On Why Theology is Important: A Response to the grass-roots, “Let’s just love Jesus” Polemic

Recently, I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of slogan posts decrying the stuffiness of theology and suggesting that we should return to “just loving people and Jesus”. While I appreciate what these posts are warning against (namely, theology as a baton of arrogance or condescension), I cannot agree with the simple conclusion that we should love people over against practicing theology.

One such post has a list of “Things Jesus Didn’t Say”. Some of the phrases listed there are:

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have correct theology.”

“And you will know the truth and the truth will make you superior to all the other simpletons who never learned Greek or Hebrew.”

The purpose of this list is to remind Christians of what is genuinely essential to the Christian faith, and to implicitly decry the state of the modern mega-church with all of its focus on buildings, programs, and other “religious” distractions. A lot of young adult-ish believers are sharing this post (and thus endorsing it) in an effort to express their desire for an authentic Christianity, but I wonder what kind of benefit this sort of satirical polemic really provides us.

A list like this places theology and practice at odds. It mocks the modernistic tendency to quantify and classify God, and it exposes the inherent arrogance that such quantifications can fuel. Basically, this list is saying that because theology is so divisive and cumbersome, we should just focus on loving one another. We should focus on accepting one another without all of the qualifications and hoops that we hold over people. Warning heeded. But let me offer a counterpoint. We ought not jettison theology just because some are doing it arrogantly (is that arrogant of me to say?). Rather, we should re-engage theology with the same kind of humility that it takes to love people. Let me offer five reasons why theology is important to loving people rightly. Continue reading