Why Study Theology? Because You Already Have It

Who cares about studying theology? Isn’t that just for stuffy old guys or people with too much intellectual pride?

Most people have the gut reaction of, “Why do I need to spend so much time studying? Why don’t I just focus on loving Jesus instead?”

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.“
— John 8:32 (ESV)

Listen. You already have theology. Theology is nothing more than knowledge of God. And you have that. Even someone who doesn’t believe in God has theology (beliefs about Him, namely that He isn’t real).

As a test, let me ask you this: who is Jesus? How do we love Jesus? How do we follow Him?

As soon as you breathe a word to answer any of those questions, you are doing theology. There’s no way around it. You are going to take the knowledge you hold about God and apply it to answer. Here’s the scary thing: it’s either right or wrong. You can’t get around it.

If you say that you are a Christian, then your goal in life is supposed to be to love and follow Jesus. But the inevitable question is how, and theology actually answers that question. You can’t answer the question “how?” without theology! So it’s time for us to stop being scared of studying the scriptures, big books, old books, or even ‘doctrine’ (which is just a fancy word for teaching).

There are at least 3 ways that theology is 100% necessary for the Christian.

Knowing Someone Helps You Love Them

How ignorant would it be for a man to claim to love his wife while refusing to put in the work to learn anything about her? Wouldn’t he be left utterly incompetent to love her well? You ask him what her favorite food is, he has no clue. You ask for her birthday, he has no clue. What’s your anniversary? No clue. How does she appreciate being served the most? No clue.

This husband can boast all day of his “love” for his wife, but he either neglects her altogether or he merely makes guesses about how to serve her well. Neither is a good recipe for marriage. If you never put work into studying God’s word and God himself, then you are either neglecting Him or you are living out a “rough estimate” of who you think He is. Neither are a good recipe for a follower of Christ.

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.“
— John 17:17 (ESV)

Jesus prays this prayer on our behalf, and it serves as a reminder that our maturity in the Lord will never outstrip our knowledge of Him.

Theology Leads To Joy

At first, theology, or study of any kind, seems abstract at best (and dry/boring at worst). We often fail to see how it will impact our day-to-day lives. But, what you believe will always affect what you do. Behind everything we do is a belief – without exception. So wouldn’t you rather be doing things in accordance with right beliefs than false ones? Would you want your life to be built on things you guess to be true, or things that you know are true?

Another step beyond this is that this study of God ought to bring humility and joy, in a big way. It ought to bring us to worship a God that is more and more glorious to us the more we learn about Him. You don’t study theology to become the smartest man in the room. You study theology so that you can know more about the God that you love, loves you, saved you, and deserves every second of your life (of course, we only know what any of those things mean because of theology to begin with).

There Will Be Times When You Need To Know, Not Feel

More than a few times in my life I have been through significant storms: physical, emotional, spiritual. In those times I needed to know things about God and truth, because my feelings were bringing despair. When you get a cancer diagnosis, when a building tumbles, when jobs are lost, houses foreclosed, horrible sin committed, horrible sin experienced, when heartbreak ravages us, we need to know.

Now, this is incredibly counter-cultural. The world today leans heavily on the premise that your feelings ought to be that upon which you base your decisions. But the truth is that if we live that way, we are nothing more than a slave to emotions, to passing tides. James 1 does a great job of characterizing those who live in this manner as “being driven and tossed by the wind…unstable in all he does.”

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.“
— 2 Corinthians 5:1 (ESV)

There are times in this life where we can see the earthly tent being storm-tossed and destroyed. In those times you need something that you know, not something that you feel. This verse doesn’t say that we “feel like we have a building from God…,” it says that we know. Your feelings will lie to you.

Your feelings will shipwreck you and leave you hopeless. But knowledge of God will give you a true anchor for the soul. It will give you comfort even when the world falls away, when the diagnosis is horrible, when a scary president gets elected, when you lose your relationship, job, or health. I’ve been there, and God used the knowledge of Him to turn the lies and feelings of despair into an experience of joy amidst horrible circumstances.

And God wants you to be in that same frame. He wants you to be able to stand firm through trials of life. He wants you to reject temptation. He wants you to be free, and freedom comes from one thing: knowing the truth of the Gospel and the God of the Bible.

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.“
— John 8:32 (ESV)

David Appelt is husband to Rachel, and serves at Maranatha Community Church in Pickerington, OH. He graduated from Capital University with an emphasis on Music Ministry. He plans on pursuing church planting and academic ministry in the future.