Theology – Retreat or Quest?

Theology. It’s a pretty dirty word these days, even in some Christian circles. It conjures images of ivory towers, sweaty academic nerds, uncomfortable wooden pews and dusty old 9-inch thick text books written by dead German men.

I remember a respected older man in the Church once saying to my father-in-law, “Don’t worry about all that theology nonsense, it’s all about knowing Jesus!”. What a bizarre statement! Theology has been described as “Faith seeking understanding” – what can knowing Jesus be if it doesn’t involve this?

Theology, even more so in recent years, has never been a static or boring concept to me. How can pursuing the immensity of the Other be boring? This personal-communal-trinitarian God we worship is too big to be locked in an ivory tower, too communal to be restricted to the academic, to missional to stick to wooden pews, and too lively to be confined to the static text of a dusty book (not that books are bad).

Rather than thinking of Theology as a static, classroom activity (ironic as I’m doing degree in it), I have begun to think of Theology as quest.

I prefer to think of theology as the pursuit of the divine – both transcendent and immanent.

The God I believe in, whom I believe is the God of the Scriptures, is huge. As old-time preacher Dr S M Lockeridge put it, in his famous last sermon,

“He stands alone in Himself. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s preeminent. He’s the loftiest idea in literature. He’s the highest idea in philosophy. He’s the fundamental truth in theology.”

Something about the otherness of this God who names himself “I am who I am” (See my blog about this) leads me to believe that theology is a journey. Our fragile, deceitful human minds can never understand Him in His entirety. God is present in the now, speaking into the present, not hypothesising about the past. God is unchanging from Alpha to Omega, but he is also creative. And we should use that divine spark of creativity in our pursuit of him. Theology cannot be restricted to words and books, but is expressed in art, in song, in architecture, in mission and in myriad other ways.

Theology is a communal quest, with each human holding a piece of the image of God. And this quest is not just for the ‘professionals’ or the academics, but is actually something that every human being is on, even the atheist (yes, atheism is a theology). Keeping the keys with the professionals has been used throughout the years as a convenient way to control people – if people start thinking too freely they might, God forbid, question those in authority?

Each significant movement within the Church has involved a degree of Exodus from the norm. Or maybe reformation? When Martin Luther nailed his colours to the door all those years ago, he was branded a heretic and a dangerous man. Herein lies the danger and excitement of this quest. How do we hold the old established truth in tension with our pressing forward to deeper revelation? Community and humility are legs we must run with. But I believe that our God is big enough to sustain us in Exodus from the comfort of Egypt, through the desert and into the promised land.

What is this promised land? What is our destination? Maybe it looks a little like where we started – walking naked in the garden, unafraid, unashamed and in His presence. The Bible I read is full of the stories of broken people in pursuit of God. A God who makes himself known.

Join in the journey, sign up for the quest. Dust of that old Bible on your shelf, and ask God to help you start reading it with different eyes.

This is not a journey we walk alone.


A little inspiration for the journey:


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