Theology and the Love of God
For those who remain skeptical, let us approach the same question from a different angle. When our Lord Jesus Christ was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” what was His answer?
He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37; cf. Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).
Do you love God?
If so, that is good, but do we have to choose between love of God and theology, between love of God and knowledge of God? I would suggest that the Beatles were wrong when they sang, “All you need is love.” That sentiment couldn’t even keep four guys together for more than a decade. It certainly won’t maintain a healthy church.
Love of God and knowledge of God go hand in hand. If you truly love God, you already have at least a minimal knowledge of God, a minimal “theology.” If you knew absolutely nothing of God, had no concept even of His existence, loving Him would be impossible. But if you do love Him because you do know at least something of Him, there should be a desire to grow in your knowledge of Him—to grow in your theology.
Isn’t this what happens when we first fall in love with another person? We meet a person and perhaps speak to them. Based on the little knowledge we have of this person, we are attracted to him or her. And if we are attracted to this person, if we like him or her, what do we want? We want to know more. We talk to them and say, “Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your childhood. Tell me about your likes, your dislikes. Tell me about your hopes, your dreams.” Then, we listen. And the more our knowledge of this person grows, the more our love grows.
In a sense, this is similar to what we are doing in formal theology. We are asking questions of God in order that we might grow in our knowledge of Him and thus our love of Him. His answers to our questions are found in Scripture. When we start to arrange the answers in an orderly way, we have a rudimentary form of what is called systematic theology.
We say, “Tell me about yourself, Lord.” If we arrange our answers in an orderly way, we have what theologians call “theology proper.” Or we say, “What can you tell me about myself and others like me?” When we arrange those answers, we have the biblical doctrine of man, or in more technical terms “theological anthropology.” We may ask God, “Can you tell me what’s wrong with me?” An orderly arrangement of the answers is the doctrine of sin. When we arrange the answers to the question, “Why did you choose me and how is it that I am now reconciled with you?” we have the doctrine of salvation, or soteriology. We may ask God, “What are your ultimate goals?” An arrangement of the answers found in Scripture is the doctrine of the last things, or eschatology.
Of course, this comparison is oversimplified, but the basic point should be clear. Theology is personal knowledge. Strictly speaking, it is tri–personal knowledge because it is knowledge of the Trinity. It is also knowledge we can have only because God has chosen to reveal Himself. Jesus told us that “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27, emphasis added).
For Whom Is Theology?
When we have a better grasp of the nature of theology, we can better understand why it is necessary and relevant. In the first place, theology is necessary and relevant for the church. The church is called to proclaim the gospel and disciple the nations. In short, the church is to proclaim the truth. The church is to instruct Christians and combat false doctrine (2 Tim. 4:1–5; Titus 1:9). Both tasks require serious reflection on the teaching of Scripture. Theology is, therefore, indispensable to the church.