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Theology: The Missing Piece in Discipleship

By Jen Wilkin and J. T. English

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko:

How Did We Get Here?

If a disciple is a learner, a disciple maker is a teacher. But we cannot teach what we’ve never been taught. We cannot transmit to another generation what hasn’t been transmitted to us. We won’t aspire to teach anyone the basic beliefs of our faith if we don’t first consider ourselves to be theologians. So why don’t we? Why do many avoid taking up the task of learning doctrine? It could be because we’ve believed one of the following lies.

Lie 1: Theology is for academics.

Sometimes theology can be overly academic, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be accessible. Doctrine should be accessible to everyone: to kids, to parents, to young professionals, to people with PhDs or those with GEDs.

Lie 2: Theology is impractical.

Everyone—Christians and non-Christians alike—wants to live a life that makes sense. We want to give our lives to what matters most.

If theology is simply words about God, and God is the most important being—the ultimate Reality—is there anything that matters more? And is there anything more practical? If theology is understanding who God is and orienting our lives to him, is there anything more important? No, there’s nothing more practical than a life well lived, and theology is God’s ordained means to that end.

Lie 3: Theology is heartless.

Some think theology emphasizes thinking, not feeling. This is true in part. But it’s more accurate to say theology begins with the mind and moves to the heart. Doing theology is the work of mind renewal for the purpose of heart transformation (Rom. 12:2). Christianity isn’t a religion of the mind only—some cold, dead, and dusty intellectual exercise. But neither is it a religion of the heart only—all emotion and fervor, and no reasoned belief.

A more biblical theology doesn’t worship the life of the mind but rather acknowledges that “the heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” Theology fails if it’s an intellectual exercise only. Theology functions properly if an enlivened intellect fuels an enlivened heart. It recognizes the beauty of reason in the life of faith and it gives to reason a vocabulary and a vision. Thinking deeply about God should always result in feeling deeply about God. Theology that doesn’t lead to doxology (worship) isn’t theology at all but a vain pursuit of knowledge.

Lived Theology: The Key for Discipleship

So is theology academic? It can be. But it’s meant to be accessible to all disciples. Is theology impractical? Far from it. Knowing and loving God well is the most practical thing in the world. Does theology lack feeling? Not at all. True theology always leads to loving and worshiping God.

Theology matters because it shapes us not merely at the intellectual level but at the emotional and the practical level. It has a holistic effect on our lives: we think differently, feel differently, and act differently as a result of developing better categories for understanding God.

What is theology? Words about God.

Who does theology? Everybody.

We’re doing theology when we preach, pray, and sing, but we’re also doing theology when we go to work, take a vacation, care for an aging parent, fight sin, raise kids, mourn the loss of a loved one, spend our money, and grow old.

Why does theology matter? Because living well matters, and that’s the heart of discipleship.

Article excerpt taken from The Gospel Coalition (U.S. Edition). Read the full resource here:

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