People contemplating the idea of studying a Christian program (and Christians at large) ask, "What does theology mean?"
Theology is commonly defined as the study of God, but the word’s etymology has special meaning for Christian theologians. The term is a compound of the Greek theos (God) and logia (words). While it’s easy to see how this comes to mean the “study of God,” God and words have always had a particular place in Christianity. Not only do we as Christians use words to describe God, but it’s through his word -- both the Son and the Bible -- that we learn about and come to know God.
Coming to know God through his word is what makes theology so central to the Christian faith. Knowing the right doctrines and being able to identify heresies is certainly important, but the ultimate purpose of studying God is so that we might know him more. And, that has multiple benefits.
Renewing the Mind Leads to Transformed Lives
First, Paul makes a connection between the way we think and how we live in Romans 12:2. He writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” We are called to follow Jesus’ example, and to grow up, as individuals and a community, into “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13).The way we accomplish this transformation is (at least partly) through renewing our mind.
In Colossians 3, Paul further expounds on this point: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” He goes on to illustrate his meaning in more detail, writing, “Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature...And overall these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” The details of what’s put off and put on are more explicit, but the gist is that we turn from our sinful ways to Christ’s peaceful way through the renewal of our minds.
Lest there be any doubt as to the role that studying Scripture has in this transition, Paul closes the section with “let the message of Christ dwell among you richly, as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom….”
Studying God’s Word Leads to Wisdom
Second, both the Romans and Colossians passages reveal that a byproduct of studying God’s word is wisdom. In Romans, Paul explains the purpose of transformation and renewal as being in order that we will be able to “test and approve what God’s will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The teaching in Colossians is done “with all wisdom.”
The search for wisdom, or the understanding of God’s will, has been an ages-long quest and it’s one that every Christian (if not every person) continues to pursue today. Theology is the path to follow.
Theology Leads to Doxology
Finally, the outflow of theology is doxology -- or the praise of God. In theology, we don’t study just to memorise doctrines and know right from wrong. We come to have a deeper relationship with God, and that causes us to respond with praise and worship. Paul noted this in Colossians, writing that our teaching of one another is to take place through (or be accompanied by) psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit,” and is to result in us “singing to God, with gratitude in your hearts.”
At Morling College, this is how we answer the question: "What does theology mean?" We study theology so that our faculty, staff and students might lead transformed lives that are filled with wisdom and praise. We’d love to hear from you if you are interested in joining us on that journey.