Monday, January 4, 2010

We Are All Theologians: The Root of Everything We Are and Do

Everyone is a theologian. Whether your the fundamentalist Mormon who believes polygamy should be legal or an ardent atheists that thinks religion should be banned, everyone is a theologian. Every belief, every moral, every worldview, every conviction, every action, every spoken word, and every thought, is based on one's theology. Everyone is a theologian.

That is the essence of a worldview. When we speak of worldviews, we are really speak of theology. All of the cultural wars, political debates, disagreements, convictions, opinions and shouting matches are the outworkings of a theology. Though most refuse to call it that, it is theology nonetheless.

For example, a man lobbies his local Congressman to support a bill that would ban the spanking of children by their parents or any other adult out of the conviction that it is wrong and abusive. Where does such a conviction come from? According to statistics, it is likely that this individual was spanked himself as most Americans were at some point in their lives. So where does this conviction to ban spanking come from? Dr. Phil? Watching too much Nanny 911? Reading a popular parenting magazine or book? From his own experience as a parent?

No. It is the result of his personal theological convictions.

Our imaginary friend believes that no child under any circumstance should be spanked. This conviction could be rooted in a number of places, but all of them begin with theology. Theology answers big questions with practical implications like who is God (if He is real)? Where did we come from? What is wrong with this world? Why is there so much evil and suffering? What is the solution to this problem? What will the end (if there will be one) be like? What happens when we die? To most Westerners theology is not practical. To them, it is an academic exercise whereby a group of people sit in an ivory tower and debate over ancient documents that have no relevancy for today. But that is not theology.

Our anti-spanking friend is living out his theology. For example, he likely believes that everybody is born inherently good and thus disciple should not be about breaking our evil nature, but encouraging the good that is in us. That is called anthropology. He also likely believes that it is just inherently wrong to strike anyone, especially a child, for any reason. To do so is a type of sin, or harmitology. Right and wrong originate with God. If there is a God, then there must be a right and wrong and He determines what is right and wrong. God is a God of love, not vindictive anger and abuse, our friend likely believes. Therefore, to strike a child, even in the name of disciple, goes against His character.

Everyone is a theologian, whether we want to admit it or not. This implies three things. First, theology is central to truth. It is pointless to debate issues like marriage, war, poverty, global warming, government, policies, and politicians without an understanding that what is being debated is primarily theology. To put theology on the shelf as if it doesn't matter is nonsense. It is always in the forefront.

One of the major disagreements between liberals and conservatives regards anthropology, or the doctrine of man. Liberals understand human nature as inherently good while most conservatives understand human nature as inherently bad. This has immense implications regarding every walk of life: discipline, justice, punishment, growth and size of government, the power of a single or group of politicians, diplomacy and war.

This leads to the second point: theology is relevant. Everything in life is a reflection of our theological assumptions and convictions. I am pro-life because of my convictions on God (theology), man (anthropology), and sin (harmitology). I believe that the solution to the problems of the world (my soteriology) aren't found in politics, policy, environmental activism, sexual liberation, social reformation, or national diplomacy, but in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ is God wrapped in the mystery of the Trinity. That is theology and to think contrary is just as theological. Theology is relevant as it shapes the worldviews in which we live, vote, and raise our children by.

Thirdly, theology is practical. As a pastor, I regularly experience a collective sigh when theology is presented. That is unfortunate and typical of our culture today. What we all want is answers, but by ignoring theology, we are given band-aids rather than cures for our ills. The problem isn't self-esteem, but sin. The problem isn't the need to communicate, but sin. The answer isn't therapy, but repentance. So long as we treat the symptoms, we will never be cured of our disease. But once we embrace the practicality of theology, we can overcome any obstacle.

Theology is ore than an academic exercise for those with a lot of degrees, but is something we all do everyday whether at the grocery store or at the abortion clinic. Everybody is a theologian and everybody has a theology. What does yours say about your God?
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