My entire blog was created to help Christians better understand how theology impacts everyday life. I wrote about that here briefly awhile back, so give that a read if you’d like.
I made the point in that previous blog post that we need theology. It is necessary for us to grow more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. However, in this post I want to a address the opposite side of this issue. I want to talk about when theology is made the end-all-be-all.
Turing a Good Thing into a Bad Thing
Humans are stained with sin. Even as Christians, we have an immense amount of sin in our lives. As a result, we distort nearly everything we touch. Even with an amazing thing such as theology–the study of God–we have quickly twisted it to suit our own sinful desires. How so?
It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about–whether it’s money, popularity, sex, etc.–all things can be used for sinful purposes.
The same goes for theology. There are many Christians who turn theology into a bad thing. They stop using it as a means to an end and begin to use theology as the end.
When we do that, even with theology, we become idolaters because we take our eyes off God Himself. Please hear me: it’s possible to know about God and not affectionately know Him. Head knowledge doesn’t automatically translate to heart knowledge. You know…but do you know?
How to Diagnose
I will admit, it is extremely hard to actually see if a person is merely using theology as an end in itself. But make no mistake: there are a countless number of Christians that do this, intentionally or not.
So how do we catch on to when this happens? There are many ways to see it, but one big way is when a person makes everything into an argument. Does this person die on the wrong hills? Do they get heated over eschatological (end-times) debates? Sometimes we’re able to see when somebody has made theology into an idol by how they constantly fight over non-essential doctrines.
Another way to see this is simply seeing their fruit. This person may know things about God, but does that knowledge change how they treat people? Does it cause them to be humble? Or do they parade around the fact that they know so much theology?
From Head to Heart
Theology must lead to doxology. Theology must not only enter your head but penetrate the deep recesses of your heart. It must impact your affections.
If believing in the image of God doesn’t cause me to love all people–regardless of belief–then what’s the point?
If believing in salvation by grace alone doesn’t make me a gracious person to all people–then, in the words of Creed Bratton: “What’s this all been about?!”
What we learn about God through the study of theology is supposed to translate into love. Love of God and neighbor. It if doesn’t do that for you, two options are in play: (1) You are a Christian who needs to repent of your pride and idolatry; or (2) You have not actually been saved and need to repent and believe for the first time.
As crazy as it may seem, many people get a theological “high” simply from learning these things. Head knowledge doesn’t equal salvation. It just means you know certain things. So does Satan. Satan knows the most about God than anybody does, but he hates God.
Friends, we must study theology. It’s necessary. You don’t have to be a scholar but you need to learn more about God. It’s simple. Read the Word of God and soak up God’s attributes and cherish who He is, what He’s done on your behalf, and what He’s going to do in the future. But don’t let theology come your god.