Learning to Love Theology So We Can Love God More Fully
That’s the tricky thing about theology. Sometimes it’s hard to understand (especially when articulated in poetry or lyrics) and we might struggle with certain concepts, but bad theology can be detrimental to our understanding of God and of ourselves. We ought to desire to learn and grow in our understanding of God as much as we can. Not everyone is supposed to be a brilliant theologian, but I truly believe that we’re supposed to grow in our knowledge of God as appropriate for our capacity. God wants us to know him more not only because it affects how we understand ourselves and what God has done, but primarily because our understanding of him should lead us to worship.
The Trinity is a doctrine that I see regularly misrepresented at worse and ambiguously articulated at best in many worship songs. Jesus Culture (a very popular worship band) recently released a song called “No Other Like You (We Will Exalt You)” that declares:
You were innocent and condemned
Broken and you bore our sins
Laid your life down
Through the sacrifice of your Son
The power of death was overcome
Laid your life down
On the cross
This is actually one of the more common errors. The song would be fine if it continued to talk about the Son suffering for our sins, but it instead turns its subject from the Son to the Father, and then thanks that Father for dying on the cross (something he did not do).
This sort of thing happens in prayers all the time. Someone starts praying to the Father and then suddenly thanks him for dying on the cross. Maybe the phrase just came from the compulsion to fill a spontaneous prayer with familiar words, but more than likely it came from bad theology.
And here’s where it can become dangerous: not only do these theological errors reveal that we do not know God to the fullest of our capacity, but it also means that we’re spreading false ideas about God. In fact, that’s why I recommend that people pray explicitly to the Father so that they can learn to thank the Father for what he has done, and then thank the Father for sending Jesus to die for us and rise again, and then thank the Father for the gift of his Holy Spirit.
This all might seem a little daunting or even scary. When we think that we might say something wrong, we tend to not speak at all. I want to encourage you, not to put the fear of talking about God in you. Theology takes time to learn and feel comfortable with, but the benefits are huge. Knowing more about God and who he is and how we talk about what he’s done helps our prayer life, our worship, our efficiency with evangelism, our understanding of the Bible, our level of engagement with sermons, and so much more.
The best part is, you can’t do it alone. You don’t have to be like I was when I was 13, in your room trying to read about the Trinity. When I did that on my own I didn’t learn I ended up believing a heresy about the Trinity. We all need to be constantly working to learn more and therefore be able to worship and serve God better. We improve our theology together at church and in small groups. We read the Scriptures together and pray together so that we can edify and correct each other if we fall into error, but also so that we can worship and glorify God together in truth.
If you want a better prayer life, more effective evangelism, and to worship God better, take some steps to grow more. I think the best steps are to continue attending church, to ask questions when you have them, and to join a small group. Attending church will give you the opportunity to hear Scripture, listen to a sermon, pray, and worship. A small group gives you the opportunity to continue that growth in a space that is specifically designed for us to learn more and therefore do more to advance God’s kingdom.
I want to make one last thing clear: there is a massive difference between spending time reading and talking about God and spending time with God. I thoroughly enjoy reading and talking about God, but if that’s all I do, if I never take that knowledge and apply it to my worship, my conversations with others, my reading of the Bible, and most importantly to my prayers, then all of that knowledge is useless.
For a Christian, theology has one purpose: we learn more about God so that we can worship him more fully. If you lose sight of that, then your labor will be in vain. Most of us are on one extreme or another: either we love theology and struggle to relate with God, or we relate with God well but struggle to grow theologically. We need to be good at both. God willing, we can all grow in both areas together.