All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass – “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”
[Theology] is the study of God. It is the inquiry of God. It is the searching and understanding of God and the meaning of His word, His truth and His revelation. It is the activity of thinking: thinking about God and asking ultimate questions. It is the activity that thought produces speech, and speech produces a reflection…
To reject theology is to reject the knowledge of God, which is never an option for believers.
Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed, are no better than nonsense. He who overlooks Him who is the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending,” and sees not Him in all who is the All of all, doth see nothing at all.
No man that has not the vitals of theology is capable of going beyond a fool in philosophy.
Nothing can be rightly known, if God be not known; nor is any study well managed, nor to any great purpose, if God is not studied. We know little of the creature, till we know it as it stands related to the Creator.
I really think that you are what you sing. Shallow theology will produce shallow music, and shallow music will produce shallow theology. It’s a cyclical thing. What we are challenged to do in our day is to reinsert the theological element both into our lives and into our music.
Wherefore all theology, when separated from Christ, is not only vain and confused, but is also mad, deceitful, and spurious; for, though the philosophers sometimes utter excellent sayings, yet they have nothing but what is short-lived, and even mixed up with wicked and erroneous sentiments.
A man may be theologically knowing and spiritually ignorant.
Questions of who God is and of what He is like can never be considered irrelevant to the practical matters of church life. Different understandings of God will lead you to worship Him in different ways, and if some of those understandings are wrong, some of those ways in which you approach Him could be wrong as well.
Laymen sometimes think they need not be theologians. That, however, is a very great mistake. They do need to be theologians; at least, they should be amateur theologians. In fact, that is the one vocation every man is obliged to follow. A layman does not need to be a plumber, a carpenter, a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a laborer, a housewife. These are all possibilities, not necessities. A layman may be one of these or the other as he chooses. But he must be a theologian. This is not an option with him but a requirement… A lay theologian is a person who has a true knowledge of God which he understands in nontechnical, nonprofessional, nonacademic terms… Is it not clear why a layman must necessarily be a theologian? Is there anyone, layman or otherwise, who does not need to know God? Does the Scripture not say, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent” (John 17:3)? It is, then, no mere option with a layman whether he will be a theologian or not, whether he will have eternal life or not; it is no option with him whether he will know God or not. The knowledge of God is necessary to eternal life. And if eternal life is necessary for every man, then theology is also necessary for every man.
[We] may have knowledge of God and not be saved, but he can never be saved without knowledge of God.
The cross is not an isolated individual aspect of theology, but is itself the foundation of that theology. The cross both dominates and permeates all true Christian theology, with its thread being woven throughout the entirety of its fabric.
Practical problems have theological answers. So the question is not whether or not you’re going to be a theologian, but what kind of theologian you’re going to be.
It’s essential, moreover, to get the doctrine of God right before moving on. Either God will be the center of one’s doctrinal solar system or something else will. What we believe about God determines what we believe about everything.
Someone has said, “None are so unholy as those whose hands are cauterized with holy things;” sacred things may become profane by becoming matters of the job… I’ve always been glad myself that Theology is not the thing I earn my living by.
If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean you have no ideas about God, rather it will mean you have a lot of wrong ones.
Theology is practical, especially now… If you do not listen to Theology that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones – bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas.
Teaching theology to a heathen will not bring him to faith in Christ. He may learn the evangelical vocabulary and verbally affirm the truth. He may accept the truth of a list of gospel facts. But without a divine miracle to open his blind eyes and give him a new heart, he will only be a theologically informed pagan, not a Christian.
Your view of God is really the benchmark of your spiritual maturity. Understanding the nature of God is critical to spiritual maturity because in the end you rest in the reality of your God. Superficial knowledge of God, a shallow knowledge of God, a limited knowledge of God contributes to limited understanding and limited faith and limited trust.
[People] need their best theology in their darkest moments.
First level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith… Denial of these doctrines represents nothing less than an eventual denial of Christianity itself… The set of second-order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers… Third-order issues are doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations. I would put most debates over eschatology, for example, in this category… Christians should never separate from a church over third-order issues.
