is the most important thing about us.“
–A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
Want to see people roll their eyes at something you say? You can defend wrestling on television as being real, you can proclaim how Britney Spears is an incredible singer or you can simply affirm the importance of systematic theology. Each of those testimonies will bring all kinds of negative reactions – from a magnanimous fake smile and slow nodding all the way up to a good old-fashioned yelling match. The sad thing is that only two out of the three actually merit a challenge.
If theology means the study of God and systematic means an arranged or orderly system of understanding, it is beyond me why any Follower of Jesus would harbor any amount of disdain towards it. And yet, I’ve heard not only Christians but Christian leaders decry how systematic theology is too academic, dry and impractical for the modern-day follower. That last critique is my “favorite”. Theology is “out” because it’s not pragmatic enough. “How is this going to help my marriage? What is this going to do for my business? Is this going to help me find a mate? Those are the things I want to understand from the Bible! How does knowing the Trinity impact those issues? What does “homoousias” have to do with me? Why waste my time with communicable and incommunicable attributes of the Holy when I can read this bestseller that’s going to tell me how to be healthier, wealthier and wiser spiritually?”
Straw man? I wish. While many of those indifferent to theology might not express it in those exact terms the end result still holds. Systematic theology is seen as the property of naive, ivory tower Christians who only want to debate free will versus predestination at Starbucks until closing. This shouldn’t be! We should desire to grow in our knowledge of God so that we might grow in our love and service of him. That’s it. If God has revealed who he is then doesn’t it follow that we should seek to know as much as we can of that revelation? Do we do it to become walking theological encyclopedias who spout obtuse and obscure bits of dusty information that only seeks to alienate everyone around us? Not at all! We do it to become better lovers of God, better followers of Jesus, better instruments for the Holy Spirit in his mission of reaching those far from the Father.
Listen up, reclaim that which is yours! Don’t let studying theology be something for the ecclesiastical Illuminati. God, through his Word, has pulled the curtain back on who he is and, mind you, this is not just some high school buddy, chummy neighbor or even your sweet spouse that’s letting you in on who they are. This is the God of the Universe inviting you to know him more. This should help us see that systematic theology is very practical. So don’t cede it to others when it is divine gift for you too.
Let’s leave the rolling of eyes for the men in tights and the mouseketeer.