Theology (from theologos), in bits and pieces, means “a word about God.” We talk about whether we believe or do not believe, and either way we decide, we are theologians.
I bet you never thought of yourself that way. At some point, unless you have somehow numbed yourself to conversation and shunned your community, you have probably talked about the “G” word.
You are not the first, and you will not be the last. When thoughts become words and words become actions, big changes become possible. It is no wonder that the first commandment to Israel was “Love the Lord your God.” It is when they thought about him that they could prepare a better way, and could conceive of life together in a land filled with milk and honey.
When someone brings up the word “theology,” what do you think? Some might think of debating professors with stacks of old books, or a television personality speaking about the latest religion statistics. Perhaps images of clergy in the pulpit are conjured from the past, with the patience of a long sermon following in memory. Or is it a conversation between friends, or with family, over a warm dinner, over coffee, on a cold rainy day? Do you remember the moments when you began thinking and talking about God?
Every human at some point becomes a theologian. It is natural for a being coming into existence (without any knowledge about the process of life) to begin asking questions of ultimate origin: “Where do I come from?” the little one asks. “Mommy and Daddy, of course,” someone answers.
Then, “Where do Mommy and Daddy come from?” and so on until the genesis of humanity is invoked. That is when we hear about our beginnings, and we begin to decide what we believe about our origin. Some may not have this conversation, but children are persistent, and answers are found in books, at the schoolyard from a friend, from grandparents, or from a movie with a good story. We are born theologians, and we begin searching in conversations that direct us toward our Creator.
In our worship, we are reminded of goodness and justice. Great men and women who change the world often start their conversations about changing imperfection, with the idea that someone more perfect than us is looking upon us and demanding that we change to better mirror the beauty of perfection. The Kingdom of God as a conception of order and justice is inspiration to the Martin Luther Kings and the Mother Teresas of our own age.
Our pondering on God breaks us from what is and brings us to what ought to be. And we are brought back to the image of a land flowing with milk and honey, a place where justice is supreme and what is good is placed on a pedestal to be seen and adored. When I think of Christ as King, and the hope that this invokes, I want to make my world a better place. And as theologians, we should talk more and more about these things.
Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-The-Sea United Methodist Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at twitter.com/dannonhill.