Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wrestling with Theology

So I officially started graduate work this semester, and my first class is Introduction to Theology. Most of my friends are surprised by this because of having an undergrad degree from Master's, but in all truthfulness, I never took Theology at Master's. I know, right? Somehow I squeaked by that requirement. Introduction to Theology and Hermeneutics are both prerequisites to the program I am in at Dallas, so there's really no getting out of Theology here.

I was really excited to start taking the class, especially after getting the textbooks and reading some of the "recommended" material before the semester started. But now that we're finishing up our 3rd week, I'm finding that I'm having a struggle with desiring to study theology. The class is great; I'm definitely learning a ton. But I have come to a point in most of the reading that leaves me wondering how I got so far away from the actual Scriptures. For example, last night I was reading about what John Calvin wrote about natural theology way back whenever. His thoughts are definitely interesting and they are something I hadn't heard before. But I'm not quite sure how this is going to help me share the gospel message with the wrinkled and toothless woman on Skid Row or how to explain to Abby (4 years old) why I love Jesus.

This is not to say that theology is useless. I was encouraged and humbled by my professor's response "I study theology because I am a person of faith. I cannot help but study theology because I want to know God, since theology is the study of God." I definitely agree that theology has a very appropriate place and time in the life of a believer, being that it is derived from a purely Scriptural standpoint. And if one claims to be a genuine Christian, they automatically claim to be a theologian. When music & songwriting was a huge part of my life I developed the habit of thinking about theology portrayed through lyrics. David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall all have excellent theology. Steven Curtis Chapman, on the other hand, could be questionable. This is not to say that they're not good songwriters. They're all talented and blessed by the Lord in that aspect. May their ministries continue to be blessed. But in attempting to provide (and being responsible to do so) a setting for God's children to genuinely enter into a spirit of worship through music, one must consider the theology of any given song. For example, "Dive" (Steven Curtis Chapman) is not as theologically sound as "Before the Throne of God Above." It may be more catchy and energetic (thus, more engaging), but is the mood worth the compromise?

All that to give an example of why knowing theology can be important. For my sister, knowing theology is important as she is an English literature student. She made the comment to me that studying theology has been profitable for her personally because she is able to better understand and think through old(er) works of literature in a biblical way. She also has the opinion that having a theologically inclined mindset can have a certain "in" with the more intellectually inclined crowd. I think there is a lot of truth to that.

But as for me--studying theology is a lot like taking geometry in high school. I didn't ever think I was going to use proofs again (side note: the only other time I used them was in calculus...). There are a lot of other things that I would rather study. Or that I think would be profitable to study. I think it's an issue of competing desires. But who's desires am I competing with? Is it possible to develop one's theology only from the Scriptures and not by reading anyone else's opinions? I have such a desire to be sitting under formal instruction regarding the Scriptures rather than theology! I care much that these words are written in a spirit of humility, as there have been many great and godly men & women who have gone before me.

I'm just having a hard time enjoying the study of theology.

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