What is theology? Why should anyone study theology? (Isn't that boring?)

That's a fair question. Sometimes when I tell people my favorite area of study is theology, they have little or no idea what I mean. "Geology?", they ask, or "Geography?" Having been a Christian since the 1970s—and a student of theology nearly as long—it's easy for me to forget that "theology" isn't the sort of word the average person bandies about!

Yet it's not just non-believers who may be fuzzy on the meaning of theology. Many Christians are either unaware—or sometimes even negatively disposed. "All I need is the Bible—not those other books", they may object. Others insist that they want to know God, not know about him. But why is this? Why not both?

Theology is the study of religious faith, practice, and experience, especially the study of God and of God's relation to the world (Merriam-Webster). Is this is true, shouldn't it be the most important area of all possible areas of study? After all, as Chesterton put it, "Theology is only thought applied to religion (“The Groups of the City,” in The New Jerusalem).

Paul Ricœur spoke of “the first naïveté”—the illusion that there is no distance of time, culture, or  between us and the text. It's the illusion that I have no interpretive lens. But of course we do! Theology sharpens our understanding God and his world through the lens of scripture. I find this tremendously exciting. Other fascinating disciplines are also often involved, such as history, archaeology, philosophy, logic, literature, ancient languages, and geography (and sometimes even geology!). Theology integrates multiple arenas of knowledge. It helps us make sense of reality. It fortifies us against errant notions of God and twisted views of scripture, and promotes human flourishing. This is far from boring! It's dynamic and riveting. The ocean is immeasurably deeper than the shallows beyond which (sadly) some seldom venture.

So how about this explanation? Theology entails a commitment to observe, study, and delight in God's world, work, and Word. All believers have theological perspectives and commitments. Those who teach or lead others stand to benefit from basic theological training, especially in how to interpret scripture—as do those whom they influence.

Let's all keep growing in our knowledge of the Lord, his Word, and his world (2 Pet 1:4; 3:18). Let's demonstrate the vitality of the Christian faith so that others may come to know God's love for them.