Why Everyone Needs Theology
Whenever we speak about God we are engaged in theology. The term "theology" means a word (logos) about God (theos), so when anyone speaks about God, whether that person dropped out of high school or completed a PhD in philosophy, he or she is engaged in theology. Theology is not reserved for those in the academy; it is an aspect of thought and conversation for all who live and breathe, who wrestle and fear, who hope and pray.
Theological questions surround our lives, whether we know it or not. A wife and husband facing infertility inevitably struggle through deep theological questions, whether or not they want to voice them. College students working through issues of identity, culture, politics and ethics struggle—in one way or another—with theological convictions and how to live them. Our concepts about the divine inform our lives more deeply than most people can trace. Whether we view God as distant or near, as gracious or capricious, as concerned or apathetic, the conclusions we reach—whether the result of careful reflection or negligent assumptions—guide our lives.
Christians must care deeply about theology. If the true God is renewing our lives and calling us to worship him "in spirit and truth" (John 4:23), then such worship includes our thoughts, words, affections and actions. Do we want to worship Yahweh or waste time and effort on a deity we have constructed in our own image? Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872), a nineteenth-century atheist philosopher, argued that talk about God is no more than amplified talk about ourselves: "God" is merely the projection of human thoughts and desires. Surprising as it may seem, Christians share a fundamental concern with Feuerbach, for we recognize the temptation to create our own gods, gods that belong to us rather than to respond faithfully to the One who is ….
Theological reflection is a way of examining our praise, prayers, words and worship with the goal of making sure they conform to God alone. Every age has its own idols, its own distortions that twist and pervert how we view God, ourselves and the world …. We aim not to escape our cultures, however, but to recognize that God calls us to respond faithfully to him in our place and time, whatever our particular social and philosophical climate.