Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Need for Theology

Why is Theology Important?
(Part III)

 The Need for Theology

Is there a need for theology? If I go to church, read my bible, and love Jesus, isn’t that enough? 

Unfortunately, due to gross misunderstanding and misrepresentation of theology, theology has gotten a bad rap. Theology is often portrayed as something for scholars that seem to be far above the “average” Christian in the pew.

Look at how H. L. Mencken viewed theology, “A theologian is like a blind man in a dark room searching for a black cat which isn’t there - and finding it!” H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

The above quote by Charles H. Spurgeon reads, "I learned when I was a boy that the chief end of man was to glorify God and enjoy Him forever: but I hear now according to the new theology that the chief end of God is to glorify man and to enjoy man forever, yet this is the turning of things upside down. "  This stems from ignoring biblical theology.

Others charge “theology” with being divisive and antithetical to developing unity within the body of Christ. One can certainly point to the myriad of denominations that have developed over so called doctrinal differences. Almost every day a new “flavor” of the month opens up in a community near you as a result of some difference in bible doctrine.

I am here to tell you that theology is definitely needed. Theology is not some abstract theory for the erudite. Theology is simply biblical doctrine recorded in the Scriptures under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Let me give you three reasons why theology and a study of biblical, systematic theology are needed.

Reason One

Theology is needed due to the fact that accurate doctrinal beliefs are essential to the relationship between you as a believer and God.

Biblical theology teaches us about God and His character. It tells us how and in what manner we may approach God and conduct a relationship. Theology informs us as how we are able to come to know and delight in the God of biblical revelation.

Simply having a warm and fuzzy emotional feeling about God is not enough. We must have accurate information and understanding in order to love, serve, obey, and cherish God.

Jeremiah made this point clear when he said,

 Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the
mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,  but let
him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am
the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 9:23-24, ESV
emphasis mine)

Theology is needed in order to define and establish a relationship with our God. Theology is not extraneous. God has explained how we may understand Him and how we may know Him.

Reason Two

Theology is needed since truth and experience are related.

We live in an age where many “believers” do not want their experiences hindered, interpreted, or governed by biblical truth. Someone once shouted at me in a rather heated manner during a discussion, “I don’t care what the bible says, I know what I experienced.” Experience seems to “trump” biblical doctrine, or theology more and more these days.

This story has been told more than once but it still demonstrates the fact that experience is governed by truth:

“A , man who falls from the tenth story may shout as he passes each window on the way down, ‘I’m still doing fine,’ and he may very well mean it. However, eventually the facts or the truth of the matter will catch up with his experience.”

The meaning of biblical truth has significant bearing upon experiences. We cannot deny biblical truths in order to validate personal experiences.

Reason Three

Theology is needed because of the proliferating false doctrines and false teachers

How serious is the problem of false teaching? Does the Bible contain many warnings about religious error and false teachers? Should we compromise and overlook differences in doctrine and fellowship people regardless of their errors? How important is spiritual truth? How concerned should we be about false prophets?

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false
teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even
denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift
destruction.  And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the
way of truth will be blasphemed.  And in their greed they will exploit you with
false words.”  (II Peter 2:2-3, ESV)

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith
by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,  through
the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and
require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving
by those who believe and know the truth.” (II Timothy 4:1-2, ESV)

There are so many false teachings and doctrines today that I wonder
if they can be numbered. The “isms” are rampant and are designed to
deceive. We have humanism, secularism, cults, eastern religions, the 
Emergent Church, psychology, and more seeking to erode biblical
teaching and principles. 
The answer is not to roll over and play dead or listen to the “siren call
that begs us to play nice.”  The answer is not simply to try to identify
false doctrine and then debate it, but we need to become even more
proficient at understanding biblical doctrine or theology. The answer
isn’t simply to lay down our bibles and throw out anything that is
seemingly divisive or prohibits “unity.” 
How does the treasury department train its agents to detect
counterfeit money? They do not have them study counterfeit bills.
They have their agents examine numerous samples of genuine
money. They have them look at it, feel it, and scrutinize it. When the
agents are given counterfeit money the agents immediately recognize
When it comes to understanding biblical theology or doctrine we don’t
need to study the false teachings of all the “isms,” we simply need to
study the Scriptures, learn biblical doctrine or theology and when the
counterfeit appears we will know it immediately.
After all that is why Christ told Timothy and the church through the
apostle Paul, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that
needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  But shun profane
and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (II Timothy
2:15-16, KJV)

To be continued…


welcome to my world of poetry said...

Although it's lovely to go to church on a Sunday,sometimes it's not always possible for various reasons, surely if one reads their bible and lead as good a life as possible that is adequate to call one's self a Christian.

Enjoy the post as always Gregg.
Hope your Sunday is calm and peaceful.

Kansas Bob said...

As always a thought provoking post Gregg!

I always love how Paul applied his theological views to folks like the Greeks and the Romans. Maybe a lack of this kind of application is the reason why theology gets a bad rap?

It is interesting though how scripture is sometimes used to support experience. In Acts 2 Peter used the scriptures in Joel too explain the experiences of the 120 in the upper room. Sadly, today some reject experience even when it lines up with the scriptures because they have embraced a theology that denies the work of the Holy Spirit.

Persis said...

Good post, Gregg.

I was just reading David Wells who said (paraphrasing him) that we really don't have a choice whether we have a theology or not. The question is whether it will be a good or a bad one, whether we will be conscious of our thinking processes, and whether or not we will bring our thoughts into obedience to Christ.

Cathy M. said...

Theology is the study of God. Can there be any higher pursuit than serious inquiry into the character and nature of the Ancient of Days?

Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.[1 John 2:23]

As that verse warns us, Theology and Christology matter. Furthermore, if more folks had a Biblical Pneumatology, there would be a lot fewer wolves out there bringing reproach on the cross with silly "Holy Ghost" dog barking and giggling fits.

Brian Ray Todd said...

I could not agree more. Theology is simply the study of God (Theo = God / ology = Study of). I love to study my Father in Heaven. I what to be what he wants me to be. I want that to be "right" and truth, so I study His Word and His Truth. I would never want to believe a lie and misinterpretation. I thirst for godly truth and seek His truth for life and living daily.
I love your example of a man who falls from the tenth story. Excellent point.

Mike said...

Gregg, this is good stuff! I attended a church where experience ALWAYS trumped theology. And it was truly apparent because I could count on one hand the number of people who would bring their bibles to Church consistently.

And by not having their bibles and thinking theologically, they were neglecting their duty of checking the veracity of what they were being taught.

I like what Dr. Dell Tackett in "The Truth Project" says about theologians(not word-for-word): WE ALL MUST BE THEOLOGIANS. Theology is the study of God, and He has made Himself known to us, and we all must strive to know Him better.