, we need to study theology because doctrine is vitally important. Paul’s letters to Timothy are full of warnings about bad theology, but none rings truer than 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Can you defend the core beliefs that you hold dear? If we are to be ready “always to give an answer for the hope that lies within us,” our theological armor must be thick and strong. Let’s put that work in now. I hope you’ll join me for this journey and that together we’ll grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord!