For those of you who have come to know me a little more through this blog, you know that I love theology. If you ever want to corner me and have my undivided attention for hours all you have to do is throw out buzz words like trinity or ekklesia and I am in. I am also one of those blessed individuals who gets to think and talk about theology for a living. I am living a dream. (Sometimes I just wish that dream was located on Maui instead of in Flint, MI, but that is another matter entirely). But as one who has dedicated his life to the church I always have to ask the question, how important is theology? And not just how important is theology, but how important is good theology?
We all at some time or another have heard the infamous words “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Which as we all know works if you are five, but otherwise is a complete lie. Words are the most powerful thing on the planet. They destroy relationships, dehumanize entire races and even start wars. So when we start talking about theology (from the Greek theos = God, logia = words), then words all of a sudden do matter. I mean these are ultimately the words that we use to define God in our scope and language. These are the words that not only define God for us personally, but also define God for those upon whom we have influence. In other words, the words we use to speak about God, ultimately define for others the God in whom we place our faith.
All of a sudden it isn’t just semantics. The words and phrases that we use when we speak about God must ultimately be measured and weighed in such a way that they are true to His nature and revelation. His revelation comes to us by way of Scripture, tradition and personal experience. His nature is most closely revealed through the person of Jesus Christ and the charitable and gracious works of His followers. If our God-talk is not informed by this methodology, then maybe we need to be careful about who we talk to about God. I am not saying that you need to be a ordained theologian to talk about God, but you need to care about Theology.
And caring about Theology doesn’t mean you have to be a student of Karl Barth or Jurgen Moltmann (although I would be really impressed) but rather be a student of the word and your church’s doctrine. Memorize the creeds and know why you believe them. In this manner you will be able to answer in the nature described in I Peter 3:15-16, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
To further define this conversation, the “gentleness and respect” in I Peter allows one to be bold enough to say that you don’t have all the answers, but that you are willing to enter into the conversation…to continue the God-talk.