Doing Good Theology
by Portia Collins
It is no secret that theology is a necessary component of the Christian faith. No matter how intimidating it may seem, there is simply no way of getting around the practice of theology if we desire to mature as Christians. The word theology is derived from the Greek word θεολογία (theologia). In its simplest form, theology is understood to be the study of God. In A Theology for the Church, contributors Ashford and Whitfield define Christian theology as the “disciplined reflection on God’s self-revelation for the purposes of knowing and loving God and participating in his mission in this world.” I think this definition provides a bit more depth into what it actually means to “do theology” the right way.
THEOLOGY THE RIGHT WAY
I’ll be the first to admit that I practiced theology the wrong way for many years. Unbeknownst to me, I was heavily influenced by postmodernist thought. I was convinced that the terms of theology were defined by me. I was your classic “what the Bible means to me” type of girl. I’d jump around to various passages in the Bible, misinterpret them, and follow through with a gross misapplication. I had skewed views about worship and obedience. And I foolishly thought that living on mission for God meant moving to a foreign country. Thankfully, a few faithful preachers and teachers helped me to learn a different way; the right way. So the question at hand is what is “good” theology and how, exactly, do we do good theology.
GOOD THEOLOGY FLOWS NATURALLY FROM THE SCRIPTURES
When reading through the Scriptures in an orderly or systematic manner (i.e., book by book; Genesis to Revelation), you’ll quickly notice that we are presented with a narrative that fits perfectly together. It’s literally one, cohesive story that highlights creation, the fall of man, the redemption of man, and finally the great consummation. Every time I open my Bible, I am utterly amazed at the great care that God took in inspiring various writers throughout thousands of years. God specifically uses Scripture as the primary means of revealing Himself to us. But not only do the Scriptures allow us to lay hold of who our glorious God is, but the Scriptures also become the very mirror by which we can rightly examine ourselves. Doing good theology simply follows from the Scriptures as God has provided. When we follow the biblical narrative in the manner that God has intended, then we naturally arrive at a theology that is right and solid.
GOOD THEOLOGY FLOWS THROUGH RIGHT WORSHIP AND OBEDIENCE
There is a seamless integration between our theology and our worship as well as our obedience. Our worship and obedience are at their best when we rightly understand the truths of God. A few years ago, I wrote a blog highlighting how right theology leads to right doxology. The integration between the two does not flow one way. Right theology leads to right doxology, but right doxology (and obedience) can be traced back to right theology. When we worship God as He desires and when we obediently follow Him, we are doing good theology. Without good theology, our worship would be vain or idolatrous and our obedience would be absent or legalistic.
GOOD THEOLOGY LIVES MISSIONALLY
One cannot spend any amount of time studying God and deny the importance of living missionally. The whole of Scripture illustrates the value that God has placed on missions, but the command to go, teach, and baptize is explicitly issued through Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus commissions His disciples (and us) to the greatest work of our lives when he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” God’s missional purpose for us should be the pinnacle of our living. You simply cannot do good theology while neglecting the mission of God in evangelizing the lost and discipling other brothers and sisters in Christ.
GOOD THEOLOGY CAN BE DONE
It is my sincere prayer that you’ll be encouraged and stirred to do good theology. Study the Scriptures faithfully seeking to lay hold of God’s plan and purpose. Let your worship and obedience be informed by the truth of God’s Word. And unabashedly live on mission seeking to reach the lost and make disciples of Jesus Christ all to the glory of God! Doing good theology is more than reading books and engaging in theological debates. Doing good theology is more than mere theory. Doing good theology is active and actually involves living out the truth of God’s Word. What you know about God should be evident in every aspect of your life! So dear friends, take a little time to probe your own heart and examine your own life. Are you really doing good theology??? If not, it’s not too late to start today!