Don’t Just Look at Your Theology, Look Through It

person holding clear glass panel

Imagine buying a pair of sunglasses on a summer vacation to the beach, but never wearing them. You find the perfect pair. You try them on to make sure they’re a good fit. You like the style. Then you set them on the edge of your bleach blanket and admire them as you listen to the ebb and flow of the tide in front of you. Of course, no one would do that with their sunglasses. But a lot of people do that with their theology.

Here’s what I mean. We think a lot about God, which is basically what theology means. Technically, the word theology means “God words” or “words about God.” How we organize our thoughts about God, and how we go about it, is our theology. And most people stop there. Like the sunglasses illustration, they are content to set their theology on the edge of their blanket while the world whirls past them.

What if you did what the biblical authors did? What if your theology was not just the way you see God, but the way you see the world? For starters, it should be how you see God. If you believe something is true of God, you should discipline yourself to think of God in that way, to trust God in that way. But you shouldn’t stop with God. Look through your theology at the world too.

For example, it’s a good thing to have a well developed view of what it means to be created in the image of God, what’s called the Imago Dei. But do you see others through this view? Does it shape the way you think about your neighbor? Does it affect the way you see the homeless person standing in the park begging for money? Are you looking at other people through the Imago Dei?

It’s a good thing to think deeply about the effects of the fall. But do you see the sins of others through the lens of fallenness? Does the reality of sin frame how you think about the guy who cuts you off in traffic? Or do you mainly see yourself as “struggling with sin,” while everyone else is just a jerk?

It’s easy to make our theology something to look at instead of through. But that’s not how the biblical authors saw their world. It’s not how we should see ours either. I think many times we miss the forest for the trees when it comes to our theology. We focus on individual doctrines at the neglect of ever looking up to make sense of the world we live in. The corrective is not that we stop doing theology, it’s that we allow it to help us better understand the world.