Why Teens (And All of Us) Need Theology

Copy of We Have a Better Story

We want our Christianity to be alive. We live in a world full of bright explosions, flipping numbers, and urgent calls from everywhere–our world is in chaos, and we feel the urgency to do something. There is so much to do, so we want our faith to be powerful, moving, and deeply felt.

So when theology comes up, we might sigh. When discussions about inerrancy or impeccability or any other long i-word comes up, we shrug or settle back into that resigned place inside, holding tension low in our chests and low resentment in our eyes, because it doesn’t seem pertinent.

The word “theology” calls to mind stacks of books, ancient bearded men, and words that you have to dig to the bottom of the dictionary to find. Theology sounds like Latin and smells like dust; stifling any life beneath old, rigid machines that are too clunky for today.

It isn’t for us. Maybe intellectuals can hit ideas back and forth about canonization, and maybe our pastor should understand something about inspiration and inerrancy–but those things aren’t really pertinent to our day-to-day life.

But we’re looking at this all wrong. For teens who want a living, powerful faith that impacts the world, we need theology–and more than every before.

1: You Already Have A Theology

Our eyes might glaze over when we hear the word “theology,” but they do the same when we hear “dihydrogen monoxide”–yet we use both every day. Just as we daily use water without recognizing its scientific name, so we daily use theology without recognizing it.

“Theology” literally means “the knowledge of God,” and includes almost everything we think about God an our faith. Our theology is what we think about God, and what we think about God colors the rest of our day-to-day lives.

Theology includes our morals, what we think is right and wrong. Is it ok to cheat on a test? Is it ok to have an abortion to further my career? Is it wrong to fantasize about my girlfriend, since it doesn’t hurt anyone? Our decisions on right and wrong are shaped by our theology–how much does God know, and what does he want us to do and think?

Theology is also tied to our purpose, what God has made us for. Does God have a specific, detailed, personalized plan for my life? Which college should I go to? How should I use my talents? Should I start a relationship? Which clubs should I join? Our plans for the future and current choices are shaped by our theology–what is God’s nature, and his plan for what we do and think?

And of course, theology speaks to the practical side of our faith. How should I pray? Does God really answer prayers? Why do bad things happen; why do I hurt? How do I know the Spirit is leading in my life? Is the Bible written specifically for me? Our faith is shaped by our theology–who is God, and what should we do and think to properly worship him?

These are questions everyone has to answer.

All people have a standard for what is right and wrong, and have an idea of the purpose of their lives. We all have to make things make sense in our heads. Our answers might not be the correct answers, but we must have ones nonetheless. What we think about God (aka, theology) affects all those answers, and those answers affect all our actions. Theology is something we already encounter every day, and everyone has their own theology, regardless of whether or not they recognize it or if it is correct.

Since all the world has a theology, if we want to change the world for Christ, shouldn’t we have a clue of what Christian theology teaches?

2: Theology Keeps You From Error

“Stand for something, or you’ll fall from anything.” If you don’t have your own theology, the world will give you one.

There’s several popular t.v. shows currently that present God as an aloof, rather unfair and fairly incompetent deity. He’s out of touch with modern times, refuses to let people into the Good Place, and can’t really figure out how to make everything work the way it should. That’s a theology. That’s an idea about God and his nature. And while not all theologies of the world are as obvious as that, we must be careful that we don’t let wrong ideas about God shape our views.

There’s a rising movement that wants to use she/her pronouns for God–and it can be easy to shrug our shoulders and say, “Why not?” People make arguments for why Hell isn’t real, why Christ was the first created being, or why we should read the Bible just for moral lessons–and while we might feel that these arguments are wrong, without a proper theology, we won’t be able to quite put our finger on why.

You may never have a conversation with the word “neo-orthodoxy” in it–but you’ll likely have a conversation about whether God is most importantly an experience, something you need to feel to be truly real; or whether there are actual truths and facts about God that we must know, and that are true for everyone. People won’t claim “neo-orthodoxy,” but they’ll claim offshoots of it ideas as they argue that all religions are the same, or that they “just need Jesus, not church.”

These are issues that we face every day. Theology deals with the same topics we discuss with our friends–it just uses bigger words. We need to understand it.

Take one of the most common issues against our faith. We need to understand the inspiration of Scripture–how God wrote the Bible through human authors, without using them as puppets to dictate to, and also without allowing them to add in the wrong ideas of their times–so that we can be sure of the inerrancy of Scripture–that it has no errors or wrong facts in the original copies. Our schools and forums argue that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions. Do you know the Christian arguments for why it isn’t?

Theology serves as Batman’s utility-belt for the Christian. It’s been developed through centuries of challenges against the truth and nature of God, and it’s now available for you to utilize. But if you don’t know it, you can’t use it. Even the flimsiest of arguments against the truth may sway you if you don’t know the mighty towers standing against it. For one who doesn’t see the army behind him, two men with swords are enough to frighten him.

So know your true strength. Your faith won’t be alive if it’s strangled by the world’s ideas of God. Learn theology, and “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

3: Theology Makes Your Love For God Alive

We often shy away from theology as something that is dull and boring, just facts about God that will dry up our passion. And that can be true, if we’re seeking knowledge simply for knowledge’s sake. But really, learning theology should help us seek a relationship. Jen Wilken, speaking on women digging deeper into God, pointed out, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.”

