Does it matter #1: Theology
Some time past, I told you to look for occasional posts in the vein of asking the question: “Does it matter?”
Here’s the first question to ask and answer: Does theology matter?
The answer is yes. You didn’t come for that simple of an answer, though, did you?
First point to address is the definition of theology. Taken at its simplest level, theology is the study of God. If you push, you could also say the study of gods or the gods and take the definition back from monotheism to simply theism. (Theism being the belief system that there’s some form of God/god somewhere.)
That’s really it. It’s something that nearly everyone does. If you have beliefs about God, you “do theology.” You may be doing it wrong, but you’re doing it just the same. Even atheists do theology: they’ve decided what they believe about God: that there is none. While some will say that’s not belief, it’s provable fact, that’s an unscientific viewpoint. There is no verifiable, objective test to prove or disprove the existence of Deity, so it does come back to a belief.
Now, whether you believe that God is the same as the God revealed in the Bible or is the same as the Allah of the Koran or is the same as the pantheon (group of gods) on Mount Olympus comes back to your theology.
So, the first reason that theology matters is that everyone (nearly) does it. Only those who have never considered spiritual beliefs of any sort don’t have a theology. Understand this: it’s a fancy-sounding word that stands in for the phrase “whatever you believe about God to be true and the methods by which you decided it was true.” See why there’s one word?
The second half of the long definition above is an additional aspect that needs discussion. Theology encompasses not just what you believe but how you came to that conclusion. Did you reach that conclusion through logic? Revelation? Dream-seeking? Listening to authoritative others? Studying pressed rose leaves?
What we believe hinges, in no small part, on how we get to the answer. Unlike other sciences (for many centuries theology was classed as a science: the underlying connection being that there is an objective reality to be studied) that can generally assert a method apart from a question, theology’s methods drive the questions. Astronomy can define its method as observing the observable universe, biology can define how to use a microscope to look at paramecia, but theology cannot define how to determine the reality of God without taking a guess or two first.
We have to start with an assumption about whether or not there is a God: we have evidences, but do we have certainty? That depends on your method: I, personally, find that God has chosen to reveal truths about God. My theology is based in God’s revelation of God. From that point, I look at the Bible as God’s revelation of Himself and Creation as a general portion of His revelation.
Yet that is not the only method. Some use logic alone, some use feelings or hopes, others impressions. For the one who uses logic, their picture of God will change depending on the logic system they use. Feelings change, so a theology based in feelings will shift.
It matters---how we reach those answers matters.
In conclusion, theology matters because we will then act based on our theology. If we believe in a God, we will act differently than if we don’t. If we believe in a God who reveals Himself, we will search for that revelation. If we have a theology that’s based on our own happiness, we’ll seek that instead.
Theology matters. It’s not just a fancy subject for Bible nerds. We Bible nerds do like it, but it’s more than just that.