More Than Eggheads in Ivory Towers: Three Reasons Why I Study Theology

by Brett Fredenberg July 15, 2022

“The love of God is a delightful and affectionate sense of the divine perfections, which makes the soul resign and sacrifice itself wholly unto him.” [1]

“Why would you study theology? The disciples didn’t have a theology degree, did they? What’s the point?”

Ever since I first considered seminary, I’ve encountered this question on more than one occasion. Sometimes, friends ask out of genuine curiosity. More often than not though, the question is posed as an accusation, as if they’re trying to discover my pomp and ego.

Over the years, I’ve tried to refine and develop my answer. And since the question recently came up again in my own life, I wanted to detail my typical response and give three reasons I choose to study theology. In so doing, I hope you’ll be encouraged to consider why you study theology or might consider taking up the pursuit.

1. Study Theology to Enjoy God

At its core, Christianity is not a how-to religion, but a faith centered on knowing God and all things in relation to God.

Typically, when people refer to theology as an unnecessary pursuit, they aren’t thinking of this definition. They are thinking of the theology done by eggheads in ivory towers away from the real concerns of real people with real lives. In this way, I would agree with them! The image of Humpty Dumpty should be seared into the minds of every theology student. Take heed, lest we make the great fall! Theology must connect real people with real lives to a real God. Knowing God is the goal of theology.

I’ve found that the more I know God, the more I relax in this life. As Thaddeus Williams recently said, “The more often we remind ourselves of the size and splendor of the God we’re serving, the less seriously we take ourselves.”

Every true bit of theology should cause our souls, as Henry Scougal put it, to resign and resolve wholly to Christ. We resign to all other pursuits for identity and righteousness in this life, and we resolve to follow Him and Him alone for the rest of our lives. This is what true theology should accomplish for our souls. 

As we saturate our studies in the grace of Jesus, the love of God, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and so much more, we can handle anything this life throws our way.

Theology teaches me not only to know God, but to enjoy life with him now.

2. Study Theology to Be Transformed

 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

If we want to experience change in our lives, we must know God. If this is true, then to experience change in our lives, we must study theology. Humbly, yes. But we must not neglect looking to Christ to be transformed. 

According to this verse and others, believers are transformed into God’s likeness as we behold God’s glory. Beholding is the means to becoming.

I would argue that virtually every command we’re given in Scripture is rooted in God’s character. God didn’t make it complicated. We simply look at Him and act accordingly. For example:

  • “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
  • “Forgive one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
  • “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7)

We look at how God acts, and act like Him. In theology, we call these communicable attributes- or the specific attributes of God that we should imitate.  

We may not need the term, but we need the idea. Here, theology shows me that you can’t truly look at God in His glory and be unaffected. We will change one way or another. The same sun that melts the ice, hardens the clay. The same is true of human hearts.

 If you desire change in your life, look to Christ. Study theology to be transformed.

3. Study Theology to Make Disciples

In other words, study theology to share theology. In making disciples, we are teaching others to love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. How can we do that apart from knowing who He is and what He’s like?

We must know Him truly if we are to teach others to love Him deeply. And as we teach others to behold God’s excellencies and beauty, they also enjoy Him and the whole earth will be filled with the glory of God.

We must, as Paul says, impart theology to Timothy’s who will teach faithful men who will teach others also. But we impart theology so others may love and enjoy God.

C.S. Lewis famously said, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” 

This remains true of theology. We have not fully enjoyed the theology we study until we share it with others, until we can’t help but share Him with others! The glories of God’s goodness, the delight in the doctrine of double imputation, were meant to be shouted from the mountaintops! Granted, these doctrines are impossible to fully comprehend, but as we begin to see who He is and what He’s done, we will experience a joy we’ll have forever as we express that to others in making disciples for the glory of God and the good of others. 

Theology for Life

So, there it is. My common answers for why I choose to study theology. Studying theology changes my life. Studying theology makes my life better. I’m tempted to caveat my answer here with descriptions of the temptations toward pride in theology, the difference between a humble knowledge and puffed-up knowledge, and the duty for theological kindness. As much as those things are true, and more caveats as well, I’d rather leave this post where it’s at and end on a positive note.

There are so many good reasons to study theology. If a degree from a seminary will work in line with these purposes, then I’m all for it. Do we need seminary? Certainly not. The disciples didn’t get a PhD, right? But can seminary be a faithful way to cultivate worship in our hearts and help teach us how to do that for others as well? It was for me. And continues to be so.  

If my PhD journey can be used to help me enjoy God, be transformed into His image, and make disciples, then it will accomplish its purpose. And I believe it can.

[1] Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man.