Why Theology Matters – Pursuing Truth with Humility

*This post is old… like from the beginning of blogging old. I might nuance this differently if asked the same question today, but the essence remains the same. It originally appeared at The Charismanglican blog (June 2010).

The question of why theology  matters is an interesting one.  On one  hand, it could be said that  knowing Jesus through the Spirit is what  actually matters and theology  actually gets in the way of such a  relationship.  On the other hand, it  could just as easily be said that  all we need is the right set of  theology (doctrine) and our  relationship with God will not be a  ‘feeling’ but will be from the  knowledge of the ‘right answers.’  I  personally think that both of  these extremes demonstrate much of what is  wrong with the church in  America today.

For those who think  that theology leads to intellectualism and away  from relationship I  would say—no matter what, we all form theology in  one way or another.   And if we are not thinking for ourselves and  wrestling with the tough  issues, then pop-theology will lead us astray  (which is why we see so  many passionate Christians with weird views of  heaven, the end times,  salvation, science, ethics, etc.).  This is true  not merely in regards  to cognitive beliefs, but in how we attempt to  implement the reality of  our relationship to God.  Our poorly reflected  upon theology can  actually be detrimental to the relationship we seek  and can cause us to  show the world a Jesus that is contrary to the  Scriptures.  Now, on the  other end of the spectrum (those who want to  demonstrate that they have  all the ‘right answers’) the risk is that  they are never open to new  ideas or a move of the Spirit.  These folks  are the ones who get into  culture wars and get so tied up in their  fundamentalist dogma, that they  end up looking as anti-intellectual as  the other group that was  described.  This anti-intellectualism  discredits Christianity as an  outdated and possibly harmful religion  that ought to just simply die  out.

My belief is that another way is possible.  I think that our   theology can point us toward God in a relational way while also living   in pursuit of the truth.  Except, in this perspective, truth is not   something that is ever captured, but is always a few paces in front of   us, inviting us to keep recklessly chasing after it.  The harder we run,   the further we seem from it; because we begin to develop a healthy   respect for how large and uncontainable truth actually is.  And although   truth seems far off in many ways; the surprise of it all is that our   relationship to the truth simultaneously seems to become more and more   intimate, as though we were jogging side-by-side.  This   close-yet-distant approach to truth is one that allows our theology and   our relationships to God to come together in a beautiful unity.  Such a   relationship with God, who is truth, informs our theology which then   informs our praxis.

So, with this understanding of theology and  connection to God; why  does theology matter today?  Well, it seems that  as we do theology, we  can do so without many of the culture wars of the  past.  Lots of the  presumed ‘right answers’ now become the wrong ones,  for the sake of biblical integrity and the  mission of God in the world.  We can approach  dialogues about truth  with great humility, rather than militancy.  We  can reflect Christianly  in new ways about ethical issues that prior had  seemed as though they  were closed cases.  We can show our culture that a  relationship to God  that is informed by this kind of truth-pursuit will  actually lead to  their benefit.  And in doing all of these things, I  believe that we  will find that the reign of God will be reflected on the  earth in new  and exciting ways.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rick.willems.73 Rick Willems

    Great article! (Even though it is way back from June 2010)
    Yes, theology is important, however all too often it is easy to forget that it is the message and not the messenger that matters. If more ‘theologians” understood that, maybe the word “theology” would be one that is viewed as bringing us closer to the lord instead of some higher learning that is only accessible by an elite few.


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