I recently read an article by a “church leader” who was advocating that theology was not important, that only one’s relationship with Jesus was important. The author of the article didn’t understand why all the fuss about focusing on theology, one should be focusing only on their love for Christ. May I say this “church leader” has gotten the cart before the horse. Because one’s relationship with Jesus is important; therefore, theology is important. Because one should be focused on developing their love for Jesus; therefore, a love for theology should be focused upon. For a proper walk with Jesus, one should strive to have a proper grasp of theology. There is a direct correlation between one’s theology and one’s relationship with Christ; the two go together like Siamese twins. As Leon Morris writes, “Each is impoverished without the other.”
Just what is theology? The word “theology” comes from the Greek and literally means “the study of God.” “Theo” means God and “ology” means the study of. Christian theology is the endeavor to think coherently and systematically about the basic beliefs of who God is, the work of Christ, and what it means to be a responsible member of the community of faith. There are those who ask, “Is all this this ‘study of God’ really necessary? After all, isn’t all we have to do is love Jesus?” Well, when one asks that question it raises another question, “Who is Jesus?” And when one asks that question one has ventured into the realm of theology! Without a proper theology how does one know they are following the right Jesus? Without a proper theology how does one know what they are learning about Jesus is correct? Without a proper theology how does one know they are holding to, in the words of Francis Schaeffer, “true Truth?”
For one to say theology isn’t necessary, is to declare that studying, learning, and seeking to understand more about God, Jesus and what it means to be a member of the community of faith, has no correlation to one’s growth and maturity as a Christian. To reject theology is in the end rejecting knowing God and Christ whom He has sent, and leaves the Church weak and anemic. A Christian seeking to sail through life without a foundation in proper theology, is like a sail boat attempting to navigate the sea without a proper sail…. tossed to and fro on the sea of spiritual confusion will result.
There are at least six reasons why theology is important.
First, theology is important because subjectivity cannot be the anchor of one’s spiritual experience. Let me explain, when one responds to the Gospel message and a conversion is “experienced,” one who ignores theology must put trust in their “experience” and not in Christ who brought about the experience. Where theology is absent, one’s inner “feelings” become the test of one’s faith not the objective truth of who Christ is as taught in the Bible. When one rejects the objective theological truths anchored in the Bible and puts faith in their “experience” over the work of Christ, they are continually looking for a “fix” to bolster their experience. Without proper theology one begins to worship their “experience” and not Jesus Christ. A proper theology is an anchor of the soul whether subjective “feelings” are waxing high or low. Focusing on experience without the guidance of theology leads to misguided sensationalism , and theology without experience can lead to knowledge without life. They need each other.
Second, theology is important because it doesn’t relegate the Bible as secondary and irrelevant. To those who insist one only needs to love Jesus, and if the Bible is deemed as unnecessary, how is one to gain knowledge of who Jesus is, what He came to accomplish, how one is saved, and the actualization of faith and practice in the Church. The Bible is God’s revelation to humanity, and if ignored and relegated to a secondary position in church life then one is left to their own whims, opinions, and distorted thinking. The neglect of the Bible to less than God’s revelation to man and guidance for the Church in regard to faith and practice, is the reason there are so many outlandish doctrines and beliefs being embraced today. The Bible has been replaced by one’s “feelings” and preferences, and the result is a “church” wandering in the wilderness without a compass. Theology is the compass that keeps us traveling forward toward our true magnetic North – the Christ of the Cross. The first sermon this writer preached almost forty-eight years ago was entitled, “It is Time to Get Back to the Bible.” That is still my message today! A proper theology is found within the pages of the Sacred Volume, not outside them.
Third, theology is important because it promotes making application of our faith in daily living. While the average Christian loves to talk about loving Jesus and having a relationship with Him, the pursuit of making application of one’s faith seems to be missing in Christendom today. This writer has heard people say, “It matters not what you believe as long as you live right.” However, if one doesn’t believe right, they will not live right. How does one know what right living is, how to make application of one’s faith in daily living, if theology regarding what is right and wrong is not defined? Why are there denominations today who are embracing abnormal and perverted behavior, which in years past were considered against Christian values and principles? The answer is simple, because they have abandoned proper theology anchored in God’s Word and no longer make application of the truths revealed within for faith and practice.
Fourth, theology is important because it enables one to spot error when encountered. If there is no theology how does one recognize false doctrine or spot false, man-made religions. When someone says there is no difference between Christianity and Islam or Christianity and Jehovah Witnesses or Christianity and all the other isms, then there is someone who has abandoned theology. If one doesn’t know what they believe, they will succumb to error. How does one know when they have in their hand a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill? They know it is counterfeit from studying what a real twenty-dollar bill looks like, and in so doing they are able to spot a fake. Without a proper theology one will find themselves embracing a shake and bake faith that includes a little of this and a little of that because they don’t have firm grasp and knowledge of the real thing. If one does not have a grounded biblical theology, one will become vulnerable to false doctrines, disobedience, and straying from the truth.
Fifth, theology is important because it is a safe guard against liberal theology high-jacking biblical theology. If one does not know the fundamentals of the faith, how can one stand-up to the attacks of liberalism. If one is not grounded in the truths regarding the Virgin Birth of Christ, His sinless life, His vicarious death, His bodily resurrection, and His promised Second Coming, then how is one going to withstand the onslaught of liberalism to waterdown those truths or dismiss them altogether as not being essential to one’s faith? Developing a coherent and systematic biblical theology on the essentials of the faith is the best safe guard against advancing liberalism, as one is then able to recognize its conspiring attempts to slip unawares through the backdoor of Christendom.
Sixth, theology is important because it leads to spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is developed by hiding the Word in one’s heart, the Word being the Supreme Source of theology. It is impossible to grow in grace and mature without an adequate understanding of Scripture. A proper theology is of the utmost importance for spiritual maturity. Through the years this writer has discovered Christians who state there is no need to focus on theology but only focus on one’s relationship with Christ, they invariably exhibit the thinking, attitudes and actions of babes in Christ (I Cor. 3:1), they have failed to grow-up spiritually. As Paul wrote to the church at Corinthians, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ” (I Cor. 3:1). One truth is evident, the Corinthian believers didn’t have a proper theology. Spiritually speaking, it is time to quit eating pablum and begin chewing on steaks. Only adults can do that!
So, there you have it – six reasons why theology is important and necessary. Theology is imperative because it defines for us who God is, what He has done for us in Christ, and how the Redeemed Humanity should respond to Christ in faith and practice, and much more. We are to never separate theology from belief and practice. Theology is the meat that nourishes our souls as we develop and grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our relationship with Christ and our theology that forms the foundation of our relationship with Him are enriched by the interconnectedness of the two.