Theology is a word that seems to bring terror to some people’s hearts, cause others to roll their eyes back in their head and, at the very least, make some folks think of a deranged, reclusive, scholarly pastor sitting amid a room full of books reading under candlelight. And that’s just the effects it has on Christians. Now, I do take humbrage at that last image – I am not reclusive. I am a theology geek, however, but a strange one. Theology, being what we think and say about God, means nothing unless it is played out through our mouths, hands and feet. Theology as something we think can be important, but theology as something we do – well, now, that’s just plain powerful.
Fear of theology is usually based on some sense of inadequacy, as is the reaction of rolling our eyes back in our heads. Why feel inadequate? I guess, because there are so many others who think more eloquently than we do. Eloquent thoughts are fine and good but, as St Francis was wont to point out, actions are far more eloquent than words. Translated and paraphrased, St Francis said, “Go out into all the world and preach the gospel and, if you have to, use words.” What communicates our beliefs more completely than saying what we believe if it isn’t acting as if we believe it?
Of course, the starting point for doing theology is figuring out what each of us do, in fact, believe about God. Now, as a pastor, I do not believe it’s my job to tell you what to believe – even though I know that goes against the grain. I do not think it is the least bit valuable to God for everyone to believe the same thing. Will a pastor working in an inner city mission have the same theology as a missioner to Zimbabwe? Will an organist of a suburban church have the same theology as a youth ministry director of a small, agricultural town in Iowa? While in each of these lives theology is being acted on, the underlying belief system will not be universal. Yes, there will be common tenets, but the differences are what prompt each to live out their faith in different ways. My job, as a pastor, is to walk beside people as they search for their own theology and, hence, their own way of living into the Kingdom or Realm of God.
So, I think, there’s a very important question we must ask ourselves. Does the way we live our daily lives reflect what we believe about God and, if we’re Christian, does it reflect to the world what we believe about Christ? An interesting exercise is to work alongside someone for an extended period of time, while not telling them a single thing about what you believe except possibly that you are Christian, and then ask them to tell you what they think you believe. Now, of course, a little of their own theology will flow into their perception of you but, overall, should not someone be able to see the basics of our theology in how we live and act?