Theology: A response to revelation

I recently completed a certificate with Vineyard Institute. I was asked to share some thoughts on theology. In case it is useful for anyone, I wanted to expand and share those thoughts here.

I’ve learned that theology is primarily a response to God’s revelation of Himself. As I see God continually revealing himself, I do theology. First, to make sense of what I see and, second, to push into and learn more about the God who has revealed himself. God started the conversation, I respond to His revelation.

Gods revelation and my understanding of Him shapes my thinking, my identity, character and attitudes towards others, as well as to local and world events. It resets my worldview.

To this point theology is something of a science. It is about understanding, classifying and describing. It is an application of the mind. It is a mental “working out”, more than, a processing of the heart. I’ve found, though, that theology demands that I go further than systematics alone.

I’ve learned that to go deeper in theology is not to go deeper in knowledge, but to go deeper in experience with this God who has revealed himself and is the essence of the doctrines we put together, or subscribe to, to make sense our faith.

Think on this; If my sole purpose for doing theology is to acquire knowledge, there is a point I will find the statements and claims being made will require me to step back from that detail and realise that if what I’m stating and claiming is true, there have to be implications for how I experience God and what I then do in response to that understanding.

Experience is very hard to describe, because it is on a fundamentally individual level. But, what I’ve seen is God’s glory revealed in nature (Psalm 19:1), through reading the bible, through reading and listening to lectures and spending time in prayer, I have found that what I carry is a knowledge that stands against the post-modern, (arguably) post-truth, age. I am part of a story with a definite truth, with a created beginning, a known destination and an eternal trajectory; all these things are governed by a good Father who loves me and has chosen me as a son.

Here is the simplest way I can put it— As I consider this reality, I am filled with heartfelt gratitude, awe and love for the One who has done it. As theology leads me to gratitude, awe and love, these senses lead to a response in overflow.

In a private setting, this response is deepening worship and prayer. It is often about dealing with my shortcomings, my piety and my devotion to Him. It is deeply personal and about the Holy Spirit changing me (2 Corinthians 3:18). I respond by thinking about, spending time with and dealing with God.

Publicly, I also move towards serving others. I live to serve the communities to which I belong, be that in church, at home, at work or wherever.. but I am driven to a point where I have to share my faith, that which has been revealed to me and my experience of God, so others can develop their own theology, however deep; at least at a simplistic level, then going deeper through understanding (Hebrews 5:12) and deepening relationship with God.

I have a useful note on theology, that “It comes, not to dominate, but to serve the living God and the cause of his Kingdom. It lives in response to the ‘God who speaks for himself’”

Handled correctly, theology doesn’t dominate, but provides a practical framework for processing what God speaks to us, then theology drives us to worship, prayer and changed hearts resulting in service to His Kingdom.

Steven Ritchie

16 Sep 17