When I was a teen, I read a great deal of Science Fiction. It imbued in me the faith that mankind, given time, could accomplish anything. As I matured into college age, I morphed that concept into the theology that mankind eventually would become perfect and therefore become god.
I was very proud of my reasoning. When I propounded this concept among a group of others, one wise fellow said, “You know, by definition, perfection has always been perfect. It has never been imperfect.” That simple truth collapsed my theology like the house of cards it was.
Finally, for the last half century I have discovered and lived (as much as my fickle heart can) Christian Theology (God is a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is actively involved in the world and in peoples’ lives in particular. Jesus is the God/man who died for my sins and those who will believe in Him. All people are sinners, which means the reality of Heaven and Hell is of serious concern. Faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior is the sine qua non. Without that faith, it is impossible to please God.)
It is abundantly clear that all people throughout the world who have some conception of God are theologians. Muslims, Jews and Christians are monotheists (believe in one God). The Christians and Jews believe in the same God. Muslims do not.
Primitive religions are animistic. They have the theology that there are powers in everything, e.g. the sun, moon, trees, earth, and wind. They seek to respect everything, lest they offend the spirits who in vindictiveness would curse them.
Likely they would claim they are not; however, “atheist” in Ancient Greek ἄθεος (atheos) means “without gods”. To be without gods implies that there are gods to be without. Thus they have a theology that there are no gods. Apparently, an atheist has studied all religions and all history and can find no credible evidence of any god. Thus their theology, their study of God is that he does not exist. Many of them are quite evangelical, requiring everyone else to protect them from any contact with proof of His existence.
Thus, it is my assessment that, as everyone else, atheists have a concept of God that they have studied and rejected. Yes, they, too, are theologians.
There is academic theology and there is practical theology. Academic theology is what people say they believe in, e.g. “I believe that God is a God of love. He is a good God who cares for his people.”
I was flying Pakistani Airlines from Lahore, Pakistan to New Delhi, India. As we approached the airport the pilot spoke over the intercom, “We will land in New Delhi, Insha Allah.” Irreverently, it occurred to me that if Allah did not will us to land, we might be flying around forever.
Various teachers and scholars and preachers have defined Christian academic theology over the centuries. Because Christianity had so many streams that express their understanding of the message of God differently, there have been uncounted theologies written. Scholars examine the various tenets of the faith and write a lengthy exposition of each. True Christian theology includes:
Practical theology is demonstrated in the way people live. Anyone who claims to be a Jew, but does not live by the Laws of Moses and the ordinances of Judaism is practically an agnostic. Sabbath breaking, eating pork are two evidences that while they may have Jewish ancestry, they are not in fact Jews,
People who call themselves “Christians”, but do not believe the above tenants are not Christian in reality. Those who practice homosexuality, choose abortions as birth control, who cheat at business or at cards are giving evidence against themselves of their lack of faith.
People who style themselves Muslim, but who do not fast during Ramadan, who go to X-rated movies, who consume alcoholic beverages are unfaithful to their religion.
Because the majority of Americans profess to be Protestant Christians, I will concentrate on this branch of Christendom.
We show our practical theology when we are cheerful in our demeanor. A ready smile indicates that Jesus has transformed one’s heart. A mark of a believer is generosity in meeting a neighbor’s need, whether it be praying for them, offering physical help or offering money in a crisis.
Another mark of a believer is forgiveness. Whether the offender is repentant, asks forgiveness or not, the practicing Christian forgives the offense.
One of the remarks that unbelievers said about Christians, “Behold how they love one another.” The heart that is open to God’s love manifests love.
Theology is the study of God. There is one, true God. He has revealed Himself to mankind. He chose one man (family) to be the bearers of the truth that God exists and that He is intimately involved in the lives of people on a daily basis. He is unapproachable in His glory and holiness, but he has come to minister, to serve mankind on a constant basis.
“Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3)
Belief in God is the foundation of having Him a part of one’s life. One can study about God in the Bible, in theological textbooks, in the lives of believers. With an open mind, one can not only find God, but also learn a great deal about Him. Because He is infinitely superior, our finite minds cannot comprehend the majesty of God. We can, however, encounter Him.
Study can reveal much about God, but there will always be a barrier to true knowledge. Just as there is a limit to what you can know about a person by reading her biography, or even his autobiography. If however, you move next door to a famous person and begin to converse, invite him or her into your home and be invited into hers or his, a relationship develops and you learn the “inside story”. You get to know the real person.
