Now more than ever, the Church’s calendar seems to be inundated with worship events, gospel showcases, worship conferences, worship seminars, and worship jams – the list is endless. While these events are not in themselves inherently bad, it does beg the question as to why there is more of an emphasis on experiencing God through long hours of musical expression in worship than there is towards experiencing Him during long hours of arduous study of Scripture?
Theology? Is There a Need?
One thing that should be made clear is that worshipping through musical means is something that pleases God and is also biblically instructed to believers as an ordinance – coming together corporately before Him with ‘psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs’ – (Eph 5:19). However, in recent times there does seem to be a disconnect. Voddie Baucham posits this issue of the modern church succinctly, describing it as ‘producing passionate people filled with empty heads who love the Jesus they don’t know very well.’
This analogy might illustrate what he is pointing to in this remark. Imagine the average Joe is taking a road trip with hopes to reach his final destination point. With not much clue on how he will arrive there, he glances at his map, lays it aside, and then proceeds to turn his music on at full blast, singing intently at the top of his lungs, hoping it helps him figure out how to get to his destination. Ludicrous you might say, but this picture resembles the life of a Christian who neglects studying God’s word in order to spend hours singing along to Maverick City in hopes to experience God and know Him better.
It seems that theology has taken a backseat in the Christian’s car ride, when, in fact, it should be the map on which they should rely on to help them get to the destination of trying to know their God better. Theology is simply the ‘knowledge (or study) of God’, coming from the Greek word ‘Theos’ (God) and Logos (word). Theology should be the concern of every Christian. How can we say that we follow, love, and worship a God that we have not studied to know? Theology is NOT simply reserved for pastors, bible teachers, and seminary academics. Instead, theological study is mandatory for every Christian and vital to the growth of their faith.
The Necessity of Theology
The greatest commandment instructs the believer to undertake theological study:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.Matthew 22:37
Theology is necessary for every Christian because of the simple idea that ‘nothing can be in the heart that is not first in the mind’ – R.C Sproul. If you want to truly love God, you have to know Him more deeply. Ultimately, the grace of God’s mercy in pouring out His love through the sacrifice of His dear Son should compel us to love Him by pursuing the knowledge of God in the word with all diligence and effort and delighting in it continuously. Our love for God is not simply recognised by the affection that we feel and demonstrate towards God when we sing these lovely poetic songs (as lovely as they may be). Christ defines love as being one thing – obedience (John 14:15). These ‘loving’ acts of worship are baseless if our love and desire to obey His instruction is small-scale.
Theology is at the Heart of Worship
Theological study, therefore, authenticates worship. The more we study the Word in order to deepen our knowledge of God’s attributes, and the more that the truth of God’s character is revealed to us, the more likely we will hold Him in high esteem. This awe and reverence leads us to trust in Him and delight in obeying His commands, worshipping Him with our whole lives and not simply our lips. If we lean our focus more towards our musical worship than our worship in theological study, we run the risk of revering a shallow view of God, where the wonderful resounding gravitas of the Gospel and its implications in our lives become a faint flickering whisper.
Our primary aim when we read the Scriptures, should not be to read it as so to make ourselves feel better or to even to please God by fulfilling our common duty as a Christian. Our primary aim when we read our Bibles is to study the Scriptures so that we may know our God.
When we read the Word these are some of the questions that we should ponder on in the pursuit of knowing Him:
- Who does God reveal Himself to be in this passage?
- What is His activity and how do His actions reveal His attributes?
- What has He done – in history, in the world, in the Gospel?
- What has He said He will do in the future?
- What do these verses/chapters or this book say about God’s will and what He wants?
- How do these things that are contextually bound to a specific time in history apply to me in the 21st century?
- How does this passage point to Christ?
However, it’s not enough to simply know these things, we must both believe and delight in the knowledge of God and His truth. Thankfully God’s divine grace offers us the means, by which we can do as such so that the beauty of His Word is treasured by the believer as being greater and better than the world that we see.