People often imagine that it is possible to have a personal relationship with God apart from theology. In fact, some Christians assume that knowing doctrine and practical living are competing interests. The modern dichotomy between doctrine and life, theology and discipleship, knowing and doing, theory and practice has had disastrous consequences in the life of the church and its witness in the world.
Theology matters. Theology matters because we need to know God. In fact, if you are a Christian, if you claim to know God – you are a theologian. Once you start to try to make sense of God, the Scriptures, and life, you are doing theology. So, all Christians are theologians in some sense or another. But as Graeme Goldsworthy points out, “some are more able theologians than others”. The need is to be a good theologian, for your personal good, your evangelistic effectiveness, and your edification of others.
Knowing God shapes the way we think and live. What you believe about God —what he is like, what he wants from you, affects every single part of your life. Theology matters because if we get it wrong its possible to build your life on a misconception of reality. That would be a tragedy. Theology matters because the Christian faith is not just a cultural tradition or an ethical code. Theology is not an abstract intellectual concept or an empty theory. Theology matters because God is real, and he has acted in our world, and his actions have meaning today and for all eternity.
The discipline of theology can never take the place of God himself, but we can’t know him and relate to him in the right way without theology. This is because theology, true biblical theology, tells us not only who God is, and what He has done, but also what it means to us. There’s nothing more precious than knowing the living God. Southern baptist theologian J. L. Dagg once wrote the following words:
The study of religious truth ought to be undertaken…from a sense of duty, and with a view to the improvement of the heart. When learned, it ought to be laid on the shelf, not as an object of speculation, but it should be deposited deep in the heart, where its sanctifying power ought to be felt. To study theology, for the purpose of gratifying curiosity, or preparing for a profession, is an abuse and profanation of what ought to be regarded as most holy.
Our goal is to know God, but that knowledge should be romantic, it should melt our hearts and lead to worship in response to who God is. Theology changes your life. Theology matters.