It works that way with God. The relationship is all-important.
It astounds me when I begin to ponder that the Creator of the universe, the perfectly holy One, the Almighty God, chooses to become involved in an intimate way in the lives of men and women of every character. He gets involved with our messy lives. He accepts out foulness and still loves us.
Once in a relationship with God, all that we study about God begins to make sense. He corrects all our concepts, until we have a heart for God. We find His character far greater than we believed. His revelation of Himself reveals His magnificent aspects.
Consider that the perfectly righteous God desires, and eagerly works to have a relationship with individuals that are venal, are liars and cheats, are arrogant and stupid. He cares deeply for the cast-offs of society: the disabled, the souse, the thief, the prostitute, the degraded humans of the world.
He, in the person of the Holy Spirit, is active in the world, taking care of people. It is He who inspires inventors, whether they believe in Him or not, to devise ways to tap ground water to bring water to parched lands. He had leads people to devise improved methods of farming, so that the same land will produce far more than it did 100 years ago.
Working in the hearts of believers the Holy Spirit manifests Love, Joy and Peace, as well as the other Fruit of the Spirit.
Today, millions of Americans are pursuing happiness in the hope of finding lasting Joy. It eludes them because they do not go for the gold. God provided Joy as a free gift of the Holy Spirit. We do not have to strive for it, we have to surrender for it.
Theology teaches us that God was not content to sit outside the physical world and take pot shots at His creation—mankind. He is not a Monday Morning Quarterback: “You should have done this instead of that. You should have done it this way.” He, Almighty God, limited Himself and was born a man-child. He grew up over 30 years before He entered into His teaching ministry. God, Himself, became a man to share our limited life. He lived, got hungry and thirsty. He got dirty and had to bathe. He had friends and enemies. He shared all of life. And. wonder of wonders, He shared our death; real death. Yes, brain dead. God, omnipotent, hung on the cross and actually died there.
In our society we sanitize death. Most people die in clean sheets at a hospital, separated from family and home. However, in Jesus’ day death was a part of life. Old folks died at home in the midst of family. The women of the family tended the corpse. They knew what death was and what a dead body was. They knew, from handling His body, that Jesus was certainly dead. Jesus the God/man died in truth that fateful day.
When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished.” And bowing His head, He yielded up His spirit. (John 19:30)
One of His Last Words was “It is finished!” He was not talking about His life, although that was true. He was not talking about the pain and suffering of the Cross, although that was true. He was talking about the reason He came to be born a man.
Theology teaches us that there was a greater purpose for God to become a man than to experience what it was like to live a moment in eternity, to live with pain and suffering, to live with love for friends, to live in the joys and triumphs of life.
He came with a far greater purpose; He had a cosmic-sized purpose. Jesus came to provide the only way for individual people to be able to live forever in the Presence of Almighty God, in the Presence of Love Unspeakable, in Joy beyond our wildest dreams, and in utter Peace with never a threat of not enough, never a threat of harm, never a threat of rejection. Jesus’ work of the cross was to bring about the reconciliation of individual men, women and children with the Holy, righteous God. Jesus made the way for individuals to enter into God’s Presence, where before their sin barred them.
Theology teaches us that the sacrificial system established by God through Moses was a precursor of Jesus sacrifice on the cross. God taught the Children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings that to atone for sin required an innocent victim’s blood and life. Theology teaches us that Jesus was that perfect, innocent victim who became the complete oblation and sacrifice, who satisfied God’s offended righteousness, allowing us to be forgiven under the blood of Jesus.
Theology teaches us that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. But he humbled Himself to serve our need of forgiveness. God Almighty, out of love for us, provides for all our physical needs.
Theology teaches us that we are in a training ground. All that occurs in our lives can be lessons to teach us. They can be tests to prove what we have learned.
Theology teaches us that we are in a war; that there is a real, alive enemy shooting at us. He sends spies to tempt us to turn our backs on God. He uses propaganda to say that God is not real, or a distant, uncaring God. He sends his army to cause us physical, emotional and mental harm. God does not leave us without defense. We have weapons to use that will defeat his overtures, attacks and insinuations.
Theology, rightly taught, reveals to us the truths of God. The Apostle Paul was a foremost enemy of God. He did not think he was. He thought He was protecting Judaism from heretics. In his zeal he was instrumental in both the arrest and slaying of uncounted numbers of believers. He was zealous for God, but his theology was all wrong.
