The word “theology” is a combination of two Greek words, theos, “God”, and logos, “word, discourse and doctrine”. So, in the simplest definition, theology is the study of God or the doctrine of God. The term “theology” can be used somehow narrowly and broadly yet the different usages are quite valid. In the broad and more usual sense theology includes all “Christian doctrines, not only the specific doctrine of God, but also all the doctrines that deal with the relations God sustains to the universe”. Thus, theology is “the science of God and His relations to the universe”, regarding men’s relation to Him as His creatures, man’s condition and His redemptive work for mankind. P.B. Fitzwater defined that theology “is the science of God’s essential being and His relationship to the universe as set forth in the Holy Scriptures”. The Scripture is the source and means of Christian theology. Charles Ryrie also says that theology is “thinking about God and expressing those thoughts in some way.” . Therefore, in summing up the definitions, theology is an expression, doctrine, philosophy, worldview of one’s belief and thinking between the relation of God and man in the light of the scripture consciously and unconsciously.
First of all, theology is done in order that we can comprehend the work of God and what he is doing towards us and in the world. As the Lord says in His Word, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” (Isaiah 55: 8), doing theology helps to understand the thoughts, ways, movement and plan of God. Without knowing God’s thought and an action, joining Him is a far way to go and lack of knowledge leads people to perish and mistake. Theology leads Christians to understand the work of God down through the century to the contemporary situation. Thus emerging in doing theology is a must to see and experience the power and movement of God in our lives.
Secondly, doing theology gives Christians a life that pleasing to God and setting good examples for others. The fallen nature, separated from God by birth can’t please Him by good merits (Rom 3:10-18; 3: 23; 5:10). And salvation and the forgiveness of sin can’t be earned by human effort but by grace alone through faith in believing Jesus Christ, who died, buried and resurrected for all mankind through the help of the Holy Spirit. (Eph 2: 8-9; Rom 6:23; Titus 3’5; Rom 5: 8). In His blood, there is remission and forgiveness of all sins. Listening to theology of salvation comes from preachers, pastors and evangelist etc based on preaching the Word of God and that leads to reconciliation with God. Without knowing the word, the love of God and the salvation messages of good news, how would a person know what he should believe? ….faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Knowledge of God and his world build up one’s life in away that he can be reconciled to God and live a life that reflects good moral and characters. Knowledge of God and intimate relationship with Him changes one’s life and make him accountable, integrity and useful vessel for God. On the other hand, without having knowledge of God, it’s hard to live out moral holiness in daily life and that is impossible in the sight of the Lord. Satan blinds one’s eyes and does evil things against the Lord. Without knowing God there can’t be successful life and good life. To keep one’s life safe from sinful things, his knowledge of God and the Bible are the keys. The source of life, character and discernment of right and wrong comes from the Lord through his world and as much as one commit himself to Him; he is transformed in Christ likeness and bears fruits which glorify the Lord. Therefore, emerging in doing biblical based theology is very crucial for today Christians.
Thirdly, doing theology is keys to understand God’s desire, will and mind. Though God can’t be seen today by human eyes, His will, desires, plans, and commands for Christians can be clearly understood through His words. He expressed His love, care and way for mankind. Since his mission to reach the whole nation is seen through his word and if somebody is deeply connected with the knowledge of his word, he will be moved and impacted to have the same vision and compassion towards the world. Doing theology motivates Christians to carry on God’s mission work so that everyone may become disciple-making believers and the whole world may see the love of God and receive Him as their Savior and Lord.
Fourthly, successful and effective minister is a result of having good theology. The more one knows about God, the more he will be influenced by Him. Then, his intimate relationship with God will transform his old perspective about ministry and gives a new perspective which can change people’s life from desert life into wellspring of life. Besides, doing theology renews one’s heart and mind (Rom 12:2: cf. Ps 51: 10; Ps 103: 5) so that he can see the movement of God in his ministry and follows His way.
Fifthly, doing theology gives Christians assurance of salvation and security. Besides, it also gives victorious life in daily battle field. It protects one’s heart not to commit sins and leads into the paths of righteousness. One’s knowledge about God and His word becomes a lamp to his feet and a light for his path (Psalm 119:105). It gives Christians holy life and good attitudes. (Psalm 119: 9). It revives souls and gives wisdom and knowledge (Psalm 19: 7). Besides, it gives joy and peace to the inner heart of believer (Psalm 19: 8), regardless of the situation when he puts trust in God. Moreover, theology shapes one’s way of life. Thus our theology defines our way of life.
Everybody does his own theology consciously or unconsciously. Every decision that he makes is the result of his theology. Therefore, theology is much closed with one’s worldview and philosophy. If one’s theology is rooted in the word of God, he will have a philosophy or worldview which carries the biblical perspective but if he doesn’t have any knowledge about the word of God and personal encounter with God, his theology may totally come from his historical context, culture, tradition and self. There are two systems of doing theology and it is worth to have a brief look on both of them.
