6th February 2011

What’s Theology?

“But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ….”
2 Peter 3:18 (NIV UK) 

What do you picture in your mind when you hear the word ‘theologian’? Maybe you think of a rather scholarly-looking man with a beard, who has learned Hebrew and Greek and several other ancient languages—but does not really know much about the real world. Maybe someone who works in seclusion, tucked away in a little office in a college or seminary, studying things that most people don’t know about and, furthermore, don’t care about.

The idea of studying theology might even scare you a little. But the truth is, anyone who takes Christianity seriously needs to be, at least on some level, a student of theology. That’s because the word theology means ‘study of God’. So surely, theology is important to anyone who seeks to know and understand God.

You don’t need a university degree to study theology. You just need a desire to know God. Of course, if you want to understand any subject in depth, you will need some formal education. And if you want to teach or write on the topic and be taken seriously, you’d do well to have some formal qualifications, as in any other profession.

One of the best definitions of theology I know was given by St. Anselm. He called theology “Faith seeking understanding”.

As Christians, we all have a responsibility to grow in our understanding and appreciation of our heavenly Father, as Peter tells us (above). What child does not study his parents?

So, whereas some aspects of theology demand years of study and specialised skills, we all become theologians to some degree when we seek to know and understand what God is doing in our lives and the world around us.

God gave us minds to use and, in matters of theology, as in any other area of life, it’s important that we use our minds to think through and understand why we believe what we believe. It’s easy just to let ourselves be catch-alls for whatever beliefs happen to attract our fancy, but if we take God seriously, then we want understanding, not assumptions.

The message of Scripture is good news, and it’s worth our time to study what that means. We don’t need advanced theology degrees to love one another, to love our neighbours, and to walk in the love of Christ. But we do need to grow in the grace of our Lord and Saviour, and in knowing him better. And that makes us all students of theology.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the simplicity in Christ Jesus. Christianity is essentially uncomplicated, straightforward and begins at our level of understanding. We look to a lifetime of learning more about you as we walk in your Son’s footsteps. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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