“No creed, but Christ” is often heard when the discussion of theology arises or perhaps you have heard, “I don’t need theology, just give me Jesus!” While such statements are usually made with good intention, an alarm goes off, which Jesus are we talking about? Are we talking about the Jesus seen in Roman Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, or perhaps Jehovah’s Witnesses? If Jesus is truly the only way to salvation (John 14:6) then a man named Jesus as depicted in other theological systems just won’t do! Beyond this is the reality that “No creed, but Christ” is a creed in itself, and one that is difficult to explain. What is the Christ? Why did the Christ even need to come? There are inherent theological truths in the title Christ and there are inherent theological truths that are necessary to the gospel! The truth of the matter is that you are a theologian! The question is, are you a good theologian or a bad theologian?
Every Christian is a theologian
Every statement you make about God, Jesus, Sin, etc. are all theological statements. A plague of modern evangelicalism is the idea that theology is just for the academic types, for the scholarly, or just for the pastor, but this isn’t so. While there are many scholarly and career theologians, every Christian, regardless of whether or not they will admit it, is a theologian. This being said, theology is important for every Christian in the reality that orthodox (right belief) theology is knowing what is true about God and Christ. In providing a basic definition; theology is the study of God, and the heart of theology is knowing God. If we love Jesus, we should desire to know him more deeply. Those who claim they want Jesus, but not theology, because they love Jesus, miss the point. Additionally, when asked what the greatest commandment was Jesus answered correctly in that we are to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:35–40). G.K. Chesterton rightly points out, “Theology is simply the part of religion that requires brains.” How do we love the Lord with our mind? By holding onto his word, and understanding his word, which is seen throughout scripture! Within scripture and history, the church has recognized the importance of theology and doctrine because without proper doctrine you could not have the gospel! This is why the apostles, church fathers, creeds, councils, and the protestant reformation occurred, because doctrine matters for the sake of preserving the Gospel and the truth of God.
Here enters the word doctrine, which can be defined as a belief or set of beliefs and doctrines are the components of theology. We care about doctrine and theology because we care about the message that was communicated to us through scripture. God has spoken and in scripture we see the call to hold to proper teaching! Consider that Jesus himself always pointed back to scripture to correct those in error, and while his doctrine divided, the truth mattered to Christ. We all remember, very well, those scenes of Jesus correcting the Pharisees for elevating their teachings over the teachings of scripture, their theology was formed around their man-made doctrine while Jesus pointed them back to the doctrine found in scripture. If we love Jesus and imitate him we must live by his conviction, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). If we live out that conviction we are moved to hold to doctrine, and thus form a theology. Now consider the apostles, who were taught and trained by Jesus, who then imparted doctrine and theology to the church. The churches response was not, “Give me Jesus, leave theology out of it,” but instead, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Theology mattered when Paul stressed that the gospel is specific (Galatians 1:6-9) and stressed the importance of the true gospel, because it is the gospel that saves!
So, we are to live by the word of God and Paul instructed Titus, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), and Timothy “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16). Consider also the great passage 2 Timothy 3:16-17 when Paul writes that scripture, which is breathed out by God, is profitable for “teaching” which is a Greek term that is also used to denote “doctrine.” The passage’s inclusion of correction also denotes this idea; scripture is necessary for doctrine and for correcting false doctrine. If we truly believe the message of the Bible is the message God desired for us to have, we would take this very seriously.
Theology and the Gospel
Most important to the discussion of doctrine and theology is the reality that proper theology is required for the gospel! The gospel is made up of doctrinal truths namely in the theological statement, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Questions that are answered by theology consist of: what is sin? Why did Christ need to die? Why did he need to rise from the dead? Basically, why do I need Jesus? You see, doctrine is the groundwork that leads us to Christ! It is the doctrine of God that leads us to understand that God is holy and just and we are sinners! It is the doctrine of Christ that shows us that he is sufficient to save in his death, burial, and resurrection! Doctrine is important! It dictates how you live, how you think, and we are called to be conformed to the image of Christ, which means placing a high value on the truth especially in relation to who God is. Doctrine divides, without a doubt, but it divides the truth from error. There is something to be said of unity in the essentials of the faith, however the case I am making is that you are already a theologian, and you should care about theology as Christ and the apostles did.
How much theology?
A question likely remains…how much theology? How deep do I need to go? Do you need to be a scholar? Join a Bible school? No, of course not. How deep you go depends upon you, but the bare minimum is having a firm and consistent foundation. How do we go about this? The church throughout the years have formed creeds and confessions that are available online for free! Consider the Westminster Confession, the London Baptist Confession, the Belgic Confession, and others of the like! These are the original systematic theologies that are accessible and designed for the purpose of informing the saints of theological truth! While there are some differences between the confessions, such as the view of baptism, the foundational truths can be found! The number of books available are abundant as well! Paul Enn’s Moody Handbook of Theology, Introducing Christian Doctrine by Erickson, Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, and more, are out there for you! Is the subject intimidating? I think in some cases it will be, but I don’t think I have ever met an individual who has dove into theology and regretted it. You will grow in love for God and obedience to God when you apply your newly learned theological truths to your heart.
Standing Firm Against False Teaching
We live in an era where theology has been abandoned by the masses and it is easily observed in movements such as the prosperity movement, the word of faith movement, and other dangerous causes defacing the name of Jesus Christ. We are the church and in the midst of various movements that seek to make Christianity another preference in the pool of religions, we must stand firm against those who say Christianity is merely one road of many to God. Equipping the saints with theology provides them with the consistent biblical worldview we all need in the face of this day and age. A last point can be found in the survey of Church history, which reminds us that doctrinal truth is what stood the test as the early church faced off against heresy (false teachings), but such defense for truth can only occur when we are not subject to heresy ourselves.
About the author. I am Nick Campbell and I run the ministry “Christ is the Cure” where we focus on theology, apologetics, and resources for growth for believers in Christ. My heart is set on bringing back an interest in theology because of how rich the subject is for the believer. You can listen to the show and learn more by going to Christisthecure.org or you can check out some of the content on the Instagram page @christ.is.the.cure.