You’ve likely heard it said that Christians don’t need theology, they just need Jesus. The argument is that theology leads to division, but Christ is what unites us. Therefore, instead of focusing on silly doctrine, we should turn our focus wholly on Christ.
But did you know that this statement is a theological statement in and of itself? And not only that, but it actually reveals a very bad theology. It suggests that the person making the statement actually knows very little about who Jesus is and is content to remain that way. Perhaps only a fool fallen privy to the lies of Satan would believe that having a correct theology about Christ is unnecessary and effectively useless.
By definition, theology is the study of God. It is objectively unavoidable that everyone has a theology because everyone believes something about God. Even the atheist believes God to be important enough to frame his entire worldview around the lack of His existence. He even goes so far as to label himself as “anti-God” because of what he believes to be true about God.
And this goes for anyone. All people ascribe to a religion; therefore, all people have a theology. This is because we have been created in the image of God. There is an innate propensity within us to pursue a theology as a means to understand the world around us. It’s part of our makeup to draw conclusions about mankind, creation, nature, religion, and God Himself.
The difference between Christians and the rest of the world, though, is that our source for these conclusions is scripture. Don’t you think that if Christians are to be set apart from the world that it is, then, our responsibility to ensure that our theology aligns with what is revealed in God’s Word?
Take the following statement, for example: God is love.
What does that mean?
A progressive “Christian” or a universalist might conclude that the attribute of God’s love surpasses all others, causing Him to not only overlook sin but to “lovingly” welcome unrepentant sinners into His kingdom. This theological view would only be derived from a worldly definition of love rather than from scripture.
Only from scripture can we glean the true meaning of the fact that God is love.
John writes in 1 John 4 that God is love, but he emphasizes that God is also “holy, holy, holy” in Revelation 4. Therefore, because God is holy, He is also love. God affirms both His holiness, which demands justice for sinners, and His love for humanity, revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, through the Gospel message. God loves but He also punishes sin – not because He is unloving but because He is holy.
This is the difference between biblical theology and bad theology.
Contrary to popular opinion, having biblical theology doesn’t make us old, stuffy biblical scholars. Having biblical theology makes us more like Christ, having a greater understanding of who He is. It also protects us from the prowling devil who seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8).
Through a right understanding of Christ, our sin, and His salvation, our yoke becomes easier and our burdens become lighter. The wisdom He gives us through His word serves as a sword, preparing us for battle against the enemy.
Paul writes to Timothy that by persisting in the teaching of the scriptures, he will save both himself and those who hear him (1 Timothy 4:16). John forbids us in 1 John 4 from believing every spirit, so that we might test the spirits to see whether they are from God.
How can we do this without proper theology? How can we do this without searching the scriptures for what is true, as the Bereans did in the early Church? Right theology not only aids us in understanding the person of Christ but it also protects us from error.
Many “Christians” today find it easy to claim the name of Christ yet show no desire to actually obey Him. They say things like “We don’t need theology, we just need Jesus,” and shape Jesus to be whoever they want Him to be because their theology is actually terrible.
At one time in history, we held meetings to debate theological issues. We used scripture to defend our arguments, and we ostracized heretics who deviated from essential doctrine. Today, we embrace them as part of the Church, and in doing so, we have blurred the lines regarding what it means to be a Christian.
Does being a Christian simply mean to believe in Jesus?
Mormons believe in Jesus. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in Jesus. Even Muslims believe in Jesus. What makes the Christian’s belief in Jesus a saving belief (or faith) in Jesus?
It is the Christian’s theology which is derived from scripture rather than the world. The Jesus they believe in is the biblical Jesus — the Jesus who is fully God and fully man, the Savior and the Messiah, sent to earth from heaven to save sinners.
It is a non-negotiable that Christians know God as He is presented in His Word. “No creed but Christ” doesn’t go very far if the Christ the Christian believes in isn’t the true Christ. Only right theology offers us a proper understanding of Him, thus leading to knowledge for our salvation and our sanctification. It offers us eternal peace and joy, and it serves as a shield of protection against the enemy.
We should all be theologians because we need good theology. Anyone who denies this might do well to examine themselves to see if they really love the Lord at all.
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Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.