The Anchor of Theology
“Why aren’t Christian women interested in theology?” I often hear that question (usually from men), and I’m never sure how to answer. That’s likely because I can’t relate to the premise that Christian women aren’t interested in theology—the study of God.
This wasn’t always true of me. If I’d heard that question when I was a college student, I probably would have answered, “Theology is for pastors. The most important thing is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
I had a lot to learn.
At the time, my thinking about Christianity was influenced heavily by my interest in contemporary Christian music. And one of my favorite songs was the Twila Paris tune, “Do I Trust You?” Twila had written the song to express her grief after her friend and fellow Christian singer, Keith Green, was killed in a plane crash. The song really resonated with me. I’d lost my best friend to leukemia just a few years before, so I knew exactly how Twila felt as she poured out her honest grief to the Lord: “Shaken down to the cavity in my soul, I know the doctrine and theology. But right now they don’t mean much to me.”
Yes, I thought. There are times when the last thing you need is theology.
Eventually, my Twila Paris cassette ended up in a shoebox somewhere. And while I still loved Christian music, the Lord was turning me in a new direction.
It started with a providential turn when I came across Dr. James Montgomery Boice’s book The Christ of Christmas in a public library. When I opened that book and read Dr. Boice’s deep, biblical exegesis of the Christmas story, I immediately thought: “He knows the same Jesus I do—but I’ve never read anyone who knew so much about Him.”
I was naïvely stunned that anything about Jesus could be new to me. I’d been in church all my life. I became a Christian as a child. I went to Sunday School and Bible study. But after I read Dr. Boice’s book, I suddenly realized how little I really knew about the Lord and His Word. I was starving for truth, and I wanted more of it.
I bought every book by Dr. Boice that I could find, and I also started filling my book shelves with titles by Dr. R.C. Sproul, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Dr. John MacArthur, and others. I learned about the nature and character of God, the redemptive work of Jesus, sanctification. I was eating it up. I would read a Christian book, then my Bible, back and forth.
Without fully realizing it, I had come to love theology.
What’s more, I was beginning to understand what John Calvin meant when he said in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that “nearly all the wisdom which we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” This is what studying theology was helping me to grasp. I was realizing the depths of my sin and God’s amazing grace to me in Christ. And as I grew in my knowledge about God, I was drawing closer to Him, as He lovingly and patiently sanctified me.
A short time later, my Twila Paris tape resurfaced. As I popped the cassette back into the tape player, I was anxious to hear my old favorite song, “Do I Trust You?” And soon, I heard the familiar lyric: “Shaken down to the cavity in my soul, I know the doctrine and theology. But right now they don’t mean much to me.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Did she just sing, “Doctrine and theology…don’t mean much to me”?
I love your music, Twila, I thought. But I don’t agree! When grief shakes me “down to the cavity in my soul,” theology now means everything to me.
I may not “feel” the presence of God when I grieve, but because I know that He is sovereign, that He cares for me, and that He is close to the brokenhearted, I can endure whatever situation He has ordained for me. It’s precisely because of the emotional ups and downs of life that the Christian must be rooted in theology—in the objective truth about God in His Word.
This is true for every Christian to understand, but perhaps especially for women. Though many women do love theology, others discount it in favor of mere subjective experience with God. Yet we ignore theology to our peril. As C.S. Lewis noted, “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones—bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas.”
What’s more, women need to remember the spiritual benefit of glorifying God with our minds. Studying theology helps us to understand and love the great God who saved us. It enables us to think properly about God, and it anchors our emotions in truth as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
That’s why if we love the Lord, then we should love learning about Him. Theology should mean much to us.