Theology Matters: But Why Does Theology Matter?

Not all theology matters. Few today are absorbed in the Process Theology of Alfred North Whitehead, and almost no one would embrace Buridan’s Donkey as a serious contemplative issue. Pre-Copernican perspectives of the universe still provide historical interests, but contemporary treatises on these views are marked by their absence. Nevertheless, Theology remains “the queen of the sciences” and continues to engage those questions that are of eternal consequence.

Genesis 1:1 captures the significance for theology by declaring, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The bullpen offers no paucity of pitchers waiting for the opportunity to throw against this declaration. Naturalists of multiple genres, from Democritus to Mao Tse-tung, have opposed such hypotheses. So, in light of the challenges of naturalism, why does theology remain on the throne? Here is the answer in the proverbial nutshell. If Genesis 1:1 is false, then the biblical worldview can be eliminated from the discussion. But if true, the Scriptures must be contemplated since this is God’s world and consequently, what God thinks and says about anything becomes the most important word in the universe.

And Theology is the logos about theos, “the word about God.” Theology seeks to know the nature, character, purposes, and actions of God. Nothing, if He exists, weighs heavier than God. If He does not exist, then the biblical message is largely nullified. But even Aristotle, without Old Testament prophet or New Testament apostle, concluded that one must posit an uncaused cause and an unmoved mover. Of course, God possibly exists but in such a way that He is inaccurately reflected in the Bible. Perhaps the Bible is nothing more than the existential experience of “the devoted” seeking a “devotional charge.” But the mere existence of Deity causes theology to take on sufficient significance so that one must examine the evidences.

Efforts to disprove God’s existence have met with the same non-negotiables that the monumental efforts of philosophers and theologians have encountered. As it works out, God is subject to neither proof nor refutation. But the evidences suggest something quite remarkable. The traditional arguments for God’s existence may not establish the certainty that “He is there,” but their cumulative effect reverberates far more with the average thinker than the idea that space plus time plus chance equals the evolution of the universe. The latter may be conceivable—barely—but suffers not only from not being reproducible but also from violating everything in our experience. Until someone proves that God is at most a concept of the mind, then theology matters profoundly.

And make no mistake about the kind of world in which we live. If Genesis 1:1 is not true, then, without debate, there is no morality in the world—only social convention. Efforts to foster some sort of morality in a godless world have been worse than unconvincing. If there is a moral standard apart from God, where and how did it arise? If humans are but the highest form of evolved life, why should we lament a brutal homicide any more than the black-maned lion’s roaring approval of his morning breakfast kill? Oh yes, we have evolved this standard. But what makes it right? How do we know that it is right?

B. F. Skinner grasped the inevitability of a godless world when, in 1971, he wrote the following:

“Man has not evolved as an ethical or moral animal. He has evolved to the point at which he has constructed an ethical or moral culture. He differs from the other animals not in possessing a moral or ethical sense but in having been able to generate a moral or ethical social environment.” [1]

Or, as Skinner concludes,

“To man qua man we readily say good riddance. Only by dispossessing him can we turn to the real causes of human behavior. Only then can we turn from the inferred to the observed, from the miraculous to the natural, from the inaccessible to the manipulable.” [2]

Such a world is too bad to be true and certainly cannot be established on the basis of scientific investigation.

Finally, if there is a God, can you know Him? Should you want to know Him? And if so how do you come to know him? Those are all questions to be found as the subject matter of Theology. Theology matters because there is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is destruction (Prov 14:12; 16:25). If there is a right way to God and a wrong way that terminates in destruction, then theology matters profoundly in a way beyond anything else in the universe. As all other aspects of our world terminate with our own deaths, at least for us, theology matters for eternity. The columns that follow will examine God and his ways and purposes. Stay tuned.

B. F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), 167.
[2] Ibid., 191.