When you’re around someone who loves theology, you know it. It drips and seeps into every thought they have and every conversation you have with them. They’ll tell you about what scripture verse(s) constitute the truth they’re expressing, or what well-known (even if just to them) theologian of days-gone-by thought/wrote/said about that particular subject. It’s exhilarating and exhausting all at once.
Years ago, I recall a great theologian (and friend/former pastor of mine) named Jerome Hancock said something to this effect:
“The word theology is the most absurd word there is. To think that we can ‘study God’ is at the height of human absurdity.”
You can cringe at that, or bristle against it, or you can choose to see his point–and rather easily. We’re studying the One who is so far beyond our comprehension that His great charity is to allow us to near Him, let alone know Him. We call it theology, the study of God (“theos” in the Greek) but what it actually is is our finite minds straining at embracing the incomprehensible reality of the infinite Divine.
The greatest theological minds in all of history have but sipped at the ladle of all their minds could grasp, while standing on the shoreline of the boundless ocean depths of all that God is and all there can be known of Him.
As I was driving from here to there today, I passed a church with a marquee out front that said:
“Theology is God’s Holy Spirit making it’s way through your brain.”
Hmm. Okay. That’s an interesting thought, I suppose. Still, no matter how you understand it, the word theology is an adequate description of what we’re endeavoring to do here. So I thought I’d share with you in rapid-fire fashion, my own personal theology. I’ll state the topic/issue/thing and then share the nutshell version of my belief on that. As you read, keep track of what you agree with, disagree with, and/or want to challenge. Use the comment section to share all that. You ready? Here we go…
Yes, I believe there is a God. I believe He is eternal, all powerful, all present, and all knowing. I believe He exists in 3 persons, yet is one God. I believe these three persons to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While the word “Trinity” is not found in scripture, the concept is clearly seen in scripture. From the creation story, through the Torah, through the prophets, most obviously at Jesus’ baptism, and even in the apocalyptic literature known as Revelation. I believe God is supremely holy, just, gracious, and patient–to name a very few of His attributes.
I believe that my life’s purpose is to so completely embrace the grace God offers humanity through Jesus (more on Him in a minute) that my life is literally transformed from the inside out. A man by the name of D.T. Niles once said “Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” and while I love the poetic nature of that and while I think it scratches the surface of what I have found in this gracious God, I believe it goes far beyond and deeper than that. I am so captivated by grace that–God helping me–it oozes out of every pore of every thought, word, conversation, and decision I have. My life’s purpose is summarized in Galatians 1:24: “And they praised God because of me.” I ask no wealth, no notoriety, no ego-based platform, no fame but to know that my life has in some way, somehow caused someone…ANYONE to praise God because of me.
I believe that Jesus is the one and only Son of God. Jesus is eternal by virtue of being God Himself. Jesus is the bodily manifestation of God who came to earth, created the BC/AD split, was born miraculously of a virgin named Mary, grew, served, taught, loved, listened, healed, and ultimately died on a Roman cross of crucifixion, fulfilling prophecies spoken hundreds of years before His birth. But I believe that because Jesus is God, the grave had no hope of holding Him and because of His resurrection, I have the full assurance of resurrection as well. I believe that Jesus will return for His bride, the Church, of which I am a part, along with all others who claim Him as Savior and love Him as Lord. I believe I will spend eternity in His presence because of His promises, not because of my performance.
Ugh. The Bible. I have to admit to you that while I love this book with my whole heart, I am often both confounded by it and distracted from it. Still, I believe the bible to be the written revelation of God’s will for humanity. In it you’ll find testifying history, narrative, stories, instructions, eye-witness accounts, and blueprints on how to live a life that is fully God’s. Though this collection of 66 books may vex me at points, I cling to it as the beautiful, accurate, inerrant, revealed story of God’s redemption of humanity. I don’t believe it is all there is, because the bible itself says that it doesn’t hold all there is (John 21:25). But I do believe, as it says of itself in 2 Peter 1:3 and 2 Timothy 3:16, we have within it all we need to know salvation and holiness, as well as how we are to live in light of who God is, and by His power.
By “world” I mean earth, its inhabitants, and also the culture that surrounds us. I believe the world we’re on is unraveling. I believe that we are living on a disintegrating dust ball. Yet I also believe we are called to care well for the physical earth and to be good stewards of the majesty God has handcrafted. In regards to the people of earth, I believe every one of them is fully deserving of dignity, love, family, community, support, and an opportunity to personally encounter the good news of salvation so each one can make their own choice about it. I believe that humans are the pinnacle of creation, even if you define creation as accidentally evolutionary. I believe our (American) culture is potentially beautifully but tragically corrupt. We are naturally self-centered and that has caused nearly every discord and ill we as a culture live in each day. I am not fatalistic, however. I believe in the power of love to turn any person, regardless of their past into a person that reflects the character of God, our Creator.
Yes, I believe in a literal hell. I believe it is the full absence of God’s presence. There is more to know about it than this, but other than that I believe that it is reserved for the unrepentant who repeatedly reject God.
What other areas of “theology” should be included here? What are the big pieces of YOUR theology? I welcome any comments/thoughts/respectful disagreements below.