While the word theology simply refers to the rational study of God, “Christian” theology is unique. It is the intelligent study of the “Christian” faith. It limits itself to the study of the living and true God of the Bible rather than the gods of other religions; for He is the only God who exists. Christian theology is distinguished from the theology of other religions, as well as the beliefs of the secular culture. It is what sets Christianity apart from all other belief systems.
The word theology, in Christian usage, is used in two ways. There is a narrow sense of the term as well as a wider sense.
In a narrow sense, the term, “theology” refers to the specific study of the doctrine of the God of the Bible. It explores His existence, His character, and His works. In this sense of the term, the idea of theology limits the study to God alone. This is also known as “theology proper,” or the “doctrine of God.”
In a broader sense, theology refers to the sum total of Christian teaching. Used in the broadest sense, theology can be described as the science that deals with our knowledge of the God of the Bible and His relationship to humankind. This is the sense in which the term is most-often used.
Why is theology so important? So that what we know, we know to be true. This was touched upon in the previous post; what we know affects our beliefs, and our beliefs affect our actions.
But an additional consideration is important. What we hold to be true will affect what we worship. And in that, authenticity is everything. Because God has told us what he is like we are not ignorant of his character. Without God’s revelation of himself to us humanity would stumble around in darkness. We read, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:17-18).
And here is the key; human reason alone is not an adequate way to understand the character of God. When left to our own ideas about the character of God each of us goes our own way. We create our own image of God, and that image is prone to error. We must be careful to study the God who God says He is, not our own interpretation of what we want Him to be.
That is a “graven image,” and the First Commandment is very clear about that!