The Importance of Right Theology

By Tim Butler | Posted at 2:40 PM

As someone who aspires to the title of theologian (though has in no way earned the right to it), I certainly believe theology is important. Clearly when we are talking about God, there can be few things more important than understanding him and his will as well as possible. But, the greatest gift from God is not teaching of doctrine or something along those lines, but love (1 Cor. 13.13).

What does that mean for us in general? We as Christians put too much emphasis on right doctrine as if it could save us. We are functionally working as those saved by doctrine alone — the specific doctrine a given person favors is of little consequence. The other day, my wise professor Dr. Jay Sklar was relating to us a story about another faculty member at Covenant who was in Scotland. That person observed that when Christians are only a two in a hundred statistically, suddenly our little dogmatic skirmishes seem less important and simply finding someone else with whom one shares the Apostle's Creed seems enough.

In many ways, it is.

That is not to say all the minutiae is unimportant, many things within the realm of Christian dogmatics are utterly important. But not as important as the core truth of the Gospel: that the one, sole creator God of the universe was incarnate among us, died for us and restored us into a body of which he is the head. That's the heart of our story. It is not the end of our story, but the beginning which convicts us and leaves us with no choice but to make every theological confrontation within the bounds of historic Christianity one of brotherly or sisterly love.

If only we lived this principle, if only the world would truly “know we are Christians by our love,” then we would be doing the will of God. Let us not mistake doctrinal purity as our mediator with God; our ancient predecessors learned the dangers of misplaced mediation after they failed to head the prophet Jeremiah's warning, “Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD’” (Jer. 7.4 ESV).

What does God truly desire of us? Micah tells us (v. 6.8)

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

I would rather serve all day alongside a Christian full of love for God and for those around him, but with messed up doctrine, than an hour with a Christian of great doctrinal strength and a condescension for all those with less perfectly constructed theological constructs.

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