Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Importance of Theology

I am going to relate a basic premise in two or three parts. I was in a discussion with some folks and we (or rather I, was talking about why theology is important. See what you think...

I. What is Theology?
Christians and the Church are called to continually grow in faith and not simply stand still in our understandings and spiritual lives (Hebrews 5:12). Theology is not some deeply abstract form of intellectual exercise that only academics in ivory tower seminaries can do. Theology is more than merely hearing the word of God read to us but thinking and reflecting on our faith and scriptures and applying them to our lives (Placher 1).
The bible, though we believe it to be the divinely inspired word of God, can be interpreted in many different and sometimes very dangerous ways. Theology is important because theology is the study of the nature of God and religious truth. Theology furthermore is the rational inquiry into religious questions. Simply reading and applying the scriptures without any sort of informed theology is a very dangerous task and not something that will lead to any form of mature Christianity. Theology is like a constant testing that forces us, both as individual Christians and a corporate whole, to make sense of the Scriptures and to apply them to our contemporary world (Thomas and Wondra 2).
Many people believe that the “Good Book” is all they need to be a Christian. This is true in the sense that all that is needed for salvation is contained in the bible. What must be kept in mind is that the books and letters of the bible were written in different time periods by different authors to vastly different audiences. Times and understandings of God and morality change dramatically, even within the period of a generation, much less over thousands of years. With our belief that the bible is the “word of God” comes a great responsibility of understanding how to apply the scriptures and what they mean. The study of theology is that means of reflection and application of ancient scriptures to our present day life.
Perhaps the best way of demonstrating this is by a scriptural example. Take for instance Deuteronomy 21:18. Here is what seems to be a commandment of scripture that orders parents to take their chronically disobedient children to the town square to have them stoned by the elders. Obviously, this is an extreme example, but I use it as a means of showing why Christians need theology both to explain how and why such a verse is in the scriptures and how God is speaking to us through this verse today.
If one is to simply say that all you need is solely the bible, this creates quite a problem. That passage seems quite clear. Simply stoning disobedient children however is obviously not acceptable either in our modern moral conscience or law. The work of theology is the reflection that we go through to understand why we do not apply those verses to our lives simply because “the bible tells us so.” Otherwise, we would be following blindly a very complex and confusing document written thousands of years ago to a different time and place.

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