What is Theology?
Here's the basic definition- The study of God, the nature of God, and God's relation to the world.
Why does it matter?
What we believe about our Creator determines what we believe about ourselves and mankind as God's Image-bearers. If we believe our Father is a spiteful, schizophrenic, hothead Who is out to get us and punish most of us in eternal, conscious torment for trillions of years times INFINITY for 13-120 years of sins, it's no wonder that plenty of people really don't like Him and each other; and actually revel in the notion of their neighbors suffering indescribable horrors for eternity.
Genocidal people quite often believe in a genocidal deity. Religious Misogynists believe in a god who thinks little of women. Warmongers so often believe in a god of war, death, and destruction. Throughout history, racism has reared its ugly head as the fruit of belief in a god who practices extreme favoritism and created one group of people greater than some or all others. A belief in that sort of "god" is an evil catalyst for ethnic cleansing, slavery, apartheid, and all manner of wickedness. If we believe horrible things about God while believing that we bear His Image, it's no wonder that "Lady Gaga" theology has swept the earth and multitudes are singing, "I was born this way!". Pseudo-gods make great scapegoats for all manner of twisted human behavior.
Conversely, if we truly believe that God is Love, and infinitely more caring, merciful, kind, compassionate, and perfect than us, we'll think much more of Him, ourselves, and our neighbors; regardless of how much His Image may be marred through us and them.
"I don't need Theology. All I need is the Holy Spirit and a Bible!"
Well, congratulations! You've just made a theological statement, declaring that you believe in the third Person of the Trinity and your relationship with Him, along with having a strong respect for your understanding of all things "Bible".
It's my earnest conviction that we all need a personal theology which allows for spiritual and intellectual growth, experimentation, and "works in the dirt". Why does it have to be "personal"? I'm so glad you asked! Simply put, we can only live by what has been made real to us, not grandma, a "pastor", a Christian celebrity, or anyone else. I'm going to go out on an additional limb and dare to say that grandma, "the pastor", and Christian celebrities still have eons before they get beyond the surface of God's Love and Beauty, revealed through Jesus Christ, Who lives in our hearts, yet the universe can't contain. Here's something even more scandalous. Grandmas, pastors, and Christian celebrities can sometimes be WRONG. This is why we need a personal theology which is being formed through a personal relationship with ABBA. Human input is extremely important, because God reveals Himself through people. Nevertheless, if it isn't personal, it's not going to empower, sustain, and enlarge us from faith to faith and glory to glory. It's impossible to receive and give LOVE we don't believe we were created to personify.
Image? What's the big deal?
In Genesis 1:26-27, the Bible says,
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our IMAGE, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God created man in His own IMAGE, in the IMAGE of God He created him; male and female He created them.
As you've just read, IMAGE is very important to God. If we're not seeing Him right (with His perfect Male AND FEMALE ATTRIBUTES), we most certainly won't be viewing ourselves and our neighbors through the correct lens. The better we see Him, the better we'll see ourselves and our neighbors!
Why did God begin the Ten Commandments with a strong message about IMAGE?
Exodus 20:1-4 says,
Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before Me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
Here, the Perfect Image (Father, Son, & Spirit), in which we were created, issued a stark warning about other IMAGES/idols. Why? Because He doesn't want us beholding, becoming, and behaving like anything less than the Masterpieces He created us to be! Have you ever walked out of an action movie, ready to knock a bad guy's block off or walked out of a "Rom Com" ready to capture your "prince's" heart? Images are powerful! If you can relate, I'm going to suggest that there are much better things in store for us all, as we behold JESUS, Who, alone, is the Brightness of our Father's Glory and the express IMAGE of His Person! See Hebrews 1:1-3.
In John 14:9, Jesus said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."
No one else could or can lay hold of that claim 100%! Not Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, or any other prophets. NO ONE! IMAGE is SO IMPORTANT, and JESUS ALONE is the Perfect Image and the Perfect Human- GOD INCARNATE! The more we see HIM, the more we see what ABBA looks like, along with the Image to which we are being, and shall be, conformed.
What do His image-bearers look like?
I submit that meditating on the following two passages would be a good start in answering that question.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
1 And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 And opening His mouth He began to teach them, saying, 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
That's sounds difficult! How in the world can that be achieved?
For starters, that's not about what you or I need to do in order to look like our indwelling, all-encompassing, ever-present Father Who is Love! That's what folks look like when they see their TRUE SELVES in JESUS, Who is God's Perfect Image and Logic (Logos), and simply yield to His Perfection within!
This present world can be likened to a mirror house at a carnival. If you don't know what that is, just picture a large room filled mirrors that purposely distort and disfigure who you truly are whenever you gaze into them.
Check out what the following passages have to say about the perfect Mirror.
"For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
2 Corinthians 3:18
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
The "Word", "Mirror", and "Glass" described in these passage refer to Jesus, Who alone is the Perfect Logic/Logos of God, the Brightness of His Glory, and the express IMAGE of His Person. When we gaze upon Jesus, we behold our truest DNA, who we are in Him, and the endless Love available to ourselves and all mankind! The seeing reveals who we already are, through the finished work of Christ, and enables us to think, speak, act, and be experientially restored into the normal humans we were created to be.
In a way, we are like live motion picture cameras. What we focus on is what we project. That's why false images are such an abomination to God. Our Father, Who is LOVE, wants us to see ourselves as He sees us! His desire is for us to behold and become who we already are!
Ephesians 3:20-21 says,
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or IMAGINE, according to the power that works in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Imagining requires Imagination, which requires the perfect IMAGE/ICON.
That IMAGE is JESUS!
Hebrews 12:1-2 says,
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, LOOKING UNTO JESUS the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
What's going to bring the great cloud of witnesses (all who have gone on before us) delight? A people who are laser-focused on JESUS! What stops sin (mistaken human identity and its corresponding actions) in its tracks? You guessed it! Focusing on JESUS.
Matthew 22:15-22 is a very interesting passage. Check this out!
Then the Pharisees went and counseled together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. “Tell us therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? “Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” And hearing this, they marveled, and leaving Him, they went away.
Here's the crux of the matter. Give Caesar the coin that bears his image, and give GOD what bears His Image- YOU, as seen in the magnificence of Christ!
Peace and Love!
Theologian, Peacemaker, & Lover of All God's Children