Theology will ruin your faith...
I wish Christians would be a little more positive about the prospect.
I must have lost count of how many warnings I got from well-meaning Christians before I went off to university to study Theology. Kind of like those road signs that say “497 accidents on this road...in the past year!”, they would tell me: “Be careful, lots of people find studying theology a real challenge to their faith, I know many who have lost it all together”.
Now whilst I acknowledge there are challenges to studying theology, whether that be at Bible college or at university, I wish Christians would be a little more positive about the prospect. Theology, literally broken down, is the study of God. What could be more worthwhile than that? Taking time to gain a deeper understanding of the Bible, to explore what can be learnt from the history of the Church and to probe the philosophical questions that have puzzled humanity from day one is surely an exciting and holy ambition.
Nevertheless, anyone who studies theology (not just official students but all Christians) will at some point experience something of the challenge to our faith mentioned above.
God is an all powerful creator and sustainer worthy of our worship.
A common concern is one that “knowledge puffs up”, as Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians. As we grow in our own knowledge and understanding, pride is lurking close by, ready to pounce. It is easy to inflate our sense of worth as we grow in our biblical knowledge, particularly amongst other Christians, but we do well to know our place before God. Our mindset should not be one of aiming to master scripture but rather to be mastered by scripture. Indeed, we must be careful not to make God into a topic which we study. God is an all powerful creator and sustainer worthy of our worship.
But whilst our study can lead to pride, it can also lead to a sense of defeat.
there is one, never changing anchor we can trust in.
As we learn, there will always be things we don’t understand, and there will always be places where our understanding changes. Often when our understanding changes it can be unsettling, either as one piece threatens to bring the whole tower down, or as one change leads to another and on to another. These are often issues that can be worked through, with the end result being a much more stable belief in place. But there also times when the issues seem to ruin us, leaving us in the rubble of our loose ends.
The good news is that, whilst our understanding changes, there is one, never changing anchor we can trust in. God Himself. Our salvation, our justification and our righteousness are not dependent on right thinking but only on Jesus Christ. It is not our performance but his grace that secures us when we feel lost in our theology.
Theology is best studied out of a relationship
Theology is best studied out of a relationship with the one who designed it. It can show us how utterly lost and dependent we are on Him and then lead us into the glorious riches of his everlasting grace. And theology is important, because ultimately right thinking about God exists to serve right feelings about God. Theology at its best can lead to only one thing: worship.