What is Theology?
Posted On February 20, 2017
What comes to mind when you hear the word theology? Perhaps you think of the proverbial ivory tower scholar who answers questions that nobody is asking. Maybe you think of obtuse and out-of-touch teachings that have little to no value on everyday life. Or perhaps you think of dusty doctrinal tomes that nobody reads. If so, you’re not alone. I sometimes find myself thinking the same things, and I happen to be a theologian.
Not everything that falls under the name of theology is worth your time. But that doesn’t mean that all theology is irrelevant. The study of theology is important because what you believe about God affects everything in your life: your studies, your vocation, your worldview, your eating habits, your hobbies, your marriage, your friendships, and much, much more.
There is not an area of life that is not impacted by your theology. I think this is why the Reformer John Calvin began his Institutes of the Christian Religion with these well-known words: “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
According to Calvin, theology is akin to wisdom. A proper knowledge of theology is essential not only for a right understanding of who God is but also for a right understanding of who we are as creatures made in His image.
At its most basic level, theology is the study of God. The word theology comes from two Greek words (theos + logos). When we speak of the study of God, we are not talking about a detached, dispassionate exercise. Theology is the pursuit of the mind of God as it is revealed in Scripture. Its primary purpose is to know God.
Theology is important because what you believe about God transforms your mind, shapes your heart, informs your will, changes your behavior, and fuels your worship. In other words, what we believe about God matters. If we want to be better students and employees, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, moms and dads, then we need to strive to be better theologians.
As theologians, our goal is to have our lives shaped by God’s Word in our efforts to know, serve, and love the triune God. Theology pushes us to answer the question, “Do my beliefs about God, myself, the world, and everything else accurately reflect God’s views about Himself, me, the world, and everything else?” Seen from this vantage point, the question is not, “Is theology relevant?” Because of course it is. A better question is for us to ask, “Is my theology biblical?”
Over the coming months, we will explore different aspects of the study of theology. Until next time, I leave you with these words from the Puritan John Owen, “[Theology is] the doctrine of God with regard to himself, his work, his will, his worship, as well as our required obedience, our future rewards and punishments, all as revealed by God himself to the glory of his name. This is the Word of God—this is theology!”
Dr. John Tweeddale is Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Reformation Bible College.