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When we hear the word “theology,” many of us think of dreamy old men, out of touch with reality, looking for answers to questions most people would never ask. That is unfortunate, because theology definitely has its place in the life of a Christian.
One of the best definitions of theology is the one ascribed to St. Anselm, who called it “Faith seeking Understanding.” Pursued properly, theology can lead us to dig deeper, and come to appreciate the simple but profound statement that “God is love."
But just digging deeper does not guarantee that your conclusions will be good. You need to dig in the right direction. 2 Timothy 3:7 reminds us that it is possible to be “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
When I first heard this, I thought it was referring to correct and incorrect doctrine. However, the more I think about it, I realize it’s more than that.
Doctrine is only one ingredient of authentic Christianity. It’s important, and essential that the church teach right doctrines. However, doctrine does not save us. No matter how much we know – Paul reminds us – it doesn't do us any good if we don't have love (1 Corinthians 13:2).
Our theology defines how we understand God’s nature, character, heart, mind and purpose. It helps us understand how God views us as humans and what kind of relationship he wants with us.
Strong theology has a clear and coherent grasp of who God is and what he wants for us. Weak theology, however, presents God in bits and pieces, often leaving us with a God who is of two minds, or who has two different wills, or even two different sides to his character. Sometimes Jesus is presented as one “side” of God who wants to save us, by grace and the Father as the other “side” who wants to condemn us, under the Law. This leaves us thinking God has two wills, two purposes, two attitudes toward his creation and leads us to believe that He carries on two different relationships with us.
Weak theology can lead to an “us vs. them” elitist mentality, and causes us to erect barriers between people. It excludes some from coming under God’s reconciling work based upon their performance. Strong theology understands that God, who is no respecter of persons, “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
To sum it up, weak theology begins with bad news, hoping to convince or sometimes frighten you into hoping there is good news. Strong theology starts with the good news that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).
I’m Joseph Tkach, Speaking of LIFE.