YOU are a theologian
The above quote from a song that was popular a few years back [quite a few years back, now] at youth groups in churches across the nation typifies the suspicion that many seem to feel in regards to any systematic study of God. "Doctrine divides" is an often repeated saying, and many use this truth to try and avoid any strong doctrinal teaching. When someone does make the social blunder of actually insisting upon a point of doctrine as crucial to our Christian faith, they are often silenced with the appeal of, "Can't we just agree to love Jesus?" But this question begs a deeper questions, namely, "Who is Jesus and how do you know Him?
The point I am trying to make here is elucidated in the following illustration: A preacher was once chided by a person in his church after a sermon that was considered too doctrinal. The critic informed the preacher, "We don't need that theology stuff, we just need to love Jesus Christ." To which the preacher replied, "Jesus who?" "Jesus Christ," the man replied. "Do you think that Christ was His last name?" asked the preacher. "Do you think Jesus was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Mary Christ and that the the postman in Nazareth looked for the name Christ on their mailbox? You see, in linking the name and title Jesus Christ together the way you just did, you have inadvertently committed an act of theology." [This illustration is a paraphrase of one I have heard from a couple of different sources such as R.C. Sproul and, I believe, Al Mohler.]
And so Christians are unavoidably theologians and as theologians we must not shy away from the study of theology. As C.S. Lewis pointed out in Book IV of Mere Christianity,
[The study of] Theology is practical, especially now. In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a few simple ideas about God. But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones- bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected.
You sitting there reading this on your computer screen- YOU are a theologian. So you must be diligent in your study of theology- carefully weighing the ideas about God that you hear around you or that you have received by tradition. You must "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil" (II Thessalonians 5:21-22). For your view of God will directly impact your relationship with Him. To the extent that you view God as the Sovereign Creator (Gen. 1:1, Acts 17:24-28, Rom. 1:18-25), you will give thanks to Him as the source for all good things and honor Him as working everything according to His will; to the extent that you view God as the Holy Lawgiver (Ex. 20:1-17, Rom. 2:1-3:20, Gal. 3:15-22), you will despair of your own attempts at righteousness and call out to God for mercy; to the extent that you view God as the Merciful Savior, you will cling to faith in Him alone.
YOU are a theologian and the nature of the theology that you practice will have an everlasting impact on your life and the lives of those around you.
[This was originally published on 6/7/05.]