The religious flesh relishes theology, because it requires no death of ego, no surrender of control, no apologies. Theological disputation can feed a spirit of superiority. But because it’s about truth and right, our smugness can go undiscerned.
It is a good thing to possess an accurate theology, but it is unsatisfactory unless that good theology also possesses us (Charles Mitton).
[Mothers], our daughters will be products of their theology. Their knowledge – or lack of knowledge – of who God is and what He has done for them will show up in every attitude, action, and relationship. Their worldview will be determined by their belief system. We must teach our daughters that their value and identity lie in the fact that they are image-bearers of the God of glory. This will protect them from seeking significance in the inconsequential shallowness of self-fulfillment, personal happiness, materialism, or others’ approval. Our daughters must know the wondrous truth that their overarching purpose in life is God’s glory (Susan Hunt).
[One] objection to the study of theology is that it deceives Christians from simple faith in the Bible. The underlying premise of this objection is that believing is good and knowing is bad. But in fact the Bible lauds both believing and knowing (Rev. 2:23; Matt. 22:37). God has gone to the trouble of revealing information about Himself in creation and His Word. Is it not the height of irreverence to say we should ignore this information? Christianity is about truth and one important way to relate to truth is to know it (Paul Thorsell).
All theology is also spirituality, in the sense that it has an influence, good or bad, positive or negative, on its recipients’ relationship or lack of relationship with God. If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both; if it does not encourage the commitment of faith, it reinforces the detachment of unbelief; if it fails to promote humility, it inevitably feeds pride.
Theology is not a philosophical pursuit of abstract speculations about God. It is in fact the examination of that which God has revealed to us. As faithful students of the Word of God, we are, by necessity, students of theology. The two are not at odds with each other; rather they serve to complement one another. Whereas the Word of God is the foundation of our knowledge, theology is the expression of our knowledge. Thus, the study of God cannot be separated from the Word of God.
Fuzzy theology is not dogmatic, and it is not established by the unchanging Word of God; rather, it consists of theology formulated by compromise. Fuzzy theology has a fundamental principle: we can believe whatever we want to believe as long as what we believe does not offend anyone, as long as it affirms nice things about Jesus, and as long as it doesn’t divide.
Theology bores today’s Christians, which is another way of saying we are bored with God Himself.
We ought not speak too long about God with our minds before we turn and speak to God from our heart. We must stir a lot of prayer into the stew of our theology.
Doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless; it does positive harm. Something of ‘the image of Christ’ must be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings.
We must ask, Do I fight merely from doctrinal faithfulness? This is like the wife who never sleeps with anybody else but never shows love to her own husband. Is that a sufficient relationship in marriage? No, ten thousand times no. Yet if I am a Christian who speaks and acts for doctrinal faithfulness but do not show love to my divine bridegroom, I am in the same place as such a wife. What God wants from us is not only doctrinal faithfulness, but our love day by day. Not in theory, mind you, but in practice.
Taken from “The Church Before the Watching World” by Frances Schaeffer. Copyright (c) 1971, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. Used with permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, p. 60. www.ivpress.com.
We can become proud of our right theology but contradict the very theology that we hold dear by lack of love.
It is possible to have a sound theology without having a sound life. But we cannot have a sound life without having a sound theology.
For the soul of a person to be inflamed with passion for the living God, that person’s mind must first be informed about the character and will of God. There can be nothing in the heart that is not first in the mind. Though it is possible to have theology on the head without its piercing the soul, it cannot pierce the soul without first being grasped by the mind.
No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian. Perhaps not a theologian in the technical or professional sense, but a theologian nevertheless. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones.
Systematic theology is theology that is systematic. It is less narrative, less story, less organic, all key terms in our postmodern age. It is the study of the things of God in a systematic, orderly fashion, where we not only consider what this text says and that text, but where we consider all that the Word says about revelation, then all the Word tells us about who God is, then all that the Word tells us about who Jesus is, and then all that He has done for us. Systematic theology then goes on to consider the doctrine of man, of sin, of sanctification, of the sacraments, the church and the end times. Systematic theology is a way of looking at God’s revelation that strongly affirms the coherency and consistency of all that God reveals. It is an attempt to put all texts in their ultimate context—all other texts.
