For some in our congregations, theology can seem like an intimidating subject. Many folks view theology as inaccessible—assuming the theological task is reserved for a special few and believing the lie that they are not well-read enough or smart enough to practice meaningful theology. But when we understand that theology is the study of God and all things in relation to God, we recognize it is a journey for everyone.
As we set out on the adventure of contemplating God and all things in relation to him, we will be transformed. Moreover, this transformation should be a transformation into Christlikeness leading to spiritual fruit. To state it plainly, the life of the mind can, and should, lead to the fruit of the Spirit. The result of theology done well should be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
Here are three biblical reminders to help people in your congregation see theology is a journey for every believer:
Think about these things (Philippians 4:8)
You possess something of immense value—your attention. The world wants it, and it will throw much at you to get it. There are folks whose primary job is to continually maintain and upgrade sophisticated algorithms to guarantee that your attention will stay fixed on your phone. Neil Postman was correct in his incredibly insightful book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” when he warned that we are people in danger of simply becoming an audience. The world is a stage where your gaze and attention are the commodity.
For this reason and countless others, Paul’s conclusion to his letter to the Philippians is just as relevant today as it was in first-century Philippi. Concluding his letter, Paul instructs the saints at Philippi, saying, “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
What Paul understood, and what we must understand, is that whatever we give our attention to will form us as people. If our minds stay on the ever-changing and increasingly shallow events of our culture, we will continue to decline in our wisdom and reasonableness as followers of Christ. However, if we let Paul’s command sink into our lives and have the self-control to look up and out of the dizzying array of distractions surrounding us, giving instead a hard, sustained look at that which is good, true, and beautiful, we may be transformed into wise and stable men and women.
Be transformed (Romans 12:2)
Paul’s letter to the Philippians was not the only place where he made clear the connection between our thought lives and our actions. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul writes: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). Renewing our minds has the power to transform us so that we might be wise and able to discern the will of God, finding what is good and perfect.
It is sad that in our day theology often receives the caricature of being obsolete. Some discuss theology as if it is a pastime for those who are out of touch, an irrelevant exercise providing nothing more than intellectual stimulation.
But contemplating God in Christian theology is no mere intellectualism. On the contrary, setting our minds on God and all things in relation to God allows us to gaze at him who is love. In so doing, we will be transformed by the renewal of our minds. A mind full of truth should lead to a heart full of love and hands full of care.
Behold the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18)
In this glorious chapter, Paul contrasts the saints of the old covenant and those of the new. He recalls the scene in which Moses, after seeing the goodness of the Lord in Exodus 33, comes down from Mount Sinai with his face veiled so that he might not startle the other Israelites. Paul says that reading the old covenant is like attempting to look at God through a veil, like Moses. On the contrary, seeing God in the face of Jesus Christ is like seeing God with the veil removed so that we can behold his beauty and splendor uninhibited.
Paul writes, “We all, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
It is easy to miss Paul’s progression here, but it is important for us to see his argument unfold. Working backwards through this verse helps the meaning come forward:
- The Holy Spirit ministers to us by giving us,
- The grace to move from one degree of glory to another,
- Until we are transformed into the same glorious image of Jesus Christ,
- Which occurs as we behold his glory.
This passage is brimming with beauty. One of the greatest benefits of Christian theology is simply beholding the glory of God. And one of the most practical things you can do in your life—counter to the idea that theology is an irrelevant ivory-tower pastime—is catch an eyeful of God’s grandeur and grace. This is the vision we can give our congregations. While we should always attempt to work out our theology and ask important questions like “How can I live this truth out today?” we should not forget that there is immense wisdom in simply beholding this great God of ours. When we behold him, we begin to look like him, as we are transformed from one degree of glory to another.
May we have strong minds and gentle spirits that seek to use Christian theology for the glory of God and the good of others. May the task of Christian theology give us even a small taste of heaven on earth as we join in that eternal joy of gazing upon the glory of our Lord. May our theology be the death of the works of the flesh and the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. May the life of the mind lead to the life of the soul in all of us as we spend our days contemplating God and all things in relation to God.
Adapted with permission from an excerpt of Fruitful Theology by Ronni Kurtz. Copyright 2022, B&H Publishing.