Theology is the study of religious faith and practice, as well as the study of God, His nature and works, and His relation to the world. Since the beginning of time, man has struggled with such foundational questions as “Is there a God?” and “Why am I here?” Theology attempts to provide answers to those and many more questions.
The study of theology is different than that of other topics. Science, for example, aims to identify and classify observable facts in a controlled environment, while theology is the study of a deity that cannot be seen. In addition, theology branches off in different denominational and cultural directions; science seeks a single, universally applicable explanation.
Why study theology? — Benefits to the Christian
For Christians, the study of theology is undeniably linked to the study of the Bible, which is of the utmost importance for their spiritual growth and sanctification. Proverbs 2:6 tells us, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” In addition, Proverbs 9:10 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” We see that, to gain wisdom, we must know God and listen to His words—and the record of what God has said and done is in the Bible. The study of biblical theology rewards the student with more than wisdom, however: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).
The study of theology involves a careful reading of Scripture, but the element of faith is necessary, too. Without faith in Christ, any study of theology is merely academic. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Fortunately, it is through the Word of God that faith comes: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17). Spiritual understanding and, ultimately, faith are found within the pages of the Bible.
Why study theology? —World Religions
More broadly, the study of theology can include the study of other religions besides Christianity and other religious texts besides the Bible. An added benefit to the Christian of this type of study is that of understanding other religions and cultures. By taking time to learn what people of other faiths believe, the Christian can better witness to them of Christ. Peter says to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Giving a reason for our hope implies we have at least a basic knowledge of theology. And, if we are to anticipate the common questions people of other faiths have, we must study the theology of those faiths, too. A study of the theology of world religions allows the Christian to bridge the gap of understanding, hopefully building common ground and dispelling falsehood.
Why study theology? —Apologetics
Apologetics is the giving of a reasonable defense of the Christian faith, and good apologetics is grounded in theology. Apologetics takes more of a scientific look at the Christian faith and seeks to defend it in a world that is growing ever more antagonistic. The conversion of such men as Lee Strobel and C. S. Lewis have hinged on a personal study of apologetics and theology.
Why study theology? —Conclusion
Students of theology are seeking truth, and, in doing so, they find themselves in the esteemed company of the Bereans: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). By studying theology, the born-again student strengthens his faith (Colossians 2:6–7), grows in his knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18), participates in his sanctification (John 17:17; Psalm 119:9), discerns truth from error (Psalm 119:160), and equips himself for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).