The Disciplines of Knowing: Theology (1)
We’re all theologians, like it or not.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29.11-13
Human beings are natural-born seekers. It is built into the warp and woof of our souls to discover things.
Consider just a few of the ways this instinct comes to expression: looking for hidden Easter eggs; playing hide-and-go-seek; putting puzzles together; solving problems; looking for a job or a new home; figuring out a recipe for a new dessert; playing “20 Questions” over dinner; working on some new invention; spelunking with some friends; going on a scavenger hunt; searching for just the right Christmas or birthday gifts; and much more.
Human beings are made to seek. And this deep-seated, natural-born instinct has an overarching purpose, which is designed to aid us in growing in the knowledge of Christ.
As we have seen in this study, our chief end in life is to know, love, and serve God. He has embedded His glory in Scripture and created things. The essential theme of all Scripture is Jesus Christ (Jn. 5.39). Moreover, because He made and upholds the cosmos, we expect to discover there glimpses of and insights to His majesty, wisdom, goodness, power, love, and more. God, Solomon explains, has “concealed” things for His royal children to “search out” (Prov. 25.2). And if our search is unwaveringly focused on growing in the knowledge of Jesus, we have God’s promise, that if we will pray and call on Him, and seek and search for Him with all our heart, we will find Him.
Find Him! Could there be any more motivating incentive for us to take up the task of increasing in the knowledge of God? God has made us to seek Him in all the places He is making Himself known, and He promises that, if we’ll devote ourselves to this with all diligence, we will find Him, discover His glory, increase in the knowledge of and love the Lord, know fullness of joy and holy pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16.11), and serve Him as living sacrifices all the days of our lives.
I hope you’re persuaded by now that this is a pursuit well worth engaging.
The pursuit of God – which leads to Him and His pleasures and joy – is also known as theology. Now I hope that by mentioning that word, I have not put a damper on anybody’s rising hopes and aspirations. In our day, theology is not a term that rings a bell or flips a switch in most of us. Our instinctual response to the word theology is something like, “Boring!” or “Snooty” or “High-minded” or perhaps simple “Meh”. Rarely is our response to the prospect of theological study something like, “Let me at it!”
But theology is nothing more or less than the disciplined pursuit of the knowledge of God and His glory. The word derives from two Greek words, theos or “God” and -ology or “a word”. Theology is just a word about God, and in the work of theology, we’re simply trying to combine and compare words about God, to improve our understanding of Him, and draw closer to Him in love, so that the fragrance of the knowledge of God might more firmly attach to us.
In a very real sense, therefore, every route that we might take to increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ is a form of theological study. Whether we’re examining creation, reading history or a biography, taking up our paints, composing or studying music, examining a poem, sitting in on a science class, attending a seminar or workshop – in all these activities, if we keep in mind that Jesus is making Himself known here, and if we pursue Him in all our searching, we may expect to increase in Him. And as we do, we’ll be doing the work of theology – the disciplined pursuit of the knowledge of God and His glory.
As you might expect, doing theology takes a little preparation. Just as learning to paint requires a few lessons on color, texture, themes and subjects, perspective, iconography, and much more; so learning to do the work of theology requires some preparation and familiarity with how the pursuit of God is properly engaged. When God says, “Seek Me!”, our response must be, “Your face, LORD, I will seek” (Ps. 27.8). But as in any other seeking activity, we need to answer the question, “How?”
Because we are all natural-born seekers, and because what we’re all created to seek is God Himself (cf. Acts 17.24-27), there’s a sense in which, whether or not we know it or agree with the idea, we’re all theologians. We’re all seeking God. Even lost people are seeking God. If they won’t worship the God Who made them, they’ll create other gods – wealth, sex, fame, power, things – and pursue those with the ardor God intends they should apply toward knowing Him (Rom. 1.18-32).
We’re all theologians, all God-seekers. The problem is, most of us aren’t very good theologians. Not because we wouldn’t like to be, but because – like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8.31) – we’ve never had any real guidance in pursuing the Lord through all the means and by all the disciplines available to us. We want to know, love, and serve God increasingly, but we’re not quite sure how to go about it.
As we take up the disciplines of theological study – don’t wince, just accept it – we will find that everything we do in life takes on a new perspective. Now we have means and tools for searching through the brush and jungle of life to discover paths that lead to Jesus, and to observe markers He Himself has left for us to urge and guide us in our searching.
In this study we will examine six foundational theological disciplines, with the idea of becoming better theologians and making greater progress in knowing, loving, and serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
1. What has been your approach to seeking the Lord with all your heart? Can you see ways you might improve in this?
2. We are made to seek God, and everybody is seeking Him. Why isn’t everybody finding Him? Why aren’t even many Christians making much progress in this calling?
3. How would you explain to an unbelieving friend what it’s like actually to have found the Lord, and to continue finding Him day by day?
Next Steps – Preparation: Talk with a Christian friend about the idea that everybody is a theologian. Share some of your thoughts about how you are hoping to improve as a theologian.
T. M. Moore
For a quick overview of the disciplines of theological study, and how they relate to knowing Jesus and making progress in His Kingdom, watch this brief video introducing the Laddership Curriculum of The Ailbe Seminary (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.