The last few weeks, I have been discussing what an organic – pastor – intellectual – theologian looks like in leadership in a church. Since I have discussing this from a personal level of experience, I can understand why you might think it only applies to a credentialed minister or pastor. But I want to consider another thought that is rooted in scripture: I believe we are all called to be theologians
Do you think of yourself as a theologian? When we hear the word theologian, we often we picture some older intellectual man—a professional academic sitting behind a desk piled with thick books in ancient languages. And there certainly are professional theologians who fit this description, busily teaching at seminaries and writing books.
But theologian is a label that belongs to all of us because a theologian is simply someone who knows God. Theology is what we believe about God—whether it is true or not. Every Christian—male or female, young or old—is a theologian, and we were each made for that very purpose.
Webster’s dictionary defines theology as “The science of God or of religion; the science which treats of the existence, character, and attributes of God, his laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice. . . the science of Christian faith and life.”
Saint Augustine in the 5th-century defined theology as “Rational discussion respecting the deity.” A. H. Strong, the great twentieth century theologian said that theology is “the Science of God and of the relations between God and the universe.” Charles Ryrie, the popular dispensationalist theologian, says theology is “thinking about God and expressing those thoughts in some way.”
It reminds me of Helicopter Parents we discussed in Grace Based Parenting Workshop. Adults are forever warning children about strangers. The message is not that all strangers are dangerous, but rather you can’t trust someone you don’t know. When we don’t take the time to get to really know God in deep ways, we put ourselves in the impossible situation of having to trust a stranger.
When we go through a crisis or a devastating situation in our lives, we lean on our theology—whether it is true or false. Will it be something we’ve constructed ourselves? Or will it be the result of really knowing God?
When a storm strikes your life, whatever it is that you believe about God is what your faith will have to grasp. This is where it gets dangerous. What if you’re holding on to wrong ideas about God, like “He doesn’t really love me” or “I don’t matter” or “He isn’t good”? That poor theology will only make your struggle worse.
It’s vital—it’s urgent—for men and women to go deeper spiritually and theologically. We can’t coast through life on sweet thoughts about God. All of us will face trouble in this life, and when that happens we need to know the truth about God and who we are in him to help us navigate those storms.
That’s why every Christian is and should be a theologian, someone who is fixated on the study of God.