To any non-theology students, the word ‘theology’ might conjure up some intimating images: the intense study of God within the halls of academia, a subject that’s confined to lectures and seminars, where only serious study can do it justice.
But really theology is an essential part of the Christian faith. It should give meaning to our faith, enabling us to deepen our understanding of who God is and breathing new life into how we live in the real world. Here are 5 reasons why we should all be engaging with theology.
1. Theology means thinking about who God is and what it means to believe in God’s existence.
Therefore, anyone who thinks about God, or relates to God in any way, or lives a certain way based on a belief in God is already doing theology.
2. Theology is something we do.
People often think that theology is really wordy: ‘I couldn’t do theology’ because I don’t really like reading, or I don’t have complicated thoughts, or I’m no good at long arguments. But we don’t just think or talk theology – we do it; as part of our worship – the songs we sing, both musically and lyrically, what our places of worship look like, what customs and rituals we take part in, what creeds and/or prayers we say, the way we interact with other people in our churches. We also do theology in any conversations we might have with other people about God. And we do theology through the many varied ways that Christians live out their faith through their actions and through demonstrating God’s love in the world. All of this is doing theology; so really, we all do it, we just don’t necessarily know that we’re doing it.
3. As Christians, it’s important we engage with theology because theology surrounds our whole experience of faith
So having decided that theology is important because we do it – it’s important that we should do it... intentionally. Intentionally doing theology will change the way we live, and the ways we think about God and our relationship to him. It’s important in everything, that we live intentionally, otherwise we are simply “going through the motions” of life. In our Christian journeys, we want to be seeking God in everything we do, and theology is a way for us to do that. Through actually reflecting on the views we hold about God, and the way we live because of them, and the customs we enact, and the ways we talk about them, we find that we understand both ourselves and our faith more. We then know why we believe what we believe, and our relationship with God is strengthened by that.
4. Theology is part of being in relationship with God
When we’re in relationship with someone, we’re constantly learning more about them. Even when we’ve known them for years and years, and we could answer a million questions about them, there are still new things for us to learn. Like the way they respond to a new situation, or the way they show a new extent to which they love you, or any number of things. Part of being in relationship is this constant openness and desire to learn more about (and draw closer to) the other. And in the case of our relationship with God, this learning and drawing closer is theology!
5. When we are more aware of our own views and why we hold them, we are more able to hear other – different – views about God.
Because our own thoughts on God go deeper, and we see them running through everything we do and say, we are more able to communicate our beliefs. And therefore when somebody believes something different, we don’t feel that they are threatening what we believe, and in turn we don’t need to try to threaten what they believe. In this way, we can remain in conversation with people who believe different things to us. Being able to talk together about difference is what breaks down prejudices and builds up peace and friendship between people groups – something increasingly important in our world today.
So theology is important because we’re all already doing it, and becoming aware of that strengthens our faith, our relationship with God, the ways we live and decisions we make, and the ways we engage with other people about belief. Doing theology is an integral part of any Christian’s journey – whether we are theology students or not!
Rebekah is an SCM member at the University of Cambridge, having just graduated from a degree in Theology and now beginning the process to discern and apply for Methodist ordination training. She loves church, theology, social action, the great outdoors and being creative - and blogs about all of these and many more topics on her website.