Why study theology?

Dave Horsfall

Written by Dave Horsfall
on 30th November 2022

The word theology derives from two Greek words, theos, which means God, and logos, which means word or words. Put simply, therefore, theology means words about God and that makes every person a theologian because everyone has words to describe God. Even the person who says there is no God has a theology, they are using words to describe him. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote 

‘Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones, bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas’. 

This tongue-in-cheek comment contains an important truth; if you do not take the time to study theology your understanding of God will often be shaped by the loudest or most popular voices of the day, which are not always the most thought-through or fruitful ones. Studying theology allows you to discover what is the best way to understand God and, more importantly, what a relationship with God looks like.

In light of this, here are my top ten reasons for studying theology:

  • You Love God. You have a relationship with God and you want to grow and deepen that relationship. Like any relationship where you love the other person, it is natural to want to invest in them, to discover more about their character and what it looks like to live with them. Theology helps you discover more about who God is.
  • You Want to Go Deeper in Scripture. Christians confess that the bible is one of the main ways that God reveals what he is like to humanity. Studying theology equips you to read Scripture in a healthy way and gives you tools to go deeper than you’ve gone before. You will be prepared to be like one who handles the word of God correctly.
  • You Want to Hear from Experts in their Field. To learn about anything, it is important to hear from people who have studied the topic for themselves and who are recognised as having expertise. Learning from others will grow your knowledge and mature you as a critical thinker who can weigh up the arguments and thoughts they hear.
  • You Want to Figure Out What You Think. Thinking theologically is about learning how to think, not necessarily what to think. Study is a transformative process that develops you into a theologian in your right. You learn how to take on board the opinions and thoughts of others while having the freedom to come to your own conclusions. You get to you ask all the questions you have, while having the time and permission to research and investigate your thoughts.
  • You Want to Learn Alongside Others. Studying is an exciting activity to undertake, but doing it alone can be hard. Learning alongside others offers the opportunity to hear what other people are finding out in their research. It also means you will develop friendships with people who can spur you on and encourage you.
  • You Want to Use Your Money Wisely. It is no secret that studying costs money. The question is, how will you use your money? Investing in your theological education is an investment in one of the most important areas of life, your understanding of God. Studying theology will set you up for the rest of your life with God.
  • You Love Theology. If you are interested in studying theology, it might be because you already love doing just that. Studying theology is a spiritual pathway through which we draw closer to God and relate to him more deeply. Asking the big questions of faith and exploring the depths of Scripture is something that motivates you and, for you, nothing is better than a big book and a coffee. Join the club.
  • You Love the Local Church. Healthy theology should lead to greater love and service of others. For Christians, the love of God is intimately connected to the love of the church. Studying theology will give you a bigger picture of what the church is, enable you to serve the church more effectively and to build her up to look more like Jesus.
  • You Want to Use Your Time Well. As with money, studying requires our time. We all know how busy life gets so we have to be intentional with how to use the time we have. Using your time to study theology is an investment in yourself and in the foundations upon which you live your life.
  • You have Responsibility in Ministry. If you are involved in church ministry, whatever this looks like it is important to not only invest in others but to be invested in yourself. To grow as a leader or someone in ministry, you need to grow in your understanding, to be stretched, challenged and stimulated. Studying theology allows you to do just that.

In Matthew 22:37-38 Jesus said 

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment’. 

We can respond to his words by committing our minds to seek understanding of him, fuelled by faith and driven by a desire to know him better. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2 

‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will’ 

As I began this article so I end it. It is up to us to decide how our theology will be formed, and how it will form us. We can listen out for the loudest voice of the day, or we take ownership of our theology and seek out the best voices from history which lead to great fruitfulness.

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