Recently my pastor said that I knew quite a bit about theology, and commented on how, unlike a lot of people, I read theology for fun and not because I have to.
Well, not quite. And I certainly don’t consider myself knowledgeable.
Most of the reading I have done over the years was popular books, the so-called “Christian Life” genre. I’ve “dabbled” in real theology over the years – eight months in a seminary that I disagreed vehemently with, but was totally unprepared to debate with, and some Augustine or Lewis here and there, maybe a little of others. I’ve dipped my toes in the Arminian vs. Calvinist debate. I suppose that MIGHT make me more knowledgeable than the average churchgoer. But put me against most seminary graduates or a determined atheist, and I’ve a feeling I’d come out the worse for wear.
I have learned the importance, recently, of apologetics and was surprised to learn that it was a subcategory of theology. I have been reading about Aquinas and Francis and Wesley. But I’ve yet to delve deeply into, say, Barth or Knox, to name two examples of noted theologians.
So what? Why is it important? Maybe you think God isn’t real, or maybe you’re a Christian that believes we should spend more time serving the Church or just doing what the Bible says.
Well, I guess for me, it’s important for several reasons.
First, the Bible tells me so in 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV):
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…
So I need to be able to defend my faith, to atheists, and to those that believe differently in the Christian tradition.
Second, for my own betterment. I realized at the end of 2013 that my theology was inconsistent, and incomplete, and needed more. I am not good at loving others. I believe in justice, but not in being a social justice warrior. I oppose communism, but am wary of capitalism. The whole human sexuality debate that is causing a schism in my denomination. And yet there are Christians that will argue both sides of those issues and insist that their’s is the right view.
Third is the Calvinist vs. Arminian debate. Can we lose our salvation? Have I already blown it? Are the Calvinists right about predestination? What about free will?
Fourth, and most important to me, is the fact that my view of God tends more towards Jonathan Edwards‘ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God than the loving God who sent His Son to die for our sins and give us eternal life. This affects my every day life in unbelievable ways. I want to know if this other God is valid theologically, if I can trust Him and get to know Him, and know His joy and the “peace which passeth all understanding.”
These are the reasons I study theology. I believe in the basic beliefs of Christianity, but I am hungry to learn more. And to grow and deepen in my faith. After all, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.3 You are still worldly.
I don’t want to be a mere infant. I want to grow up.