Why Do We Need Theology?
From the book "the Theology of Dance" I am working on. I will be posting excerpts (mostly) in order every Sunday and Wednesday.
Theology is the study of God. It comes from the Greek words Theos and Logos -the word on God. Some of us may think that all theology is above us and that it has nothing to do with our day to day life. Others may think that, since God does not exist, it at best a pleasant waste of time. But at its most basic theology is just talking about God And in truth is we all have a theology, that is, an understanding of who God is. This understanding is reflected and shows forth in our day to day words and actions. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said it beast when he said that “If you don't behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.” Even if we don't think we have an understanding of who God is, if we are not careful we'll develop a belief about God unconsciously that justifies our actions!
God is much, much greater than any of us, so there is no way any person’s theology, that is their understanding of God, could possibly be complete. It can’t even come close. Not only will it be incomplete, will also have at least some errors in it, because we are human and we are fallible. So everyone’s theology is incomplete and at least a little wrong. What we want though is an adequate or sufficient theology- an understanding of God that is sufficient to for us love freely. If we have an adequate knowledge of who is God then we will understand how we are called to love him and each other.
Why Religion? A person does not need to belong to a religion to have a Theology- there is more to religion than just theology. Nor do they need a religion to be spiritual. But it's important to have a religion for most everyone. Religion offers two things which human beings need dearly- meaning and belonging. Human beings are, by nature, religious. For instance, a when a person reaches the anniversary of their birth, their family and friends gather together and make a special kind of bread, called a birthday cake. They light candles on top, sing a special song of blessing, then the person thinks of something they want and blows out the candles. Then they cut the one cake up and share it with everyone- one bread, one body. This is a religious event. While a birthday party is religious there's not enough there to make a religion from it. Religions are complicated. Here is how I describe a religion:
A group of people who honor and live out a tradition. This tradition consists of teachings and practices on philosophy, morality and dogma (faith based beliefs.) A religion will have a teaching body that passes on beliefs and practices. Religions usually share many beliefs and practices on morality and philosophy, but we recognize a religion by its dogmas.
We are also spiritual. In fact, many people say they are spiritual and not religious. As for me, a person who is not spiritual is dead- literally. Spiritual is the state of having spirit- life. But in learning how to be spiritual- to be fully alive- which is one of the most important things in life, it's important to humble oneself and disciple oneself to a community with a "rule" of life- a religion. You don't always have to join a religion to learn from it. You can enter in, spend time , and decide if it's right for you. People do this all the time.
So, What is Christianity?
Christianity is a religion that grew out of Judasim. It's based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It has several dogmas (though not so merely so many and people usually suppose) but two stand out to me. If a person believes these two things I would almost certainly consider her a Christian.
1. That God is a Trinity- Three Persons in one God. These Persons form a community of eternal, self giving love and are equal in glory, power and majesty, each fully God, but are distinguished by how they relate to one another.
2. That the second person of the Trinity, the Son, was incarnated as man. The Son suffered death and resurrected and ascended to heaven, and by doing so created a marriage between God and man. This marriage has both and individual aspect (one’s personal relationship with God) and a communal aspect (the Church.) This relation requires the believer to follow Christ (not merely his teachings!)
I said that Christianity does not have many dogmas. One of the things that impresses me about Christianity is in fact it's integrated and organic nature- that it's dogmas, philosophies and morals all tie in together so neatly and cleanly. The point of this book is to show (hopefully!) how every other teaching in Christianity, whether Dogma, Philosophy of Morality- flows from and ties into these two teachings.
Of course there are some religions that don’t believe one or both of these teachings and yet say that they are Christian. This is some of us fighting over the “Christian Brand” and it's not something I will address in this book. Suffice to say it’s been a point of argument for many years!