Does Theology Really Matter?
If you went to seminary or Bible College before entering church work and leadership, you probably resonate with what many feel early on—surprise at how little it feels like we use our seminary knowledge. I mean, no one that comes into your office with tears in their eyes because their marriage is ending is asking for your views on substitutionary atonement or your eschatological stance. No one cares too much if you are Arminian or a Calvinist. Your conversations with group leaders struggling with burnout never lead to sharing your thoughts on the New Perspective on Paul. I struggled with, what for me, felt like a disconnect in that first year or so of full-time ministry and it made me ask a disconcerting question:
Does theology really matter?
Of course it does. But I realized in my first years of ministry that I had an incomplete definition of theology. Many do. My concept of theology was to have the right ideas about God. With time, I’ve come to understand that the reality is we are all theologians. In fact, my four-year-old son Liam just this week at the pool said to his two-year-old sister, “Lydia, God and Jesus made this pool cold.” (After a good laugh I realized we need to be talking about the Holy Spirit a little more!) All of us are theologians. Whether you’re a protestant or catholic, have a seminary degree or no degree, believer or atheist, four-year-old or forty-year-old, right or wrong, we’re all theologians because we all have thoughts about God. It’s hardwired in us.
And it’s one of the biggest roles of the Church to give the world an as accurate understanding as possible of who God is as revealed to us through Jesus and what He’s doing in the world. To put it as simply as I know how—theology is the attempt to understand who God is and what God wants. The best way to get that? A relationship.
One of the things I love about Rooted is the goal of a relationship. The question of who God is and how we relate to Him is central to the experience. Since theology isn’t just about right ideas, it’s about a right relationship, we have to get that right before we can ask why theology matters.
So let me share just three reasons why theology matters:
Theology matters because it clarifies.
Jesus was always calling out the religious leaders for asking the wrong questions. Christians today are no exception. For example, culture often views us as the moral police who decide who goes to Heaven after they die. Yet Jesus was more concerned with how we can live as part of the Kingdom here on earth (Matthew 6:9-13). Theology clarifies for us the questions we should be asking.
Theology matters because it corrects.
I’ve recently seen tweets and posts comparing modern worship songs to the songs of the Psalms. Regardless of your musical preference, the bottom line is that the most popular praise songs fall short of encompassing the full expression of what it means to be in a relationship with God. This is true of many hymns too. We tend to focus on what we like without making space for tough questions or conviction. This isn’t a knock on songwriters and worship leaders. This is a symptom of a deeper condition in our churches. But when the foundation of our thoughts about who God is and what He is doing in the world is the scriptures, it corrects even the status quo of how we “do” church and the songs we choose to sing. One of my great joys in leadership is seeing people get this, especially younger generations—people need the whole truth for healthy relationships with God, the church, and others in their life.
Theology matters because it connects.
One of the most alarming trends I’ve seen recently is the lack of purpose in so much of our culture today and this is especially true in young people. It’s surely one driver in the epidemic of depression and increase in suicides we’ve seen in the last decade. I think Dr. Cornel West said it best, “Consumerism, racism, militarism and celebritism have killed the soul of this nation and now we’re all crying out for meaning.” Theology matters because it connects us to our ultimate purpose and meaning.
OK, so theology matters. Now what?
Rooted Network has two new resources I’d encourage you to check out:
- The first Bible study in a new series of Deep Dive small group discipleship resources goes on sale this month (August 2022): Theology and the Mission of God: A Call to Faith in Action by Eric Geiger and Ed Stetzer. Jump over to the Deep Dive landing page for more information and to download a FREE SAMPLE.
Speaking of free downloads. Have you signed up for the monthly newsletter? Sign up below or check your inbox to get August’s free resource: Six Questions to Help Correct Bad Theology.
Zach Davies is the Lead Pastor of Groups at Central Christian Church, a multi-campus church in the Phoenix area. He enjoys backpacking, astronomy, exploring the beautiful state of Arizona and most of all spending time with his wife Chelsea, their two children and Australian Shepherd Macy. His passion is helping those, especially who have walked away from or question faith, rediscover the beauty of Jesus and has done talks and presentations on Deconstruction.