In a Christian context, theology can simply be described as the study of God. By carefully reading the Bible and letting it speak for itself (rather than forcing it to say what we want it to say), we can gain deeper insight into who God is, how we should treat one another and what his will is for our lives. There are many different disciplines within theology, but as this stage it is not necessary to cover them. Instead, it is crucial to discuss why it is important to develop a theological understanding of who God is.
Why is it important?
Imagine you see someone across the room from you, and they seem to have it all. They are friendly, caring and funny – all the things that make for a good friend. Somewhat awkwardly, you walk up beside them with a welcoming (but probably uncomfortable) smile and say, “I like the look of you. Let’s be best friends for life!” Overjoyed at the friend you just made, you walk away with the intention of telling everyone about your companion. Alas, the minutes pass rapidly and in no time you’ve become distracted by everything else that is going on around you. Months go by and despite telling everyone how close you are, you never really talk to your new friend. You don’t know their likes and dislikes or their character. All you have to go by is what you briefly glimpsed from afar and what people tell you about them.
Is that real friendship? Hopefully, you would think that it probably isn’t, and yet it is so often the way we treat God. To use the example above, understanding theology is like sitting down with the person you just made friends with and saying, “tell me everything about you! What makes you tick?” The only difference is while God can speak to us today, we must remember that God has revealed much of who he is in the Bible already, if only we’d take the time to truly study it. It is not enough just to have a relationship with God that is based on emotional experience without an intellectual understanding of his nature.
Good theology can comfort us in times of suffering and keep us humble in times of success
Bad theology can cause misreading of Scriptures and dangerous teaching. It can lead to misguided preachers proclaiming that heaven can be bought and to churches becoming nothing more than ‘entertainment centers’ for a vaguely interested audience. It can lead to hateful sign-wielders protesting funerals and others attempting to predict the exact date of the end of the world. This is not what God intends for us.
On the hand, Good theology can comfort us in times of suffering and keep us humble in times of success. It can help nurture a selfless love for the people around us, and help us understand the way God intended the world to function. Good theology helps us to gain a greater insight into the God that created us, which can only lead us further toward the proper worship that he deserves. Perhaps most importantly, good theology can help us to understand the incomprehensible wonder of what Jesus Christ did for us and what that means for the human race. That’s pretty big.