What is theology?

On Wednesdays on Gold Hill Online, we are going to have a regular theology column. We’ll spend time considering lots of different theological and biblical issues and ideas, and think deeply about them. If there are things you’d like us to explore please let us know.

But to kick us off, I wanted to consider a simple question: What is theology?

is theology

What is theology?

I need to confess something as I start: I love theology. I didn’t always, but I do now. For me this isn’t a neutral thing, and I hope by the end of this post some of my heart has rubbed off on you and you’ll be up for joining in with the weekly theology column here.

But what is this ‘theology’ which I love?

The word ‘theology’ comes from two Greek words: theos which means ‘God’, and logos which means ‘word’ or ‘speech’, or even ‘reason’. So ‘theology’ is thinking or speaking about God. It could be described, then, as ‘the study of God’, but I think that is a little narrow. When we think about studying something, we think about it often in academic terms. We study to know about something more. True theology has to result in far more than just knowing more about God. It has to change us.

True theology has to result in far more than just knowing more about God. It has to change us. Click To Tweet

Why so? Because growing in understanding of who God is, what He’s like, what His purposes are, affects far more than just our minds. For a Christian, everything is about God. He made all things, He cares deeply about all things. Nothing is outside His reach or interest. And if that’s the case, then theology means studying everything through the lens of who He is and what He’s revealed to us.

And that leads me to this conclusion:

We all do theology

We are all doing theology all the time. We are all making decisions every day. We are choosing how to engage with this world around us, with each other. Put it another way: we are choosing how to engage with God’s world and God’s people. We decide what to do with God’s money in our bank accounts. We decide how to spend the lives God has given us.

It might be that we are doing ‘unconscious theology’. We don’t think about or worry about God’s opinion or character when making those decisions. In that case, we are making a huge theological statement which sounds something like this: God isn’t involved in all of that. As Christians, I don’t believe that’s a statement we should be making, either to ourselves or to the rest of the world.

What we can’t claim is that theology is for other people. Degrees and academic study of it might be. I’m not telling everyone to go to university to do it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t do theology. We all need to be theologians.

We all need to be theologians. Click To Tweet

What we believe affects the way we behave. Or put another way—perhaps a more challenging way—the way we behave shows what we really believe. So if our speaking and thinking about God (our theology) isn’t right, how can our lives be?

Will we do theology well?

So the question we need to ask isn’t whether we choose to engage in theology, but how we choose to do it. Will we slip into ‘unconscious theology’ by never actively asking questions about God, His world and His purposes and what that all means? Or will we seek to be informed, and let that shape us?

Paul, when he was writing to the Romans, said this:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2)

If we want to look different—look attractive—in this world, Paul says, we need to start by having our minds restored, our thinking brought in line with the way things really are. Then, and only then, can we expect to see things the way God sees things, to be able to discern and live in His will.

This isn’t a quick fix thing. It’s not a case of thinking ‘What is the right response in this situation?’ and looking it up in an encyclopaedia for the answer before going on with our day. This is about becoming so saturated and immersed in what God is like, how He behaves and thinks and feels, that we behave and think and feel differently. We are changed. And it starts with making the decision to get to know God better.

That is the point of theology, of focusing our thinking and speaking about God.

For the rest of this month, I’ll be exploring some key foundational principles as we approach theology, and then we’ll dive into some big theological ideas. I really hope you’ll join in! Any thoughts or ideas along the way, drop a comment below so we can be learning and growing—and being transformed—together.

DCFor more posts in the theology column, click here. This post was written by Dave Criddle (@DaveCriddle), the online pastor at Gold Hill. He has his own blog, Limping into Truth, if you want to read more of what he has written.

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  • Josh Briant

    I think it’s a real challenge. Inviting god into EVERY situation and trying to be more like him.
    If I’m honest sometimes I do just float through life not inviting him.
    I need to be better at inviting him in to my day to day life!

    • http://limpingintotruth.blogspot.co.uk/ Dave Criddle

      You’re right, it’s a big challenge. I think we’re all guilty of just floating through and not inviting God into our thinking or living. Should never be a guilt thing though – we do it not just because we should, but because we can!
      Go for it bro!

  • Stephen W-W

    Good Comment Josh and great blog Dave. Been challenged on this a lot recently. Whole life for Jesus! Daily decision to make.