Monday, November 14, 2016

Why Study Theology?

Theology may sound like a dusty, esoteric subject reserved for academia – but the opposite is true! Theology leads us into a deeper understanding of God, humanity, and the world in which we live. Understanding correct theology (orthodoxy) allows us to live God-centered, theologically-sound lives as we practice Christian doctrine (orthopraxy).

The initial question which arises is quite simple – what is theology? In short, theology is the study of God! If we break apart the word, we see theo, meaning “God,” and logos, meaning “word” or “speech.” You may be familiar with St. John’s prologue to his gospel, in which he declares, “In the beginning was the Word [Logos]” (Jn. 1:1). In other words, we could translate theology as “God talk”! And that truly is what theology is – talking about God in a coherent way. Theology is more than just taking scattered opinions and different references and smattering them together; rather, theology is talking about God in a way that makes sense.

Theologians make sense of revelation – and, by that, I do not mean the last book of the New Testament. Theological revelation is how God shows Himself to us, both through His Word and through personal experiences. (For a more detailed discussion on revelation, see Chapter 5.) Theologians take everything that God has revealed about Himself – through Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience – and make sense of it so that we might be able to live theocentric lives.

There is an ancient phrase by St. Anselm that very accurately sums up the work of theology: faith seeking understanding. Theology opens up a greater way of believing. The world has a tendency to view the world from a “see it to believe it” standpoint. But theologians take a different approach. They see the world primarily with faith, which leads to belief. Theology, then, is how we make sense of the faith we live and synthesizing it to construct how we should understand the world in which we live.

Of course, theology is so much more than simply studying. Theology is linked to prayer. The ancient phrase “lex orandi; lex credendi” supports that faith leads to understanding, so if we don’t pray, our theology will be empty and void. Thus, all you need for understanding theology is a pure mind and a pure heart. You don’t need advanced degrees to understand God. The fullest and richest encounters with God come from the deepest faith in Him. Indeed, the words of David are a sound prayer as we begin to pursue theology.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Psalm 51:10,12 (NIV)

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