What’s Your Theology?

What’s your theology?

We were discussing a potential workshop opportunity, kicking around big ideas about goals and outcomes. This question plopped on the table, and I almost rushed to concoct some sort of intelligent-sounding answer. If you’re going to lead a Christian workshop, that’s the sort of question you’re supposed to be able to answer, right?

Instead, I did something better. I asked him to clarify his question. “Tell me what you mean by ‘theology.’” It was a good move, because the question he asked was much different from the one I would have answered.

Technically, theology derives from theos (divine) and logos (knowledge, reason, study). So theology is the study or knowledge of God.

There are lots of “-ologies.” Many of us took courses in biology (knowledge of life), psychology (mind), and geology (earth). We’re probably less familiar with apiology (bees), speleology (caves), or conchology (shells).

So was this guy asking me to explain my knowledge of God? Better get more coffee—this might take a while.

But that wasn’t his question at all. Theology can also denote a particular system of religious thoughts, principles, and traditions. There’s Christian or Jewish theology, there’s Roman Catholic or Methodist or Presbyterian or Baptist theology. There’s liberal or conservative theology.

That’s what he meant. His real question was, “Which bucket contains your religion?”

My answer: none of them.

Theological systems made a lot of sense when bibles and education were scarce. Most individuals had access to neither the time nor the tools to investigate complex theological topics. You went to a church, the priest or minister taught that church’s theology, and that’s what you adopted.

But that’s changed. In much of the world, bibles are readily available in readable, understandable language. The Internet offers access to unlimited information and study tools. We’re no longer dependent on a single “authority” for our knowledge of God.

I believe we’re each responsible for our own theology.

That doesn’t mean we have to construct our understanding of God from scratch. It does mean we can’t (or shouldn’t) expect to sit passively while someone else dumps their canned theology into our heads.

  • We each need our own basic principles. As a simple guy, I begin with “Jesus loves me” and an understanding of agape. I’m carefully skeptical if someone promotes an idea about Jesus that conflicts with this principle.
  • We should listen openly. That one of the things I love about this circle. When I say something outrageous, you don’t automatically click away. You listen, reflect, and challenge your own understanding. That requires courage.
  • We should listen critically. Even our most trusted sources or authorities are still human—biases and blind spots color their perceptions. That’s another thing I appreciate about all of you—your questions, challenges, and alternate ideas help me and everyone else to see a broader perspective. That’s how we learn and grow.
  • We need to pray. Meaningful theology rests on a personal relationship with Jesus, and relationships require conversation. Prayer is that constant, intimate, ongoing conversation that allows the Spirit to fill and form our hearts.
  • Theology should be a work-in-progress. Like any relationship, our walk with Jesus is constantly becoming deeper and more intimate. Jesus is the incarnate Word (logos). As we know Him better, our theology grows and develops.

Plenty of people want to tell you what to think, feel, and believe about God. Sometimes their motives are pure, sometimes not so much. Doesn’t matter.

Let God tell you about Himself. Read His word. Invite Him into your heart. Listen.

What’s your reaction to my claim that we’re responsible for our own theology?

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Dixon
Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

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