Something about the thin, round glasses hanging on the end of the professor’s nose and the bow tie neatly tucked beneath his white collar made him feel all the more believable.
It was my first day and my very first class of Bible college. Freshman year held a host of uncomfortable, nervous, and intimidating moments, but this one will always be etched in my mind. His voice reverberated with age, experience and authority, and his words struck my timid heart with surprise and self-doubt.
“Everyone is a theologian.”
He went on to explain that every person possesses a theology – a view of God – whether they know it or not. He contended that we, even at 18 and 19 years old, had a belief system regarding God, the word, the Church, and other things. We picked up on teachings, let suggested dispositions settle into our hearts, and allowed subtle theologies to sink into our minds.
“Every one of you is a theologian,” he repeated; “But are you good ones?”
In little time, he became a favorite professor. I ate up what he taught, I asked questions, I requested additional resources because he was right: I did have a view of God, I was a theologian, but I had not taken the time to be a good one.
“Theology” can be an intimidating word. For many of us, it calls to mind professors, pastors, or academics tirelessly pouring over ancient books. But in its simplest form, it means “the study of God” (“Theos” is derived from the Greek word for “the divine”, and “ology” comes from the Latin “to study”). And the reality is that we each have a concept of God in place. Each and every person, whether knowingly or unknowingly, believes something about the divine. We have beliefs about God’s character, activity and intentions, many of which lie so deep within us that we are often unaware In a thousand ways each day, you and I “study” “the divine” as we hear about a flood on the news or walk with a friend through loss. So, the question cannot be, “Am I a theologian?” Instead, we need to start asking, “Have I taken the time to be a good one?”
The world around us seeks to shape our view of God every day. Shows on TV, friends on Facebook, and ads at the subway station are constantly sending messages that ultimately shape our view of God. And our kids are not exempt – the shows they watch, the books they read, and the neighbors they play with are all teaching them something about God, his relationship to his people, and his world. Even the littlest ones in our homes are growing every day into tiny theologians with their own views of God. So, the question cannot be, “Are our children theologians?” But instead, “Have we taken the time to teach them to be good ones?”
When most of us think about talking to kids about theology, we think of their view of God like a car sitting in neutral. It is easy to think that they will go about their lives unmoved until we push them along in the faith. As the most prominent and earliest influencers in their lives, it’s easy to believe that when you have the time you’ll move them a little bit here and there, until they’re old enough to drive the road of faith for themselves.
In the world we live in, our theology and our kids’ theology is like a car in neutral, but a car in neutral on an incline. The world is taking our view of God somewhere. It is teaching us and forming us, even while we are unaware. It is not often a steep or sharp incline, but subtle. It seeps into our beliefs casually, slowly, and often unnoticed. Kids are learning about God as they’re told why they should be on good behavior at school or why they should say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” after a tiff among friends. And if we are not attentively teaching our children about the God of the Bible – about the gospel that compels us by love to obey him and that we can only forgive others by the grace of the God who forgave us – the world will.
Thank God that he has equipped each and every one of us to be a student of his word! Each of us – you and me and even our tiny theologians – are able to come to the word of God, to study it with joy and understanding, and to communicate those rich truths to one other. It is a true gift of God that he gave us his word to teach us all about who he is and who we are in relationship with him. By his Spirit, he has empowered us to study the Bible and teach the Bible, and by his Spirit He will form each of us more and more in his likeness.
Here is the encouragement I want to leave you with today: You are a theologian. And by God’s good grace he will make each of us good ones. This is the joyful work of the Spirit: he has been bringing people to faith, raising them up in the faith, and growing them through the faith since the beginning of the world. And he wants to do the same for you and me and every little one. We simply have the honor and joy of joining with him in that process, and partnering with him in the gospel work he has called us to.