You need theology.
R. C. Sproul on the ubiquity of theology.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: I don’t need theology, I just need Jesus. That, to be sure, isn’t some straw-man sentiment, but is a paradigm in which none too few churchgoers operate. Either explicitly or implicitly, there is a sense in which the notion of studying doctrine and/or theology is the high-brow task of the learned. Such disciplines, it is assumed, are only for those who have decided to cloister themselves in the ivory towers of biblical higher education. And while it’s true that not everyone is a theologian in the professional sense of the term, there is another sense in which living by faith inherently means living theologically. As the late R. C. Sproul famously quipped, everyone’s a theologian:
Countless times I have heard Christians say, “Why do I need to study doctrine or theology when all I need to know is Jesus?” My immediate reply is this: “Who is Jesus?” As soon as we begin to answer that question, we are involved in doctrine and theology. No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian. Perhaps not a theologian in the technical or professional sense, but a theologian nevertheless. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones. A good theologian is one who is instructed by God. (22)
A “good” theologian, as defined by the Word, is one who is described as a “worker who has no need to be ashamed,” and who “rightly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Such a calling isn’t reserved for scholars or professors or even pastors. Rightly handling the word of truth is the obligation of every disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. In a manner of speaking, then, everyone’s a theologian. And, more to the point, everyone needs theology, to some degree or another. The true question, then, is not whether or not you are going to be a theologian, but whether or not you are going to be a good one. Thankfully, we are given the Word and the Spirit to help us along the way.
Grace and peace.
R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1977).