Studying holiness must lead to repentance. Studying salvation must lead to gratitude. Studying the end times must lead to hope. We need to study to show ourselves improved, that is, bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Systematics is not a dusty endeavor, but ought instead to be Miracle-Gro for the fruit of the Spirit. To know Him is life. To study Him, therefore is health.
You will find all true theology summed up in these two short sentences: Salvation is all of the grace of God. Damnation is all of the will of man.
There will be no new God, nor a new devil, and we shall never have a new Savior, nor a new atonement: Why should we then be either attracted or alarmed by the error and nonsense which everywhere plead for a hearing because they are new? What is their newness to us; we are not children, nor frequenters of playhouses? Truly, to such a new toy or a new play has immense attractions; but men care less about the age of a thing than about its intrinsic value. To suppose that theology can be new is to imagine that the Lord himself is of yesterday. A doctrine which is said to have lately become true must of necessity be a lie. Falsehood has no beard, but truth is hoary with an age immeasurable. The old gospel is the only gospel. Pity is our only feeling towards those young preachers who cry, "See my new theology," in just the same spirit as little Mary says, "See my pretty new frock."
When a Calvinist says that all things happen according to the predestination of God, he speaks the truth, and I am willing to be called a Calvinist. But when an Arminian says that when a man sins, the sin is his own, and that if he continues in sin, and perishes, his eternal damnation will lie entirely at his own door, I believe that he speaks the truth, though I am not willing to be called an Arminian. The fact is, there is some truth in both these systems of theology.
There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a study of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity,
Theological ignorance won’t take us very far, at least not in the right direction. Excitement uninformed by truth invariably leads either to idolatry or fanaticism. If we don’t know the God we enjoy, we may end up enjoying the wrong god!
If we don’t know who God is and how He thinks and what He feels and why He does what He does, we have no grounds for joy, no reason to celebrate, no basis for finding satisfaction in Him.
Theology is a serious quest for the true knowledge of God, undertaken in response to His self-revelation, illumined by Christian tradition, manifesting a rational inner coherence, issuing in ethical conduct, resonating with the contemporary world and concerned for the greater glory of God.
We love theology because it informs our understanding of the Lord, but theology becomes just an intellectual exercise if it doesn’t impact how we worship and how we enjoy the Lord.
The best theology is rather a divine life than a divine knowledge.
The man who studies theology, and especially he who studies dogmatics, might watch carefully whether he increasingly does not think in the third rather than the second person. You know what I mean by that. This transition from one to the other level of thought, from a personal relationship with God to a merely technical reference, usually is exactly synchronized with the moment that I no longer can read the word of Holy Scripture as a word to me, but only as the object of exegetical endeavors. This is the first step toward the worst and most widespread ministers’ disease. For the minister frequently can hardly expound a text as a letter which has been written to him, but he reads the text under the impulse of the question, How would it be used in a sermon?
My plea is simply this: every theological idea which makes an impression upon you must be regarded as a challenge to your faith. Do not assume as a matter of course that you believe whatever impresses you theologically and enlightens you intellectually. Otherwise suddenly you are believing no longer in Jesus Christ, but in Luther, or in one of your other theological teachers.
The devil is a better theologian than any of us and is a devil still.
We are called by God to do theology, that is, to live our lives with a moment-by-moment consciousness of God.
We must always, always remember that the theology of the Word of God is not an end in itself but a means to an end, and that end is a radically grace-transformed life.
For [those] who have not been required to confess that it is easier to learn theology then live it, it is tempting to think maturity is more a matter of knowing than a matter of living. They think that godliness is more a matter of what you intellectually grasp than a matter of how you live your life.
There is a direct line that runs from our doctrine to our actions, from what is in our minds to what is in our words and ways… The heart spills over into life. Thoughts of God, and of all else, erupt into acts. The filling of the heart with wise thoughts of God becomes the most important, the most practical, business in the world.
The theology of the cross simplifies the spiritual life by standing as its primary reference point. Everything in Christian spirituality relates to it. Through the cross we begin our spirituality and by the power and example of the cross we live it.