In Theology Is Life, R.C. Sproul explains the difference between theology and religion. Why is this difference important? Theology and religion provide two very different ways of perceiving our relationship with God. How we choose to perceive our relationship with God determines how we will live our lives. How we choose to perceive our relationship with God determines whether we will submit to God or put our will before His.
What is theology? Once theology was the “queen of the sciences”.
In the not too distant past, our forebears regarded theology as the Queen of the Sciences.
So, theology was seen as a science in the Middle Ages. How, then, was it supreme over, and therefore “queen of,” the other sciences? In the Medieval universities, it was understood that the various branches of learning required an overarching standard. That standard was the Bible. Because the Bible was seen as the source of all truth, theology became the natural standard by which other scholarship had to abide. The scholars of the day rightly saw that one’s view of God and the Bible affects every other area of life. A scholar’s theology is the foundation of his worldview and shapes his study of philosophy and other fields. Theology, then, was the “queen of the sciences”; that is, God’s Word is the majestic source of knowledge that informs all other knowledge. (from here (gotquestions.org).
How is today different? Instead of studying God, we study man’s relationship with God as a subset of Anthropology. Instead of studying theology, we have secularized science. We now study religion instead of theology.
Cultural (or socio-cultural) anthropologists are interested in learning about the cultural aspects of human societies all over the world. They usually focus their research on such things as the social and political organizations, marriage patterns and kinship systems, subsistence and economic patterns, and religious beliefs of different societies. (from here (palomar.edu))
Theology is about the study of God. Theologians seek to learn who God is. Religion is about the study of what various peoples think about God, that is, the mythologies of different peoples. How did this change happen? Church and state are always rivals. That is why the most powerful rulers always control both the state and the church. If nothing else, powerful men seek to make the state instead of God an object of worship.
Consider the contest between the state and the “church” in America. Has not our government taken over and secularized education? Doesn’t our mass media, in concert with government, ridicule religious belief with ever greater frequency, especially Christianity?
Why have politicians and media moguls combined to push religious belief into the shadows? Is it because they want to substitute their own influence for the influence that God has upon us?
What happens when the churches of a nation are healthy? Don’t the people force their moral beliefs upon their government and the entertainment industry? What happens when the churches of a nation are ailing? Doesn’t the government and the entertainment industry dictate moral standards to the people?
When is a church healthy? We can find articles on the subject easily enough. Here are several examples.
- The Twelve Characteristics of the Healthy Church (70030.netministry.com)
- 16. Characteristics Of Healthy Churches (1 Peter 5:1–5) (bible.org)
- How to Spot a Healthy Church in 30 Seconds (crosswalk.com)
However, what these articles don’t make clear is what each of us can do to make our own church stronger and more vibrant. There are two things I think we can each do.
- The first is to focus on God. Just as theology requires us to focus on God we each need to put Him first. Because we have practiced religion instead of theology, most of us are spiritually immature. God wants us to grow in faith, in knowledge of Him.
Hebrews 5:12-6:8 New King James Version (NKJV)
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the [a]oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are [b]of full age, that is, those who by reason of [c]use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The Peril of Not Progressing
6 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to [d]perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this [e]we will do if God permits.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 [f]if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
- The second is that we each need to work to make our own church a community of Christian fellowship, a place where we can strengthen each other spiritually and educate our children and grandchildren. We tend to think of the family as our nation’s building block, but the traditional family doesn’t by itself have the strength to stand alone. The traditional family cannot withstand the growing decadence of our society. Therefore, Christians need to support each other and receive support from each other through our local churches.
Matthew 12:46-50 New King James Version (NKJV)
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers Send for Him
46 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”
48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
It is Sunday. It is a good day to go to church. Today is a good day to worship and learn how our Lord wants each of us to serve Him.