Theology sounds like a dry, dull topic which only causes arguments. This may be the case, depending on your love for deep thought and mental work. I was recently assigned the task of reading The Story of Christian Theology by Roger Olson. This book of six-hundred plus pages is not for the faint of heart and I must concede that it requires quite a bit of concentration to digest the material. I am thankful that others have persevered through difficult material to deliver history and discernment to following generations.
In studying this book, I began to think about why theology is important. Do we need to discuss this? Why can’t we all just get along? I came up with three reasons why the study of theology is vital to the life of the church.
Theology prevents confusion.
All organizations, no matter how small, require some level of written directives to prevent confusion and to give a sense of direction. The beliefs of the church are no different.
Theology provides conviction of importance.
When we are convinced of the importance of something, we work at developing a framework to promote understanding. The same is true of the church. On matters of importance, we need to declare what is firm and true.
Theology Is Standing on the shoulders of Giants.
Roger Olson points out “No doctrine of Christianity ever developed out of thin air. Every belief arose because of a challenge” (“The Story of Creation,” p. 15). Throughout history, as early as Acts 15, the church worked through issues to determine correct teaching. When we study theology, we are benefiting from the work of those who went before us.
As I am processing this book, I am realizing how God has equipped and directed leaders throughout the centuries to guide His church in truth. Paul talks about this in Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV.
(11) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (15) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (16) from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Though studying theology is rough at times, it is important to know what you believe and where you stand. It is also important to know the history of how we arrived at these theological conclusions. But, as Paul pointed out, the end result is a church that builds itself up in LOVE!