If theology is the study of God, we all have thoughts about God. It’s no exaggeration to say every person in your pews is a theologian.
By Ronni Kurtz
What do you picture when you think of theology and theologians? Do you think of unsmiling faces or high-achieving intellectuals? Do you associate closeness with God and greater knowledge of the things of God with dour people in pews or lofty-sounding conversations?
Theology is a lot closer to us than we may think. Theology is the study of God and all things in relation to God. And when we go about the business of Christian theology, it’s God we are after.While theology addresses a host of other topics, it does so first and foremost with God at the center of our thinking. Click To Tweet
Alongside the psalmist, the Christian theologian declares, “Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25–26, CSB). God is the desire of the theologian’s heart; God is the theologian’s portion. While theology addresses a host of other topics such as the creation of all things, the redemption of sinful people, the establishment of the church, the ethics of Christian life, and even how all things will one day come to a glorious close, it does so first and foremost with God at the center of our thinking.
The study of God
So the study of creation is the study of God’s handiwork. The study of the church is the study of God’s people. The study of Christian salvation is the study of God’s redemption. God is the primary subject of Christian theology, and we put Him before all, placing all else in its rightful place—subjected to Him.Whereas other fields might call their students to study propositions and weigh them, Christian theology calls its students to do more than weigh truth claims, they are called to worship. — @RonniKurtz Click To Tweet
In short, when Christians set their minds toward the deep things of God in the task of theology, we set our gaze on none other than the triune God. Right-sizing God as the subject of Christian theology is of the utmost importance, for doing so will distinguish theology from all other intellectual pursuits. God is more than a set of facts for us to examine. He is the one who calls forth the cosmos by the word of His power. And He will be not merely examined but exalted. Whereas other fields might call their students to study propositions and weigh them, Christian theology calls its students to do more than weigh truth claims, they are called to worship.
The goal of theology
The goal of theology is a clearer vision of who God is and what He’s doing in the world. Given this goal, when we do theology properly, we should not come out the same person. The presence of the Lord changes us. When sinners come into contact with His glory and majesty, they will never be the same. While theology should not be confused with the actual presence of the Lord, if doing theology well clarifies for us the person and work of our triune God, it should bring about change within us.
The everyday theologian
At this point, you might be tempted to affirm that this sounds right and good for theologians, but what has this to do with people in your pews?
Well, if the answer to the question “What is theology?” is “the study of God and all things in relation to God,” then the answer to the question, “Who is a theologian?” is simply, “Everyone.” We are all theologians, without exception.We are all theologians, without exception. — @RonniKurtz Click To Tweet
If theology is the study of God, we all—every one of us—have thoughts about God. Even those who claim there is no God are professing a theology. It’s no exaggeration or overstatement to say every person in your pews is a theologian. Whether their thoughts of God are elementary and they’re in the beginning stages of forming their convictions or if theology is an old friend with whom they’ve spent much time, they are theologians.
As they think about God and talk of Him, they can’t help but be theologians and participate in the task of theology. The more pertinent question, then, is whether they will be good and faithful theologians. Will they set their minds on things above such that God and His works become both clearer to them and more of a treasure to them? And will they go about this vital task in such a way that the contemplation of God leads to the manifestation of spiritual fruit in their lives?
Every person in your pews is a theologian on a journey. Let’s walk faithfully with them and lead them in a pursuit of God that transforms the soul.
Ronni is an Assistant Professor of Theology at Cedarville University. Before moving to Ohio, Ronni was a pastor in Kansas City, Missouri for seven years where he also taught theology at Midwestern Seminary and Spurgeon College. He is also the author of No Shadow of Turning: Divine Immutability and the Economy of Redemption.
Adapted with permission from an excerpt from Fruitful Theology by Ronni Kurtz. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.