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Everyone, everywhere, has their own perception of and beliefs about God. Some people believe that God is a large bearded man in the sky who floats on clouds and sometimes throws lightning bolts—that is their theology. Some people believe that God is a part of nature, and is everywhere, in everything. Some people believe there are multiple gods. Even if they don’t believe God exists, that is their theology. If we’re saying that everyone has their own theology, that is not to become relativistic and say that no one’s theology can be better than anyone else’s. Because there actually is a God, and he has definitive nature and qualities. So if that is the case, then some theologies are wrong, and some are right. How do we tell which is which? The thing is, God is so hard to grasp because He is so much greater than anything we have to compare to. He is transcendent (meaning, above and beyond, not a part of) His creation. So we, within His creation, often have trouble knowing about this God that we cannot see. But praise God that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us! He has given us His Word (the Bible) to show us who He is, and He has shown Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to live within us and guide us into Truth. By all this, it is clear that we have a God that WANTS to be known. The whole point of theology is to understand a God who wants to be understood. According to the works of John Wesley, there are four sources that we have available to us to “do” theology, to know more about God. The first is Scripture. Scripture is God’s Word, and the most concrete and authoritative way that God has given us to teach us about Himself. We base all of our knowledge of God off the Bible. The second is the Church, or the tradition that’s been passed down for the past 2000-some years. The message of Jesus, and the theology of God were passed down from the Apostles to the next generation of believers, who passed it on to the next generation, and so on and so on. God works through His Church to teach His Truth, and that is another way we can know Him. The third source of theology is Reason. We can, to a limited extent, come to know God through our rational thinking. Philosophy, science, math—these things can point us to God. But the important thing to remember is that God cannot be subjected to the scientific method. He’s been around a lot longer and is much greater than our science can tell us. And the last source of theology is our experience. What has our life experience done to teach us about God? How does our experience of God teach us more about Him? So now that we’re all expert theologians, we’re pretty much set, right? But theology is not enough by itself. Theology asks us to know about God. God wants much more than that. Because what God really wants is for us to know Him. God wants something more personal than our head knowledge. The difference is like following a celebrity: I can know everything there is to know about the Jonas Brothers—their names, ages, favorite foods, birthdays, etc. I can know all of this information, but still, I don’t really know them. The same is with God: we can have multiple degrees in theology and know all there is to know about God, but if we don’t know Him, what is the point? Our theology is useless unless combined with faith. There are many different ways that we can define faith, which is one of the main themes that we see running throughout the entire Bible. But faith is about us
really knowing God. Faith is about that relationship that we form with God. Faith is not a set of principles or religious ideology, and it is more than confessing a creed that we adhere to. Faith is the investing of our lives into what we believe. Faith is what we put all of our trust in. The book of Hebrews defines faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” We cannot see this God we know, but the act of faith is being certain that He is there and certain of what we know about Him. That’s why Paul, in 2 Corinthians, insists that “We live by faith, not by sight.” Abraham is the figure we often look to for real, authentic faith. And for good reason, too. In a time when many people thought that living out the Law perfectly would make you righteous before God, the book of Romans tells us that by faith, Abraham believed God, and “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Abraham trusted God, and knew that He was a God who would do what He had promised. Hebrews 11: 17-19 says, “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” WOW! That is an incredible testament to faith. Abraham’s theology told him that God was a god that keeps His promises. And Abraham’s faith, combined with reason, told him to go ahead and trust that God was going to be faithful in what He’d promised, and would somehow work out His purpose for Abraham through what He had promised. I would encourage you to read all of Hebrews chapter 11, which is called the great Faith chapter. All of those heroes of the faith that we read about in there all did great things in the face of doubt or opposition because they trusted that God had a greater purpose! Faith is about latching on to God’s purposes and His plans rather than our own. Faith is trusting that God’s purposes are greater than our purposes. And faith is about putting that trust into action with what we do with our lives. It’s easy for us to think that those times where we really feel the Spirit moving in us, or our lives are full of joy, that these are times of great faith. But the great times of faith happen when we put the trust of our lives in God when we don’t feel like it. So how does our faith relate to our theology? How does everything we know about God affect our actual faith? Theology is our intelligence of God. It is the starting point in getting to know God, but it is also a continual process of getting to know God more and more. The process for becoming a person of faith starts with what we believe about God (our theology), then it moves to believing in God, and then to actually believing God (our faith). And our faith, in turn, affects what we believe about God, and spurns us on to gain greater understanding of Him! It is a cycle of faith and theology intertwined in such a way that each one affects the other and they grow and grow together as we grow closer and closer in relationship to God. Faith and theology looks kind of like a Venn diagram, with the overlapping circles. As you grow, as you come to know God and know more about Him, the circles move more and more together, until they are so overlapped, that it’s hard to tell which is which anymore. The more we know about God, the more we know God, the more we know about God. It is the same as with any relationship—as you get to know someone more and more, you know more about them, which helps you to know them more.
God wants us to know Him. God wants us to love Him. So much so that God sent Jesus, His one and only Son, to pay the price for our sins and make a way for us to know Him. There is no way for us to come to know God apart from through Jesus. Our faith is our response to what we believe in God, but it is also a gift from God, who initiates it in us. Hebrews calls Jesus “the Author and Perfecter of our faith.” Jesus is the One who brings about faith in us, and He is the One who makes it complete, as we come to know the Father more and more through Him and the working of the Holy Spirit within us. We are saved by grace through faith. The place where God’s grace and our faith collide is where we find salvation. And it is there that we can come to truly know this God who we proclaim as our Lord and Savior.
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