Teens want our Christianity to be alive. We live in a world full of bright explosions, flipping numbers, and urgent calls from everywhere. There is so much to do, so we want our faith to be powerful, moving, and deeply felt.
So when theology comes up, we might sigh. When discussions about inerrancy or impeccability or any other long i-word comes up, we shrug or settle back into that resigned place inside, holding tension low in our chests and low resentment in our eyes, because it doesn’t seem pertinent.
The word “theology” calls to mind stacks of books, ancient bearded men, and words that you have to dig to the bottom of the dictionary to find. Theology sounds like Latin and smells like dust; stifling any life beneath old, rigid machines that are too clunky for today.
It isn’t for us. Maybe intellectuals can hit ideas back and forth about canonization, and maybe our pastor should understand something about inspiration and inerrancy–but those things aren’t really pertinent to our day-to-day life.
But we’re looking at this all wrong. For teens who want a living, powerful faith that impacts the world, we need theology–and more than every before.For teens who want a living, powerful faith that impacts the world, we need theology--and more than every before. Click To Tweet
1: You Already Have A Theology
Our eyes might glaze over when we hear the word “theology,” but they do the same when we hear “dihydrogen monoxide”–yet we use both every day. Just as we daily use water without recognizing its scientific name, so we daily use theology without recognizing it.
“Theology” literally means “the knowledge of God,” and includes almost everything we think about God an our faith. Our theology is what we think about God, and what we think about God colors the rest of our day-to-day lives.
Theology includes our morals, what we think is right and wrong. Is it ok to cheat on a test? Is it ok to have an abortion to further my career? Is it wrong to fantasize about my girlfriend, since it doesn’t hurt anyone? Our decisions on right and wrong are shaped by our theology–how much does God know, and what does he want us to do and think?
Theology is also tied to our purpose, what God has made us for. Does God have a specific, detailed, personalized plan for my life? Which college should I go to? How should I use my talents? Should I start a relationship? Which clubs should I join? Our plans for the future and current choices are shaped by our theology–what is God’s nature, and his plan for what we do and think?
And of course, theology speaks to the practical side of our faith. How should I pray? Does God really answer prayers? Why do bad things happen; why do I hurt? How do I know the Spirit is leading in my life? Is the Bible written specifically for me? Our faith is shaped by our theology–who is God, and what should we do and think to properly worship him?
These are questions everyone has to answer.
All people have a standard for what is right and wrong, and have an idea of the purpose of their lives. We all have to make things make sense in our heads. Our answers might not be the correct answers, but we must have ones nonetheless. What we think about God (aka, theology) affects all those answers, and those answers affect all our actions. Theology is something we already encounter every day, and everyone has their own theology, regardless of whether or not they recognize it or if it is correct.
Since all the world has a theology, if we want to change the world for Christ, shouldn’t we have a clue of what Christian theology teaches?
2: Theology Keeps You From Error
“Stand for something, or you’ll fall from anything.” If you don’t have your own theology, the world will give you one.
There’s several popular t.v. shows currently that present God as an aloof, rather unfair and fairly incompetent deity. He’s out of touch with modern times, refuses to let people into the Good Place, and can’t really figure out how to make everything work the way it should. That’s a theology. That’s an idea about God and his nature. And while not all theologies of the world are as obvious as that, we must be careful that we don’t let wrong ideas about God shape our views.
There’s a rising movement that wants to use she/her pronouns for God–and it can be easy to shrug our shoulders and say, “Why not?” People make arguments for why Hell isn’t real, why Christ was the first created being, or why we should read the Bible just for moral lessons–and while we might feel that these arguments are wrong, without a proper theology, we won’t be able to quite put our finger on why.
You may never have a conversation with the word “neo-orthodoxy” in it–but you’ll likely have a conversation about whether God is most importantly an experience, something you need to feel to be truly real; or whether there are actual truths and facts about God that we must know, and that are true for everyone. People won’t claim “neo-orthodoxy,” but they’ll claim offshoots of it ideas as they argue that all religions are the same, or that they “just need Jesus, not church.”
These are issues that we face every day. Theology deals with the same topics we discuss with our friends–it just uses bigger words. We need to understand it.
Take one of the most common issues against our faith. We need to understand the inspiration of Scripture–how God wrote the Bible through human authors, without using them as puppets to dictate to, and also without allowing them to add in the wrong ideas of their times–so that we can be sure of the inerrancy of Scripture–that it has no errors or wrong facts in the original copies. Our schools and forums argue that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions. Do you know the Christian arguments for why it isn’t?
Theology serves as Batman’s utility-belt for the Christian. It’s been developed through centuries of challenges against the truth and nature of God, and it’s now available for you to utilize. But if you don’t know it, you can’t use it. Even the flimsiest of arguments against the truth may sway you if you don’t know the mighty towers standing against it. For one who doesn’t see the army behind him, two men with swords are enough to frighten him.Theology serves as Batman’s utility-belt for the Christian. Click To Tweet
So know your true strength. Your faith won’t be alive if it’s strangled by the world’s ideas of God. Learn theology, and “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
3: Theology Makes Your Love For God Alive
We often shy away from theology as something that is dull and boring, just facts about God that will dry up our passion. And that can be true, if we’re seeking knowledge simply for knowledge’s sake. But really, learning theology should help us seek a relationship. Jen Wilken, speaking on women digging deeper into God, pointed out, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”
Knowledge is needed in a relationship. As you’re dating someone, you’re seeking to know them. I ask my boyfriend about his thoughts on topics, what he cares about, and what he hates–not to gather enough information to define him in an encyclopedia, but because I want to be in a relationship with him, and know who he is. Shouldn’t it be the same with God? When we interact with strangers, we ask them questions about their work or homes to show we care about them as people. Shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to God?
When we know more about God, it brings us closer to Him, giving us more to delight in.
When we see better how He is outside of time, we can better be in awe of how he takes time for us. When we understand better how he gave and preserved his Word through the Bible, we can better rejoice in the fact that we have a God who comes and talks to us. When we see more clearly his glory and his majesty, we like both Isaiah and John, may better fall on our faces, declaring that he only is worthy of all praise and honor and glory.
As teens, theology isn’t something that we often consider or are taught. But we need it. It permeates our life and our choices, it keeps us from errors, and it helps us to delight in God. Theology is the knowledge of God, and we need to know him. That’s what we were designed to do, to walk by him day by day, better understanding him as we do.
And we’re not doing this alone. You’re not the only one in this relationship. As you seek to understand and know God better, he’s coming closer too. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
So teens, let’s do the hard thing, and learn theology, knowing God better so that we may also understand ourselves, our purpose, and our world. Learn theology, and learn to know God. Only through knowing him can we find strength to fight the wrongs of the world, only through knowing him can we understand our place, and only through knowing him can we hold out hope to the world. Learn theology, and have your faith be alive.
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).