Guest post by Lindsay Tully.
A Scary Word
“Ugh, I don’t even know why we have to take this class…it’s way too hard for me and I’m not going to be a pastor or anything anyways.”
During my time as an undergraduate student at Bible college, I sometimes heard fellow female classmates make comments like this in regard to our required theology classes. While this certainly was not the attitude of all of them, it was prevalent enough to sadden me and instilled a deep desire to encourage women to know and love theology.
One of the most common reactions I get when I tell people that my husband was a historical theology major is raised eyebrows followed by, “Oh wow, he must be really smart…and what is that, exactly?” It is unfortunate that we have not used words like “theology” (which simply means the study of God) in our churches in relation to everyday people and everyday life, leading some women to think that in-depth study of God is for men and must be done in seminary. This should not be so!
Women, we must become devoted pursuers of theology. It is not something beyond our intellectual ability. It is not a useless endeavor, nor a waste of our time. It does not require that we enroll in a Bible college or seminary. Knowing God is our sustenance and purpose for life. It is immensely practical and sheds much light on being a woman, a wife, and a mother. In this post, I hope to briefly hit on three reasons why it is important for women to passionately love and diligently study theology.
I realize that most of the people who read Matt’s blog may not fall into this camp, however that doesn’t mean this post is irrelevant for you. Mature believers, men and women alike, must realize that this is a real problem that many women struggle with. There is a tendency to believe that they cannot, need not, or should not seriously study theology. My hope is that those reading this will be encouraged to help the women in their lives become passionate followers of God, which necessarily entails knowing Him as He has revealed Himself in the Bible.
Everybody’s Doing It…
Many women seem to think that studying theology is not important for them. “I’m going to be a mom, not a pastor.” “I don’t need to know this for my career.” “Isn’t that why we go to church on Sunday?” The problem with this type of thinking is that it betrays a misunderstanding about the true nature of theology. One of my professors used to say, “The question is not, ‘Are you a theologian?’ We’re all theologians because we all have thoughts about God. Rather, the question is, ‘Are you a good theologian?’” This is a foundational truth that all Christians must embrace.
Everyone has thoughts about God, thoughts that inevitably direct the way we live. The challenge that we face is ensuring (by God’s grace) that we are thinking true thoughts rather than squeezing our conception of God into a form of our own making. This is precisely why studying the theology of the Bible is so important. We often talk about loving God, serving God, following God, but the question we must constantly ask ourselves is, “Do I understand God on His own terms, as revealed in the Bible?” This is the basic reason for the study of theology – we must know who God is before we can truly love, serve, or follow Him. Stop and think about that for a minute. Let it sink in. Theology is not just for pastors or professors – it is for you, because it is the building blocks upon which our faith and practice is built. And you are already “doing it.”
Orthodoxy Leads to Orthopraxy
A second hindrance to studying theology that some women face is the belief that theology focuses on abstract concepts that are detached from the realities of real life. “Why do I need to understand the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism? All I know is that people are saved by the blood of Jesus, and that’s good enough for me.” Theology is not just a “pie in the sky” type of study. We are remiss if we think that theology can be removed or separated from everyday life. What we believe about God has immense ramifications for how we live.
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis write in their book Total Church:
Theology is the task of the local church…because the only theology that matters and is worthy of the name is practical theology. Theology is the stuff of life. Theology is a service of worship that extends over the whole of life… Meaningful theology needs to take place primarily in the routine life of the people of God. It needs to be discourse that engages with life and arises out of life. (p. 155)
Theology is practical. Our thoughts about God (correct and incorrect) directly effect how we live. This truth is nicely summarized by a poster that hung in my Jr. High English classroom:
Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
Who we are begins with what we believe. And what we believe is determined by what we think. It is imperative, therefore, that we fight to discern what is true and what in false in our understanding of God.
Essential for Marriage and Motherhood
While theology is important for everyone, there are some specific facets that relate particularly to women. We will understand marriage and what our relationships with our husbands are to be like in a much deeper way as we mine the relationship between Jesus and the church, and how marriage is a reflection of that relationship (Eph. 5:22-33). We will have an example of the sacrificial love and forgiveness we are to have towards our children when we are reminded of the fact that we were “children of wrath” and “enemies of God,” and yet He still sent His only Son to die for us (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:1-5). Mothers are, in many ways, the primary trainers of their children, and if we do not have a solid grasp on the teachings of the Bible, how will we teach our children? God has graciously given us examples of what our relationships with our husbands and families should look like in His Word. It is foolish to neglect this gracious provision.
As those who have been redeemed, and adopted, and brought from death to life, let us passionately pursue knowing our great God, not only with our hearts but with our heads as well. Sisters, we have the great responsibility and honor of spurring one another on to know, and love, and obey our Savior; let us not look back and realize that we’ve wasted it.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. – Titus 2:3-5