Yesterday I began a series on the importance of Christian musicians taking the time to study theology. Today I want to share some reasons so many of us don’t.
1. We don’t understand the purpose of theology. Theology informs our minds to win our hearts, so that we might love God more accurately and passionately. Some of us are suspicious of words like theology, doctrine, and study. We’d rather relate to God through stories, experiences, and feelings. We believe that all we need to get along is Jesus. I remember a speaker inviting a crowd to shout out their denomination on cue. The result was cacophony. Then he invited us to say the name of the Savior together. When we all said “Jesus” he remarked , “See? Doctrine divides us, Jesus unites us.” Not helpful. Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say you want to tell me how much you appreciate my wife, Julie. You then go on to describe her as a 6 ft. 2 in. blonde who excels in math. I’d appreciate your enthusiasm, but tell you that you don’t know who she is. (She’s 5 ft. 4 in., brunette, and exceptional in many ways, but math isn’t one of them). Your “theology of Julie” would convince me that you didn’t know her very well. And I’m absolutely sure that the better you knew who she really was, the more you’d appreciate her. So it is with God. The better we know who He has revealed Himself to be, the more we’ll love Him and seek to be like Him. Although some churches claim that “Our only doctrine is the Bible,” at some point we have to decide what God actually says about Himself and the world He’s created. That’s theology.
Although there are many kinds of theologies, two are particularly relevant for us. Systematic theology is an organized presentation of what the whole Bible teaches on any specific topic. It doesn’t claim to answer every question about God, but gives us helpful posts to hang our spiritual hats on. Biblical theology, on the other hand, is the study of a topic that takes into account the unfolding revelation of Scripture and where the topic falls in redemptive history. Both systematic and biblical theology are important for understanding what we believe about God, His creation, and ourselves. (For more information on this, check out Bible Doctrine, by Wayne Grudem, ed. By Jeff Purswell).
2. Studying theology is harder than learning a new riff. Surprise, surprise. Learning to play a guitar or the drums is a lot more fun that trying to understand how God can be triune, how we should think about suffering, and what actually happened when Jesus died on the cross. Part of our problem is not understanding the goal of theology rightly. The end is not simply knowing more, but knowing God. When Americans were told in the 19th century that there was gold in California, people sacrificed untold amounts of time, energy, and resources to find the treasure. A greater treasure awaits us in God’s Word.
”My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2:1-5, ESV)