As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
Four reasons why Theology is so important.
Theology has become a bad word in some quarters. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear ‘theology’ publically slammed from the Evangelical pulpit.
How come? Why has theology come in for such bad press?
I suppose it has a lot to do with theology being viewed as a dry academic discipline that has next to nothing to do with real life. J.I. Packer referred to such an arid discipline as “balcony theology”. Balcony theologians major upon the technical and abstract elements of doctrine without every translating their learning into the sphere of personal discipleship.
However, Packer also alluded to an alternative means of theology, that is, “pilgrim theology”. Pilgrim theology takes both doctrine and praxis seriously. It believes in a mutual, ongoing and vivacious relationship between discipleship and teaching. It is this type of theology to which we should all aspire as followers of the Lord. My beloved friend and co-minister in the Lord Keith Malcomson often quotes the adage of that old Puritan divine William Ames (1576-1633), “Theology is the doctrine of living unto God”.
So why does theology matter? Why should we oppose the current anti-doctrinal thrust at work within western Christendom?
Here are four reasons why theology matters.
Theology matters because...
1.- It helps us identify errors and heresies.
The history of the Christian church is awash with soul-destroying heresies and anti-Gospel deviancies. Subtle subtractions from (or additions to) the message of Scripture were prevalent in the first few centuries of the church’s existence. Here are just eight of them:
Studying theology, therefore, helps us to identify the errors of the past and learn from so as not to fall into the same trap. Just last year, for instance, I was in dialogue with a brother who proposed to me a new Christological theory. He said, “Brother Will, I believe that within Jesus He only had a divine spirit. He did have a human body but He did not possess a human soul”. When I pointed out to the brother that his theory, far from being new, was a mere resurrection of Apollinarism his jaw dropped. If Christ did not assume a human soul, then our souls could not be redeemed. Such a small distinction can ultimately do way with the Gospel.
2.- It helps us to sanctify our mind.
Nowadays we remember that Jesus told us to love the Lord our God with all our heart and strength. But we forget that He also added that we are called to love Him with all of our minds as well. In other words, the sanctification of the mind has an important role to play in Christian discipleship. Intellectual laziness is just as wicked as physical laziness. God called upon the Israelites to meditate upon His Word day and night and to teach it to their children and their children’s children.
Constant mediation upon the grand central themes of Scripture helps edify us in sound doctrine and drive out erroneous thoughts. Evidently Scripture is the supreme source of authority in this process but we can also lay a hold of sound books written by solid Evangelical authors in order to refine our ideas and theology i.e. the Reformers, the Puritans, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones.
As C.S. Lewis said: “Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you will have a lot of wrong ones”.
3.- It helps us to minister more efficiently to others.
Not only is theology important for our own spiritual growth and sanctification, but it also spurs us on to help others. There are few things that make me rejoice more than to expose believers systematically to the deep truths of Sacred Writ. God’s sheep desire nutritious green grass. What a blessing to be able to feed others with the Spirit-inspired and Christ-glorifying doctrine!
If we build up our fellow-brethren in Scripture and the great themes of the Protestant Reformation, we will have strong Gospel-centred congregations that rejoice in exalting the name of the Lord of hosts alone! Such teaching will enable us to deliver others from the chronic man-centredness which is plaguing much of the North Atlantic Church.
4.- It leads us to praise.
One experience that sound doctrine always leads me to is praise. How often have I found myself immersed in some Scriptural doctrine such as the free imputation of Christ’s impeccable righteousness to sinners only to lift my hands in praise and worship unto the Lord? Sound theology does this. Theology’s outlet is doxology! If your theology doesn’t lead you to magnify the blessed Saviour, then something is seriously wrong with your theology.
Theology is like medicine for the soul and it puts the shine of the Gospel upon our faces. Not a bit of wonder Paul encouraged the Corinthians to bring a doctrine (1 Corinthians 14:26) to the primitive church meetings! Doctrine inflates us with the wholesome, life-giving oxygen of praise.
People in our age get excited about football, shopping and racing cars. But Christians should stoke their fire with Scriptural fuel. Theology is praise-inspiring! It leads us to praise and prayer.
All in all, we would do well to recover the importance of theology in our day and age. Not “balcony theology” but “pilgrim theology”!
Theology matters. It matters because...
See you all next week, Lord willing!