He was raised to believe the Law of God would save him and all Jews. Paul was taught that Gentiles, and even unobservant Jews, were ultimately lost and without hope of redemption, because they were not slaves to the LAW. His theology was all wrong.
When Jesus came preaching that God was a God of love and forgiveness, Paul was furious. He was convinced that because Jesus was not a punctilious practitioner of the LAW, he was a heretic and worthy of being eradicated. To rid Judaism of Jesus would prevent Jews from being drawn away from the LAW.
The risen Jesus took from Paul wrong theology and gave him a new birth under true, right, and blessed theology. Then the Holy Spirit sent Paul into solitude for years to teach him the truths of God. He transformed Paul’s theology of the LAW into the theology of grace—love and forgiveness.
With correct theology, Paul became the foremost proponent of the truths that God wanted our generation (and all others) to learn.
We learn about sin in the first few chapters of Romans. We learn about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians. We learn about freedom from the Law in Galatians. In Ephesians, we learn about the weapons of our warfare. Each of Paul’s thirteen letters have theological teachings, without which Christianity would be hollow.
Numerous theologians in the last 150 years have sought to write a theology, but have fallen into the trap of writing an exegesis; that is writing their own prejudices into their expositions of Scripture. Much to their pleasure, they discover that their “Christian Theology” is really “Liberation Theology” or “Feminist Theology” or “God is Dead” Theology or “Environmental Theology”.
Because God is Sovereign and we are His creation, we must come to God with empty hands to learn from the Holy Spirit what truth is.
Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16).
The purpose of Theology is to discover the truth about God. In the pages of the Bible are uncounted kernels of truth that when planted in our hearts grow us up in our knowledge of God. As we live out those truths, we find ourselves walking hand in hand with Christ along the narrow path to God. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit with one accord desire that we learn the truths of God. They desire that we have a firm theological foundation so when the winds of controversy and alternative doctrines assail our spirits, we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.
Knowledge without experience is barren. God calls us not to just know Him, but also to live out that knowledge in the real world. This means encountering both believers and unbelievers in the confidence that we have the truth. This is not arrogance, but a humble confidence that Jesus is real and that the Holy Spirit is leading us in the truths of God. In those encounters we build up believers as they build us up. In addition, we inform unbelievers of the truths they need for life.
This fiction has a basic truth: they had made their choice and would not change.
There is a deeper reason. God is omniscient; He knows our hearts. God knows that some people will embrace the truth of Jesus and will believe at a very young age. Others in their preteen years, in their young adult lives, as Paul was, despite their rebellion, are open to change. Still others live deplorable lives, but in the last extremity reach out for Jesus.
God confronts others all through their lives with His truth and His life. Tragically, all too often, regardless of how many times God approaches them, they ignore Him or reject outright His offers. They will not believe, because they choose not to believe. God has given them all the chances they need. They would not change if He gave them another.
The Bible says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness“. It is belief that is the key. We have all our lives on earth to believe. If one does not believe here and now, he will not in another life.
Join me in bowing before our God in gratitude that we can speak directly and personally to Him. He is our loving Father, so we can embrace Him boldly, but respectfully.
You have filled my heart with Yourself. You are everything. Almighty God, You are worthy of all honor dominion, glory and praise!
You have given us Your truth. Hallelujah!
You revealed Yourself to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.
You delivered the Children of Israel from Egyptian slavery with a mighty hand.
You led and provided food and water for the Children of Israel in the barren Sinai desert.
You raised up Judges in the Land of Promise to deliver Your People when they had strayed from You into oppression.
You anointed David, a man after Your own heart, to be King over Your people.
You gave his descendants the promise of eternal Kingship.
You called the Prophets to the hard duty of telling the Chosen People they were going the wrong way.
You sent Your Son into the world, anointed as the Messiah, to communicate Your truth to us.
You in these later days have appointed missionaries to take Your Gospel to the remote peoples of the world.You called and sent Apostles to communicate the Gospel to the world.
You have loved Your People with an everlasting love and called them out of every tribe, tongue and nation. You have built an enormous Family, some are triumphant, having finished their course; and some militant, still serving in Your mission field – the world.
I praise You for Your love; I praise You for your fantastic gift to me of forgiveness of sin, life eternal; and most of all, I praise You for You!
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Praise God for the joy of knowing You. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen