What is it that makes theology so important? Why can’t we just love Jesus and move past all of these definitive articulations of belief that seem to divide those who follow Christ? Can’t we all just get along and leave theology a mystery and get back to the buisness of being Christ bearers?
This is a great and understandable question. One that is more appealing today than ever as the divisions in the church have become so trivial, focusing on non-essential issues of the faith. Yet at the same time we must recognize the necessity of theology in our journey to love God and love others more deeply. Over the next series of blogs I am going to write about seven reasons why theology is an absolutely necessary pursuit for the Christian.
1. Knowing what to believe: We must recognize that all of our actions have a basis in belief. Christianity is devoid of meaning and relevance without belief. Belief is devoid without content. When one desires to love Christ more deeply, he or she cannot do so without a presumed theology. Who is this one we love? What has He done that motivates us to love Him? How does one love that which he or she cannot see? Where is this one you love? What is He doing now? All of these are questions of theology. All of these assume a basic theology, justified or not, that motivates us in our actions that evidence and expound upon this love.
One writer I was recently reading said that we are to love God as a newborn baby loves his mother. The writer says that the baby does not need to know anything about his mother to love her. He simply recognizes her as his mother and rests in her protection. The point he makes is that our pursuit is not so much to love, but to be loved. While this has much to commend as we as children of God must recognize the love of God and be content in it, the analogy fails in many ways that it becomes grossly misleading. The baby is unable to move beyond its state which necessitates the passivity of his interaction. As many of you know, I have been recently blessed with a newborn baby, Zack. Today as I held Zack in my arms and was talking to him, my three year old son Will profoundly informed me that Zack could not understand. “Daddy, Zack does not know what you are saying!!” was his comment. I said to Will, “This is how you learned to talk and understand. If we keep talking to him someday he will be able to respond.” Even if Will did not believe me, what I said was true. Though there is a part of me that desires Zack to stay a small, helpless, innocent newborn (I have changed since my blog last week!), I hope with great anticipation that one day he will grow to understand and know me. I hope that of all my children. A relationship is not one sided. God did not make newborns to perpetually remain in a state of passive interaction. God created people to grow in our understanding. The writer of Hebrews exhorts his audience to mature in their thinking. They had become like newborns in their faith and this was not a good thing.
Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
“You ought to be teachers” assumes that they needed to grow in their understanding. But sadly these people were like newborn babes, ignorantly feeding off their mother’s milk once again. The time for immaturity in our faith has passed for all of us. Jeremiah speaks to this issue very clearly:Jeremiah 9:23-24 Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises loving kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.
We are not to boast in our supposed wisdom, strength, or riches. But we can boast in our relationship with God. This relationship is defined very particularly in this passage. It requires understanding. “Let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows me.” We can only know and be satisfied in God to the degree that our understanding of Him is growing. The Hebrew word here for “understand” is one that comunicates comprehension based upon reflection. This does not mean that we will exaustively understand God or any one thing about Him. But it does mean that which He has revealed about Himself is essential to our knowing Him. What are these things? God is one who “exercises loving kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth” and that he “delights in these things.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I see this as quite a bit of information. Who is this Jesus that you love? He is one that is kind, but He is also just. Each of these characteristics go far beyond the information that a newborn can have of a parent.
God is good. God is righteous. God will provide. God loves us. God has a plan for the future. God is involved in history. God will not lie. God does not change. God made us in His image. God will not drop us. God will feed us. God will clothe us. God gives us comfort. God cares when we cry. God will heal the wounds. These are all statements of belief. This is theology. While we can and should enjoy being loved, our relationship must become reciprocal. The Christian faith is one that begins with content. You cannot believe and trust in a propositionless faith. There is really no such thing.
Proverbs 2:3-6 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.