Theology Matters – Worldview Edition

Theology Matters – Worldview Edition

What is theology anyway?  Simply, it’s what we think about God.  One definition calls theology the critical study of God.  

We don’t have to be a seminary student or preacher to have a theology.  In fact, everyone has a theology.  We all think something about God.  Even an atheist has a theology in that he or she thinks something about God and has decided that God doesn’t exist.  Sadly, there are atheists who have put more thought into their theology and many Christians.  The good news is, with so much information at our fingertips, no one has to look further than their smartphone to be able to read quality articles by great theologians.

But why does theology matter?  Isn’t there a little bit of truth in all religions? Don’t all roads lead to the same place anyway?   

One of my favorite apps on my phone is my maps app.  I use the one on my iPhone the most just because it’s easy, but I actually like Google Maps better.  I like Google’s aerial photos and location photos.  When I did environmental work, I loved looking at the USGS maps which show land elevations and water flow directions.  When I plan a vacation (and I plan everything!), I love to look at maps and decide which way to go to find the most interesting things to do on the trip along the way.  Basically, no one ever has to be lost again.  GPS will find you and maps will lead you where you want to go.  Of course, you still have to know where you want to go!

When I plan a trip, there are almost always multiple ways to get to a certain destination.  Usually, the difference is the number of miles driven and stops along the way.  Interstate highways usually have the fastest speed limits and fewest stops.  They might be longer in mileage, but quicker than a scenic state highway.  One thing is for certain, not all roads lead to the same place.  I live in central Oklahoma.  If I get on I-40 East, I could end up in Arkansas, Tennessee or North Carolina, but never California.  However, if I get on I-40 West, I could end up in California, and stop in Texas, New Mexico or Arizona along the way.  

Theology is like that.  Not every faith system ends up in the same place.  Hindus are expecting to someday achieve Nirvana while Christians are awaiting the new Heavens and the new Earth.  Atheists believe they will simply cease to exist at the time of death.  None of these roads lead to the same end location.  More than that, if any one of these belief systems is true, then the other two are necessarily false.  It could be that all three are wrong, but it cannot be that more than one is correct because they contradict one another.  Oprah Winfrey has been quoted as saying, “I believe that there isn’t just one way to heaven. All beliefs go to heaven.”  On the contrary, not even all faith traditions believe in heaven, and those that do disagree on what heaven will be like.

Theology, like a map, must be wholly accurate in order to lead you anywhere.  In other words, even if it has some truth, it must have all the truth in order to be useful and to get you where you want to go.  

My husband used to work at a shop that was within eyeshot of an elevated train track.  The street that ran next to their business went under the train track.  This track has been in place for the better part of a century and anything expected to pass underneath when it was constructed was probably much smaller than the vehicles used on the road today.  Consequently, when a truck driver would use his GPS to find a location, the driver would be directed to go down this particular street.  You may have already guessed that some trucks didn’t make the clearance.  He swears it was a weekly occurrence for someone to crash into the concrete overpass.  The GPS map was accurate in that the street led to the location they inputted, but neither the map nor the person using the map, took into account that they would encounter a low-clearance overpass.  Sometimes, it led to the unexpected consequence of a wrecked vehicle (and probably a ticket).  The route itself was accurate, but it didn’t reveal a major obstacle for some vehicles.  It wasn’t wholly accurate.

Others say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.”  The truck driver was sincere in his belief that the road he was traveling would take him to his destination, but the truth that the overpass was too low for his truck to pass underneath proved that his sincerity was not a factor at all.  The same is true for theology.  We can sincerely believe any number of things, but only truth withstands the test of reality.  

Speaking of truth, there are those who believe that every belief system contains some truth, but that no belief system holds all the truth.  The “Coexist” slogan would be an example of this.  The main thrust is that all faiths (and assuming non-faiths) work together toward a common end goal.  As I pointed out before, not all even faiths agree on the end goal.  They can all be wrong, but they can’t all be right.  Moreover, if they each contain some truth, how is a person to determine which things are true and which things are false?  The litmus test is always reality.  If a belief doesn’t withstand the test of reality, then it simply isn’t true.

I am convinced that the story presented in the Christian bible is a true representation of the facts and that those facts also withstand the test of reality.  It is simply the most plausible description of what actually happened as best as we can verify through historical accounts and archaeology.  Moreover, Christianity best explains the way things actually are (and were in the past). 

Now, if I’m planning a trip to eternity, which I am, I must first decide what eternity I believe exists.  Next, I need to determine what is the best way to get there.  My destination and the route taken are absolutely dependent upon the truth of my beliefs in conjunction with the way I choose to live them out in the here and now.  If my beliefs are not true, I will not arrive at my intended destination and it doesn’t matter how hard I try to get there or how sincere I am in my beliefs.  False beliefs produce irrelevant results at best and catastrophic at worst.

The crux of the Christian faith is that Jesus of Nazareth was killed by crucifixion, rose from the dead, walked the earth alive for 40 days, and then disappeared into the heavens.  If this is true and the person of Jesus had the power to bring himself back from the dead, a feat that has never been accomplished by any other religious leader (or otherwise), then this event, this person, is worthy of serious consideration by everyone.  A person who defies death is noteworthy in any culture or time.

Gary Habermas has dedicated his life work to presenting the plausibility of the resurrection of Jesus, and Michael Licona has built upon that work.  Habermas and Licona assert what is called the “Minimal Facts” argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  There are three chief minimal facts, which are the bedrock of the historical belief concerning Jesus.  These facts were determined after studying thousands of sources and finding that there were no viable refutations concerning the resurrection and that these facts are widely accepted to be true by a wide spectrum of critical scholars from various backgrounds (meaning they aren’t simply Christians, but are agreed to by atheists, agnostics, Jews and others).  Licona says these are “facts past doubting.”  In short, these facts are:

  1. Jesus died due to the process of crucifixion which, in addition to the Bible, was reported by Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, and Mara bar Serapion.  Moreover, there is no ancient evidence to the contrary.
  1. Very soon afterwards, Jesus’ disciples had experiences that they believed were appearances of the resurrected Jesus.  The disciples suffered and were willing to die or actually did die for what they knew to be either true or false.
  1. A few years later, Saul of Tarsus also experienced what he thought was a post-resurrection appearance of the risen Jesus.  Although this is not proof of the resurrection, it is proof that Paul believed the resurrection after having formerly rounded up Christians for arrest, or worse.

If the resurrection of Jesus is true, what are you going to do with that knowledge?  As C.S. Lewis said:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [that is, Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Theology matters.  What’s your theology?

Gary Habermas website:

Michael Licona website:

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