5 reasons Christian teens should study theology
What is theology? Why should I study it? Where do I begin?
When I was in high school, there was a popular song by a Christian band proclaiming that theology wasn’t needed in order to know that God was good to them (ironically, knowing 'God is good' is a theological statement).
So, why should anyone study theology? That’s what we’re going to talk about in this article. The first part will briefly define theology, giving an overview of the basic areas of study, while the second part will provide five reasons why Christian teens (and anyone else, too) should study theology.
What is theology? Why should I study it?
The word 'theology' comes from a combination of Greek words, theos, which means “god”, and logos, which has to do with “reason”, “discourse”, or “speaking about something”. In a narrow way, theology is the study of who God is and what God is like. But since God is a God who creates and who acts in the world, theology includes much more. Theology, then, is the study of God, His creation, and His work in creation.
There are ten main areas in theology that people study:
- God – The study of God’s existence, who God is, and what God is like
- Christ – The study of the person, life, work, and ministry of Jesus Christ
- Holy Spirit –The study of the person and work of the Holy Spirit
- Scripture – The study of God’s revelation to us through the Bible (special revelation) and the world (general revelation)
- Humanity – The study of human nature
- Salvation – The study of what God is and has been doing throughout the history of the world in order to redeem His people and creation
- Sin – The study of the nature of sin and its effects on people and the world
- Church – The study of the formation, structure, leadership, and nature of the church
- Angels – The study of angels and demons
- Last Things – The study of prophecy, heaven, hell, and judgment. .
Now that we know what theology is, let’s change gears and look at five reasons why Christians should study theology.
Reason 1: Everything is theological
Perhaps the most basic, but not always obvious, reason for studying theology boils down to the fact that everything is theological. Everything comes down to how a person answers the question of God.
- Does God exist?
- If God exists, who is He and what’s He like?
- How are we humans to respond to Him?
- How does God want us to treat His creation and other people?
It’s from questions such as these that we build our worldviews. But how might this play out in everyday living?
Suppose you are faced with a situation where your friends are making fun of another person. How might you respond? The Bible teaches that everyone should be treated with respect because they are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-28; 9:6; and James 3:8-9). In this case, our theology, which is based on Scripture, informs us of how we are to treat other people (see reason 4 below for a fuller explanation).
Reason 2: To know what you believe and why you believe it
Sadly, many Christians have never taken the time to think through what they believe, which can be dangerous. Suppose I believe that the moon is made of green cheese. Just because I believe that green cheese is what the moon is made up of doesn’t make it so. In the same way with our theology, just because I believe something doesn’t necessarily make it the case. Christians are called to study so they can "correctly handle the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). Moreover, studying what we believe, and why we believe it, helps us recognize how Christianity is different from other worldviews and religions in the world.
Reason 3: To defend the faith and guard against false teaching
Not only should Christians know what it is that they believe and why they believe it, it’s also important for Christians to know these things in order to defend Christian truth claims (apologetics). Jesus’ disciple, Peter, tells believers that they are to “be prepared” and “make a defense” for the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15). Jude, Jesus half-brother, calls on Christians to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3). Jesus warns believers to watch out for false teachers. Sometimes they may look like sheep, but often they’re wolves in disguise (Matt 7:15). Paul, too, tells believers to watch out for “vain” philosophies that are grounded in “human tradition” and not Christ (Colossians 2:1-4, 8).
Reason 4: Our beliefs impact our actions
I’ve once heard it said that “ideas have legs.” That’s true, and Paul seems to think so, too. In the book of Romans (Romans 12:1-2), Paul urges Christians not to “conform” to how the world works and thinks. But how are Christians to do this? By renewing their minds! Renewing our minds transforms us. Prayer, study, worship, and reflection are all ways in which we renew our minds. When we engage in theology, we are participating in renewing our minds by studying and thinking hard about God, his world, and God’s work in the world.
Reason 5: As a means of worship
Lastly, theology is ultimately about worship. When asked by a teacher of the Jewish law about which of the commandments was the greatest, Jesus responded by saying that we are to love God with every ounce of our being—including our minds (Mark 12:28-30). Everything that we do should be done in order to know God and to glorify Him through our lives.
Now that we know what theology is and why it’s important to study, let’s jump in and do it!
Where to study
You can study theology online, or at evening courses or Bible Colleges. There's loads of ways to get a great theological education. Check out some of these options:
- Fervr Christian College Guide
- Liberty University (USA ... and where I work!)
- Biola University (USA)
- The Timothy Partnership (Online)
- Youthworks College (Australia)
- Oak Hill College (UK)