Stained glass

Homegrown Theologians

Just because it doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. –Adrian Rogers, pastor and author

The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Exodus 16:3 (NASB)

How do you picture theologians? Do you envision a gruff old guy holding his glasses as he leans over a pulpit? Or a stained glass saint surrounded by a yellow halo? How about a cabaret singer wearing a sombrero?

Many of us mistakenly think that theology is the meat of scholars alone, but we’re all homegrown theologians of sorts. All of that high, intelligent stuff isn’t just for gray-haired scholars who have impressive titles and long lists of letters surrounding their names—those who can explain the nuances of Greek grammar, and who use big, confusing words like soteriology.

Theology, you see, is essentially “the study of God’s nature and how He interacts with our world.”

We’re All Theologians

While some people deliberately make time and effort to search for truth, others simply swallow what they’re told by the “experts.” (An expert, we’re led to believe, is someone who carries a briefcase or wears a lab coat.)

Regardless of where we get our knowledge, we’re all theologians because we’ve all formed opinions about the nature of God and His interaction with people. The Israelites who came out of Egypt were theologians—they had opinions about how God interacts with humans—but their theology was dead wrong, sending an entire generation to a wilderness graveyard.

Can we see that every one of us needs to have an accurate perspective of God?

It’s a huge mistake to think that all theology must be complex. Our Creator is the God of the blue collar worker as much as He is of the scholar. One simple way to guard against bad theology is to watch for what we might call a spirit of elitism. An organization steeped in human wisdom will always be led by the elite—those untouchable, unreachable individuals who alone possess an intimate knowledge of God.

This isn’t to say that Christian ministries and organizations are meant to be leaderless, or that leaders must be uneducated or ineffective to be humble. Christian leaders, however, should always be servants who seek not to proclaim their own greatness, but to lift others to new heights.

Our Opinions about God Matter

Is there a more important arena of understanding than our perception of God?

Who we believe God is—or isn’t—influences everything we do! How many people run from God when they are struggling? How many have walked away from the Christian faith because the God of the Old Testament appears to be unjust? Many more profess a love for God—people who genuinely want to believe—but struggle with secret doubts because particular doctrines simply don’t make sense to them.

Knowing the character and nature of God is a prerequisite for knowing how God relates to humanity. Why? Because God’s wisdom is far above human ways of thought, His actions don’t always resonate with our natural minds. If, however, we have an accurate perception of who God is, we can still live by faith—even when our circumstances don’t seem to line up with our understanding.

I think that one of the greatest faith statements of the Bible was made by Job in the midst of unimaginably painful and confusing circumstances:

Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Job 13:15a (NASB)

Job thought his situation was unfair. He couldn’t see how the God he served would allow such horrible circumstances in the life of His faithful servant. And yet, Job knew the character of God, enabling him to stay the course through seemingly endless days of pain and confusion.

In spite of his situation, Job knew that God was good and completely worthy of his trust. A generation of Israelites disbelieved and died in the wilderness because of their wrong theology, while Job continued to believe in the midst of worse circumstances. Long before the pages of the Bible were penned, Job understood the character of God.

 Recognizing God for Who He Is

The wilderness, my friends, rarely makes sense, but God is who He is regardless of what we think. Thus, a wise person will avoid the temptation to try to remake God according to his or her own imagination. That’s why we must all become wise theologians.

The burden falls on us to dig deep into the Scriptures and to spend time praying at His feet, crying out to know Him and His ways.

If with honest and open hearts, we fervently seek to know God, He will surely reveal Himself to us, thereby establishing our faith on rock-solid ground.