Why does a Christian need theology? Have you ever heard someone say, “I am not a scholar. I don’t need theology. I just love Jesus?” I want to lay before you in this article that theology is not just for scholars and debaters but that theology is vital for the Christian life.
First, what is theology? The word theology comes from two Greek words — theos (God) and logos (word, or logic). Theology is what we understand about God. Everyone has a theology, even the atheist. The question is, where does one’s understanding of God come from — and is it true. For the Christian, true knowledge of God comes from what he has revealed about himself — the Scriptures. Paul writes that all Scripture is breathed out by God himself (1 Timothy 3:16). We can logically argue that the best place to learn about God is from what he tells us about himself.
What is God like? To write about all the attributes of God exceeds the scope of this article. However, Mark Dever claims that five words summarize what the Bible teaches us about God. First, God is creating. Everything that is or ever will be he has created (Genesis 1:1). Not only physical matter, but he has created for himself a people — the Church. Second, God is holy. He is not like his creation. God is transcendent over creation, separate, supreme in glory, and ethically flawless (Isaiah 6). Third, God is faithful. In all the Bible’s narrative, we find a God utterly faithful to his people and always fulfills his promises (Exodus 34:6-7). Fourth, God is loving. In our culture, we often like to define love on our terms rather than accept God’s definition, however according to his definition, the Creator is loving. Nowhere in the Scriptures is God’s love more apparent than the cross — where God poured out the wrath that we deserve on his own Son. The Bible teaches us that all humanity has rebelled against God and broken his law (Romans 3:23). It is only through true repentance that a person benefits from Christ’s work on the cross applied to them. Paul writes, “God shows his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God is loving.
Fifth, God is sovereign. There is nothing in this universe that is outside of his control. Job was a man in the Bible that had wealth and prosperity. However, God allowed Satan to take all his possessions, his children, and make him sick to test his faith. In the end, Job says to God, “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). We do not always understand his plan but make no mistake. God is in control (Isaiah 45:7-9).
These truths about God are not just for the scholar but are crucial for every Christian. The idea that one can love Jesus and ignore theology sounds noble but is logically unsound. You cannot tell me about the Jesus you love without engaging in theology. Our goal is not to love and serve any Jesus but to love and serve the Jesus of the Bible. Christian, you need theology to navigate life and faithfully serve the one who has called you. Dive deep into his Word and seek to know him more through what he has said about himself.
Alan W. McElroy is pastor of the White Cliff Church (Southern Baptist Convention).
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.