“Idle hands are the devils playground.” This applies to theology, as well. If I don’t have worthwhile things to do and think I can get caught up in all sorts of theological musings.
I get caught up in debates like: Could Jesus sin? Why does God allow evil? What is the right atonement theory? Is Scripture inerrant and infallible? If it is not, how can we trust it and how can we know that Jesus is really real?
Because of some of these debates, my cynical side tends toward the notions that theology is impractical. When one of my professors recommended a PhD program for Practical Theology it confirmed my belief. When I looked it up to see what it really was, I discovered is it is the application of theology to everyday life. I like the idea of practical theology. And, in fairness, that is what I think all of theology is trying to accomplish. Theology is trying to make sense of the world, ourselves, and God.
If I believe that God is all powerful and all loving, I have to rectify that with the evil and suffering in the world around me and within me. Theological discussions also help me navigate where I might be avoiding or minimizing the importance of wrath and sin or whatever. Please understand that even these ramblings on this blog are a product of deep theological discussions. I think they are important.
The problem starts when these discussions are not rooted in spiritual growth, transformation, and mission. They then tend toward abstract chatter or distractions. In other words, I feel like I’m accomplishing something when I talk about them. My thoughts turn toward who is in/out, right/wrong, or orthodox/heretic stuff. I set boundaries. Lack of mission activity becomes the devil’s playground.
This changes when I start going out into the world around me. I begin to prayerfully seek how I can live obediently to God’s commandments of love and grace and mercy. Missionally speaking, my theology tells me that God is redemptive. My prayers help reveal how I can be, too. My theology tells me that God is with us in our suffering. My prayers show me where I might demonstrate that presence. My theology tells me that God is loving. My prayers show me why I need to do the same and how to do it.
When I am missionally active, my theology and prayer life get practical. My theology centers on the Great Commission (Matthew 28.16-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22.35-40). It centers on life and love. This is where I find theology the most exciting because it is where I find God most present.
If you are desiring a vibrant and life-giving faith I would like to recommend an active faith. Get involved in the lives of people. You will be driven to prayer and in turn, God will sweep you up and hold you closer.
That’s when theology gets real for me. I think it will help you, too.