What is Theology?

March 28, 2021

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Romans 11:33

Theology is one of those words, like doctrine, that seems elusive to most Christians. It is one of those subjects that pastors study in seminary. Right? Yes and no. Seminary students do get a healthy dose of all things theological, but theology should never be limited to the “professionals.”

“Theology,” pure and simple, means the study of God. How can anyone ever understand God?  He is infinite, sinless, sovereign, and invisible. Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908) wrote the lyrics to a hymn that expresses the immensity of God.  The first verse is:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.

So, why would we even attempt to understand an infinite, almighty God? The answer is simple—God wants us to know Him. And even though the task seems daunting, it is worth the resolve to get to know Him better. Robert Browning’s famous quote gives us a hopeful challenge:  “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?” The study of theology might stretch us, but it will also enrich us.

Theology is not just for the professional, it is for every person. If that’s so, how do we learn about God? Perhaps the principal way to know God is to study the Bible, God’s written word. It’s in the Bible that we see what God has revealed about Himself.

In the Bible, we see a God who is powerful, but also personal. He is just, but also merciful. He judges us for our sin, but He also provides a way of salvation through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. He is full of grace and truth. He is the alpha and omega, the first and the last. God is so far above us that we cannot comprehend Him, yet He came to live among us through the incarnation of His Son…so we could know Him.

We can know God through His creation. God is creator. He created the universe and everything in it. He created plants, animals, and people. He created the sun, moon, and stars. Psalms 147:4-5 declares:

He counts the number of the stars;

He gives names to all of them.

Great is our Lord and abundant in strength;

His understanding is infinite.

Likewise, Psalm 33:6 proclaims, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host.”  The same God who created the seemingly endless stars also created the microscopic amoeba. He created the tiny flea, but He also created the great whales. His is a creation of infinite beauty and intricate design.

We can know God by his character. He is loving. God is patient. He is kind. He is good. He is faithful. God is perfect. He is giving. He is infinite. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  (James 1:17). God is wise.

Theologians use words like omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (always present everywhere) to describe God. They say that He is immutable (unchanging) and that He is sovereign. God is holy. The prophet Isaiah witnessed a beautiful glimpse into heaven, in which he saw angels around the throne of God. They were calling out to each other…

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)

The best way to get to know God is through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Examine the claims Scripture makes about Jesus:

  • Jesus asked His disciple, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)
  • “In Him [Jesus] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” (Colossians 2:9)
  • And [Jesus] is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature and upholds all things by the word of His power. (Hebrews 1:3)

Someone has said that Jesus was God with skin on.  In other words, if you want to know God…if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. Today, He sits at the right hand of God.  One day, He will come again to establish His kingdom on earth. But there was a time, about 2,000 years ago that God came in human flesh to live among His creation. That was Jesus, fully human and fully God.

All of these things and more describe our infinite God. He has no beginning and no end. So, while we cannot know all there is to know about God, we can know all we need to know to have a personal relationship with God. This is why we need to know God. This is theology.

All Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.

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