Moreover, it’s incredibly effective for new believers and Sunday school students who do not have much knowledge about the Word of God. Since they are immature and new born baby in spiritual sight, they need to be fed by sound doctrines by their pastors, teachers, leaders, or mentors. Even though they were asked questions, their usual answers may probably, “I don’t know” or “teach me”. That means, they can not precisely relate or reflect their own lives with the word of God. They need a guide and help. On the other hand, many are also influenced by cults and heresy from their historical, traditional background. As results, their ways of doing theology follow their leaders’ pattern and they used to fall into the same pitfall of heresy or cause worse. For instance, if someone comes from a conservation Baptist church, his way of doing theology and reflection will come from the theology of the former pastors. Therefore, in order to do a good theology, someone should really know the word of God with its historical context at the same time also his own context and articulate in his own present situation. The problem lies behind is that if someone does not know God and the word how he could do a good theology, rather his limited knowledge may lead him to heresy and cults.
Theology is done wherever we go. It does not have limited space; it depends on the opportunity, challenge and situation where somebody is in. Theology can be done at work place, offices, library, seminary, school, house or room, on the road side, and beach etc. The more one does theology and reflects upon what the Lord has been teaching through His word and experiences with the help of the Holy Spirit that will transform one’s life and ministry towards God’s agenda.
The Bible plays the most important role in doing theology because theology comes from the Bible in a sense how one understands God through it and preaching about the Words. It is the foundation of theology because theology is done based on one’s personal understanding about the Word and how it relates to his situation. Therefore, good theology can’t be done without having appropriate knowledge of the Bible with its context, culture and historical perspectives. Even if one does, his theology will not be sound theology rather it may become heresy.
Historical context is very essential when one does theology because one carries on his historical context in the way how he does and reflects his theology. The theology of somebody can be different from another as he comes from godly parents, conservation Baptists, and Pentecostal churches etc. Beyond, the theology of other religion such as Buddhist, Muslim, and Confusionist will be up side down with our Christian theology because they are unbelievers and they don’t’ know about the living God. Their theology will depend on the historical context of their former heroes with regard to their religion. In the same manner, the Christians will also follow their historical context in doing theology. Therefore, understanding one’s own context and the context of the Bible are compulsory for good theology.
Most of the people are shaped and moved by their culture. Culture has so much impact on one’s life and character in belief and theology. Therefore, one must know the sphere of his culture where he comes from and the culture of the Bible as well so that he can integrate the gap between these two cultures in the light of the Bible and contextualize it in the present situation for practical benefits of his own and for others.
Tradition takes place a very important aspect in doing theology because everybody is influenced by his tradition as culture. If someone has a traditional background which rooted on the biblical truth, that person will use the same pattern that he adopts from the traditional church, denomination and doctrine of God in doing theology. Somebody’s way of doing theology is the outcome of his tradition. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the tradition and environments where one comes from to have a sound theology.
One’s Philosophy is made by his composition of knowledge about what is right, relevant and best for him from what he had experienced and has been experiencing in the present situation. One’s philosophy about the Bible, God and others will affect his way of doing theology and life. If one believes the existence of God, source of life, provider, protector, and controller of all universes, that kind of his philosophy will lead him to have holy life and good moral behaviors. Besides, such kind of philosophy will develop and progress his theology higher and deeper for self and others as well.
Most of our churches are influenced by conservative Baptist or fundamental Baptist yet the Pentecostal movement and charismatic movement are also introduced in many places nowadays. Most people think that theology must be done only by pastors, evangelist or seminary students and they separate the term “theology”, different from the Word of God. Therefore, they don’t want to hear about term theology but they love to hear the Word of God and what he is doing in their lives and in this world. Thus in this case, I think we the pastors and elders in the church are responsible to link between these gaps by introducing theology as thinking about God, studying his word, having intimate relationship with him and trusting Him in every decision that we make and obedience to follow the Word. I think we need to tell them that theology is not something different rather everything that we do with regards to God and us.
Evaluating my past ministry, theology from above is the way how I normally do theology in church and ministry, but after realizing theology from below, I am also challenged to do theology in balance way. Therefore, I think both approaches will be healthy and that will make us and our members grow in relationship with God. Being a pastor, minister, servant and leader, we are challenged to carry on the biblical, systematical and practical theology to stir up our people on God’s agenda through the scriptures and the help of the Holy Spirit.
Personally, the knowledge and understanding of the Biblical truth that I have about God and His love control all my ways of life- motive, character, views and action. The comfort and joy that I have is the result of knowing the presence of God regardless of my situation. My understandings of God and intimate relationship with him give me security, courage, hope, wisdom and discernment in every day of my life, realizing that God would never leave me alone when I am in His will and do what he wants me to do. Relating to my fellow church members and friends, the theology of God that I have convince me to wear the humility of Jesus (John 13:1-5; Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; Phil 2:7), love and compassion. Beside, it warns me the dangers of pride (Pro 8: 13; 16: 18) and wrong motive (cf.Prov. 4: 23) in life. My theology and understanding of His word give me holy life in this sinking sins and injustice. It helps me to be accountable and show integrity even in the smallest things toward God and man. Beyond, it gives me biblical vision and burden so that I can accomplish the missions and calling that set ahead for me in this word by the empower of the Holy Spirit. I wish the same enlightenment and conviction that I have through my understanding of theology will impact all my church members and those who are in contact with me. Besides, it’s my desire and vision that not only my church members would experience God by doing theology but also the whole world will come to know Him in an intimate way and respond His calling. Then, our theology will be the motivators of our life, ministry and obligations to accomplish successfully for the praise and glory of our Lord.