I've recently been taking a class at the seminary where my husband studies. It's a pretty basic survey of theology and to be honest, I often have a hard time paying attention. The other day, though, I found myself pausing for thought as I was faced with the very basic question, "Why does theology matter?" After some reflection, I came up with my answer, but only to then further ponder the question, "Why does theology matter... for women?"
I don't think it's a ground-breaking statement when I say most women within Christianity don't devote a lot of time to thinking about theology. In a place and age where the average Christian, male or female, struggles to spend significant time in scripture and prayer, reading or studying theology often seems obscure and unnecessary. Throw into that an average women's ministry which focuses primarily on devotionals, family life, and maybe a little counseling, and we start to see why there is a significant dearth of women who put much time or energy towards picking up classic theological works on such daunting topics as revelation or providence. Trust me, I too would much rather pick up a devotional study on hospitality or reconciliation than a stodgy tome on the different views of imputation.
So then, what's the big deal with theology?
As the professor stated at the beginning of my course, theology has to do with the great truths and mysteries of life, all of which center around the knowledge of God. And this knowledge has much to do with our spiritual being and existence. It is the backbone for the process of salvation, the center of our relationship with the Creator, and the foundation of the spiritual comfort he offers. Theology is the cognitive expression of the saints’ collective knowledge of their Father making it an important task if we claim to be his daughters.
The question of theology is not one of whether we like it or even of whether we completely understand it, but one of whether we are striving know to our God. In any relationship, systematic analysis and contemplation of the information provided by the beloved is vital. For example, I cannot know my husband apart from what he reveals to me; I must rely on his desire to communicate about himself for our relationship to be established. Nothing can happen unless he makes himself known to me. However, I also am responsible with what he reveals. If I do not carefully consider what my husband tells me about himself or reflect upon what it says about him, then I am making a truly poor attempt to know and love him. It is my relational responsibility as a wife to have thought about the truths of my husband to such an extent that should somebody ask me about him, I might be able to provide an accurate answer. It would be a shame if when asked about my husband, I answered, “I can’t tell you anything about him. The only way for you to know of him is to have a direct experiential knowledge of him yourself.” Not only would this make no sense at all, it would raise doubts concerning whether I care enough about my husband to have my own understanding of him.
And the analogy goes further. If I never asked or listened to my husband's family or close friends about their understanding of who my husband is, I would be considered an egotistical (insert your word of choice...)! Unless I think they are just absolutely wrong, I am obliged to find out what my beloved's family knows of him. (And even if I think they are completely wrong, I probably need to hear what they have to say if for no better reason than an accurate education on my new family.) I have no right in any relationship to develop my knowledge of the person I love in exclusion from what others have to tell me about their knowledge of the person. I must get to know my husband myself, and I can even have the expectation that I know him better than others, but my relationship to him is not unilateral.
Similarly, if we, the bride of Christ, cannot give answers about God according to what he has revealed about himself in scripture and in recognition of what the saints through the ages have said about him, then we have paid no more attention to him than a wife who cannot clearly answer questions about her husband and has never listened to the stories told by her in-laws. Theology is something integral to what we do as human beings in our desire to know the God who first knew us. Everyone theologizes; the issue is how we do so. Every wife has an opinion about her husband, but that does not necessarily mean it is an accurate opinion. If we truly love Christ, the question is not “if” we should study theology, but “how.” All Christians will have opinions about their God, but will those opinions be according to what our Lord has actually revealed about himself?
And that's just the point. As women, we should be making just as much an effort to know our God as any one else in our life. I was personally deeply convicted when I asked myself the question, "How much effort do I make through the course of my day to know and understand my husband, best friends, parents, siblings, and every other person who is significant to me?" And I don't just flippantly get to know them - I (at least try) to seriously give them my attention and invest in knowing them. I pride myself on being an authority on them in ways others aren't. Can I honestly expect my relationship with the Creator to be any less? God has brought us into his family and told us about himself. As women, let us sit together with our brothers and sisters throughout the ages and learn about Him in order that we may be daughters who know their Father well.