In high school, my Latin teacher was one of the most influential people in my life. A graduate student at the local seminary who taught Latin on the side, he worked hard to draw out discussion about God without actually being the one to initiate conversations (surely because of the limitations placed on him by the public school system).
There was a quote that he kept on his chalkboard that said something to the effect, “Man must subordinate himself to something.” I don’t remember if that was the exact quote. But I do remember the force of the assertion: people must worship something.
The Bible is clear that humans are worshippers. If we don’t worship God, then we worship some aspect of creation, elevating it to the status of God. Even the atheist who loathes the idea of a God must create an idol out of rationalism. Everyone is a theologian. And since we consider God by nature, it is important that we are self-aware of what we think about God.
Everyone is theologizing. Your thoughts about God may not be clearly articulated. But everyone has some sort of knowledge of God. In Romans 1, Paul tells us that no one can escape a knowledge of God. Creation has informed us of His existence. The question for us is not whether or not we have a formed theology. It is whether or not our theology lines up with what God has said about Himself in the Bible.
The life of a Christian is one of refining one’s theology. I don’t mean that you have to buy a bunch of systematic theologies and do a comparison of each, combing through nuances and technical jargon. It’s a lot more like a marriage, where after a few years, you know your spouse better than you did when you started. Through study and application of what God has told us in the Bible, we become closer to God, and our understanding of Him is clarified and refined.
I want my understanding of God to result in worship. I hope that in a few decades I can look back at marriage and see that I now love my wife more deeply than before, partially because I know her better and partially because I know myself better. In the same way, when I look back at my life, I hope that I worship God more deeply because over time, I have come to know Him more rightly.
The word “theology” can conjure up similar emotions to the sixth grader who stares at the deep end of the pool thinking that there might be sharks in that part of the water. But God not a shark waiting to devour His prey. He is a gracious Father who has told us about Himself. May we never rest at knowing Him “well enough.”