Theology, shmeology

Many Christians tend to avoid anything to do with theology like it was a plague. They acquaint theology with seminary, and seminary with “liberal” thinking and a watered-down faith. To some, theology is the enemy of faith – it comes to question, to challenge, to raise issues that should simply be accepted, because their pastor or someone like Benny Hinn said so. Like science, theology is seen as a mental activity, as opposed to one of the spirit. Things of the spirit are sacred, and other things – mental things – are profane. Bible study is of God, but when it crosses the line into theology, well…

I, on the other hand, love theology. I find theology exciting. For that matter, I enjoy science, too, but that’s a subject for another post. I really wish now that I had taken some seminary classes, or at least spent a little more time reading real theology, rather than most of the stuff found in Christian bookstores (although, some of that is also good). However, a word to the wise (or, rather, to the foolish): Theology can, indeed, challenge, threaten, completely irritate and possibly destroy your faith. That is, if your faith is in something other than God.

What I really wish is that I had a better grasp of theological history; that is, the way the Church’s thinking about God has evolved (oh, no, there’s that science word again) over the years. For it has, indeed, evolved. From the days of Acts to the present, the Church’s understanding of God has taken a number of turns; some good, some not so good. But through it all, I believe God continues to reveal Himself to those who seek him (and to a few who don’t), and the gates of Hell – and even theology – have not prevailed against the Church.

Today, if people know anything about theology at all, they may know a few names like Augustine, Luther & Calvin – and maybe a few of the early Church Fathers, such as Tertullian, Polycarp & Origen. Most, however, don’t have a clue as to what they believed. And, many would be horrified to find out. The truth is, many of those who were foundational in developing the early faith and belief system of the church had some rather odd beliefs that today would get them kicked out of some of our major denominations.

The history of the theology of the Church is shocking to our modern sensibilities, highly structured belief systems, and to our faith in those systems. But, it doesn’t do our faith any good to avoid reality.

As Abram learned about God by listening and obeying, the Church continued to grow in its knowledge of God as freshly revealed through Jesus and the Spirit, through many hundreds of years of study, thought, debate, missteps and successes. In spite of the apparent errors that permeated the Church from time to time, here we are.

Are we done learning? Heaven forbid. We may have advanced, or we may have rabbit-trailed, but God will continue to lead His Church and reveal Himself to her. It’s our turn, you see. To turn our back on theology is to tell God, “I know you well enough already.”

There’s another aspect of theology that I think scares people, and that is simply that it might challenge our own pet belief systems, or own personal virtual realities. But, that’s a topic for another post.

6 thoughts on “Theology, shmeology”

  1. I certainly agree with your first comment; Paul was of course right on here. And, there are areas where we might need to “agree to disagree.” However, having an understanding of theology and the history of theology would prevent people from falling for some of the flakier doctrines floating around, as well as give people an appreciation, if not acceptance, of various doctrinal positions.

    What is most divisive is not real theology, but perhaps could be called “pop-doctrinology” – what Paul calls “foolish and stupid arguments.” Paul is ready to discuss – and be confrontational about – theology (Gal. 2:11), but has no time for foolishness.

  2. “I preach no other Gospel, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” I’m finding in my walk with the Lord that theology does more to divide than anything else, so I keep going back to the basics. It doesn’t mean someone is stupid or rejecting critical thinking, it just might mean that they are choosing to put their particular understanding of God and His ways on the shelf so as not to be a source of contention. I find it more laudible that someone may decide to “esteem others better than themselves” in these areas for the greater good. I, too, though am intriqued by the different perspectives of belief that have developed in the past and currently among the Christian community. Studying this for oneself, and possibly teaching it in semanaries is exactly where it needs to stay but not espoused in a gathering of the saints whose goal is to function as the unified Body of Christ.(I had to bite my tongue 5 times today when a sister in the Lord pushed some of my major buttons, so as not to cause contention and interrupt the flow of our fellowship.) Again, the only theology there should be is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. If we go into too much more theology, we have another “demon”ation.

  3. Serious thinking is fun, though you’d never guess that from most Christian presentations. We often put a barracade between believing and thinking, protecting the former from the dangerous consequences of the latter.

    Theology is thinking about revelation, which in turn can lead to further revelation. Of course thinking can also lead to questions, which may challenge revelation or at least challenge our thinking about them. Mostly, however, thinking leads to a deeper confidence in revelation though certain nagging questions remain unanswered.

    In the 18th century, sermons, like those of Jonathan Edwards, were astonishing in their density of ideas. Preachers believed that a solid grasp of theology was essential for a healthy and fruitful faith. The amazing thing is that the average congregation back then could receive it. Today it seems that most of the preaching energy goes toward being relational, one of the bunch. The gospel is reduced to the simplest terms possible which produces the simplest “belief.” Guys like Edwards elevated their congregations; we tend to speak down to ours.

    “I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of any thinking going on inside it.”
    —Terry Pratchett

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