When I set out to study through the book of Romans, I began with the idea that I don’t merely want to know more about God, but to know Him more and be changed in the process.
There are plenty of people who know a lot more about God in a theological sense than I do, but that might not mean a thing in the grand scheme. Knowing what is true and internalising it is not the same thing. Truth is like a tool…if we don’t pick it up and use it, it’s merely theoretical and of little use.
On a practical level, the question is there: of what use is theology? Are there any practical uses for knowing Scripture on a more than basic level? If I look at the epistles of Paul the answer is unequivocal: Yes, theology is practical and applicable.
Paul unpacks deep theological truths in his epistles before rounding them out with practical steps to walk in.
In a parting word to the Believers in Philippi, Paul writes:
“8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (NIV)
To emphasise Paul, the things that he has taught the Philippians, he tells them to ‘put it into practice’. And in a real sense, the peace of God would be with them as they do so.
This passage also illuminates the idea of perspective; Paul urges the Believer to think about what is right, noble, pure, the things of God. A large part of operating as a Christian involves the life of the mind.
Speaking personally, the most fundamental change that theology brings is to change my perspective. I read this week of the final phase of a court case in the State of Texas.
The court heard that a police officer Amber Guyger entered what she thought was her apartment after a 14-hour shift and being the wrong floor, she encountered her upstairs neighbour, Botham Jean, who she supposed to be an intruder in her apartment, drew her weapon and fatally shot him.
A tragedy, precisely because it was avoidable if things had panned out differently. Found guilty of murder, Guyger was due to be sentenced in the court room of Judge Tammy Kemp.
The victim’s brother spoke at the hearing, extending his forgiveness, urging her to turn to Christ and asking the judge for permission to hug her, which the judge allowed to gasps and sobbing from the court gallery. The judge also withdrew to her chambers to fetch her personal Bible and present it to Guyger, along with a hug.
Stunning! How awesome the perspective on display, the theology applied to a tragic situation which was supremely practical, life-affirming and rooted in forgiveness.