We live in a time that has been about 400 years in the making. Soon after the Protestant Reformation, in the 1600’s, theology became very cold and intellectual. Debates became so heated and divisive that people were starving for that heartfelt religion of the past that would cause someone to write things from a heart like Paul’s and John’s—hearts that truly had experienced a relationship with Jesus. But theology and loving Jesus are not opposed to one another. Here are two reasons theology is essential to loving God.
1. Learning Theology Loves God with the Mind
The counter movement that developed in reaction to the cold, rational Christianity of the 1600’s was called Pietism, and it emphasized the personal relationship aspect of Christianity along with right feeling and right practice. Much of what it affirmed was right and helpful. The Pietism movement was not initially divorced from theology, but it soon became that way. We are now seeing the extreme effects of it as people think that theology isn’t for them, only for nerdy academic Christians. All that matters to them is a relationship with Jesus. And that’s right in some sense, but to believe that focusing on your relationship with Jesus excludes theology is a false dichotomy.
The word theology literally translates to “the account of God” or “the study of God,” which means “doing theology” is simply just learning about God. Sure, this can be done in a detached way like a budding psychologist studying the behavior patterns of all those who order pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, but it can also be personal. It can be an act of love. Think about the romantic who has fallen for someone. He makes the study of the object of his love the task of his daily routine. He wants to know everything about her so that he can know her deeply and personally and do things that please her. Theology is a study of God with the goal of knowing about God; proper Christian theology is a study of God with the goal of knowing him deeply and personally. Jesus said the most important commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matt. 22:37-38). Theology done properly is obedience to loving the Lord your God with all your mind, but it shouldn’t and won’t stop in the mind, but it will also lead to a love in the heart.
2. Learning Theology Loves God by Acquiring Truth to Stand Firm Against False Teaching
Here is an interesting biblical passage to highlight this point. This is not a story that you hear very often from the book of Acts, but I find it intriguing:
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, arguing and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples, and conducted discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord. (Acts 19:8-10)
It was the habit of Paul and the other apostles to teach about Jesus in the local synagogues of the towns they visited. But here in Ephesus, he started to realize that many were becoming hardened to the gospel and slandering the gospel. What I imagine went through Paul’s mind was, “Here are a bunch of new believers, susceptible to deception. I need to get them away from these people who are seeking to lead them away from the truth.” So, he took the disciples (and, I imagine, anyone else who was interested) and invited them to a lecture hall and taught them about God for two years! Can you imagine if you had a two-year intensive theology class with Dr. Paul of Tarsus? Incredible.
But how that applies to us is that Paul was worried that these believers might be led astray, and so he took them away and strengthened them daily with teaching. Paul’s students loved God by devoting themselves to learn as much about God as they could, so that no one could lead them astray. And this is where Mercy Hill’s Equip seminars come in. In Ephesians 4:14, Paul says that the effect of the Church’s equipping of the believers is that they “will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” The Equip Seminars seek to train people with proper theology that is rooted in the Scriptures for a daily life of loving Jesus fully and faithfully.
Here are some examples of how our classes will achieve that this Fall: Our Decision Making and the Will of God class explores the idea that the traditional notion of God’s will, and how to make decisions in light of it, may not be thoroughly biblical. It then seeks to explain what the Bible says on the issue. Marriage & Family teaches the biblical understanding of God’s design for marriage and what God wants a biblical marriage to look like. In Defending the Faith in College, you’ll find ways to find assurance in your faith even amid modern philosophical objections and see that the Christian faith is not just a religion of faith, but also rationality. A special class offering for this Fall is The 500th Birthday of the Reformation: Why Martin Luther Still Matters for You. This is a class discussing how theology affected Martin Luther’s life (and eventually the whole world), and why that’s still important for you today.
We think that training like this is essential for not only your witness in the world, but also your personal relationship with God. Sign up for an Equip Seminar today at www.mercyhillgso.com/equip to love God more with your mind in a way that impacts your life.
-Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)