Knowledge is needed in a relationship. As you’re dating someone, you’re seeking to know them. I ask my boyfriend about his thoughts on topics, what he cares about, and what he hates–not to gather enough information to define him in an encyclopedia, but because I want to be in a relationship with him, and know who he is. Shouldn’t it be the same with God? When we interact with strangers, we ask them questions about their work or homes to show we care about them as people. Shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to God?

When we know more about God, it brings us closer to Him, giving us more to delight in.

When we see better how He is outside of time, we can better be in awe of how he takes time for us. When we understand better how he gave and preserved his Word through the Bible, we can better rejoice in the fact that we have a God who comes and talks to us. When we see more clearly his glory and his majesty, we like both Isaiah and John, may better fall on our faces, declaring that he only is worthy of all praise and honor and glory.

As teens, theology isn’t something that we often consider or are taught. But we need it. It permeates our life and our choices, it keeps us from errors, and it helps us to delight in God. Theology is the knowledge of God, and we need to know him. That’s what we were designed to do, to walk by him day by day, better understanding him as we do.

And we’re not doing this alone. You’re not the only one in this relationship. As you seek to understand and know God better, he’s coming closer too. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Whether you’re a teen, a millennial, or part of the older generation, we all need to draw near to God. So let’s do the hard thing, and learn theology, knowing God better so that we may also understand ourselves, our purpose, and our world. Learn theology, and learn to know God. Only through knowing him can we find strength to fight the wrongs of the world, only through knowing him can we understand our place, and only through knowing him can we hold out hope to the world. Learn theology, and have your faith be alive.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

 

 

This article was posted in its original form on TheRebelution

How to Say “I Love You”

How To Say I Love You

As featured on the Rebelution.

This summer I staffed at Summit Ministries, which was an exhilarating, exhausting, hilarious, heart-wrenching, broken and beautiful time of growth and service and encouragement and learning.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about questions.

“What do you mean by that?” “How did you come to that conclusion?” “What are the ramifications of that belief?” These and dozens of others were expressed and encouraged at Summit throughout the summer. But I want to talk about one particular question. One that none of the speakers, staff, or students — and yet all of them — ever directly verbalized.

How do you say I love you? Continue reading

Looking Back — My First Blogiversary

My First Blogiversary

How do you measure growth? When you’re young it’s easy: inches and shoe sizes and buying longer pants yet again. But what about when you’re older? How do you measure the growth of the mind? How do you trace the trail of the soul? We can walk about with our eyes the same color, our clothes the same style, our days the same schedule; and yet our insides completely changed.

And we forget. Familiarity breeds — ignorance of it ever being any different. When we forget to look back, we think we’ve always lived in this same plane, in this same place. Which means we lose a little. We lose those hard-fought victories, we lose the jumping in exultation, we lose the heart-wrenching convictions, the spirit-overwhelming love.

Growth is good. By looking back we remember where we came from.

This last year has seemed so very short, and yet as if it’s been forever. Here I am, blogging for a year with about 150 followers. That’s amazing and wonderful and — terrifying. Continue reading

Don’t Spend Your Time Preparing For Your Future Home

Don't

I read a quote the other day, from a title or an article, saying “You should spend every moment of your waking time as a single readying yourself to provide for your future home.”

And I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t actually read the article. And that’s not a direct quote. That’s simply the best I remember of it, though I do remember being shocked at how specific “every moment of your time” was. I did fully intend to read the article, willing to give the author credit for having an explanation, a caveat. But sadly, somehow its page was closed, and I couldn’t find where it came from or where it went. So I shall assume the best of the author, and believe that they intended to explain themselves, and place preparing for our future home in its proper order of importance.

Yet the fact remains, I know of teachers who might just accept that quote as it now stands.

I know of girls who believe that quote just as it now stands.

I  know of people who live that quote just as it now stands.

I used to be one of them. Continue reading

Don’t Forget to Keep Your Sacred

Don't Forget to Keep Your Sacred

I grasped something beautiful the other day. But I lost it.

It had been one of those maddeningly-long days, full of never-screaming-but-also-never-ceasing frustrations, where you clench your eyes and your sanity just to keep from losing it all. Tensed, tired, and dusty, my only thoughts were water for my throat and shower, but on the way there I picked up my tablet. As the water whooshed and steam filled the air, I absent-mindedly turned on my music, hoping perhaps the notes could wash away the heaviness soap and water couldn’t reach.

Fortunately, the living Water is very skilled at doing just that.

Standing there, alone, open, bare; I was overcome. I worshiped. I was renewed. I rejoiced in Him, in praising His name. I returned to my room cleansed in more ways than one; and sat down to continue working on a post started long before, worship music still playing and working in my soul.

In a moment, overcome by Him, I stopped and wrote one of the deepest, most heartfelt, most vulnerable and overwhelmed bit to Him I have ever known.

“Have you felt it? This longing, overwhelming urge to know Him more, this rushing out of your heart to become closer to Him? You’ve had a taste of His love and want to become drunk on it, to know Him more, to have more of Him, just more of His word, just more of His presence, just more of His awesomeness, in the old sense of the word — that, that only is enough to satisfy and you crave it overwhelmingly.”

But — that’s not it.

The sad part is, that paragraph is not what I wrote. That’s only the gleanings, the faded colors of what I remember, the distant echoes of a powerful prayer. Because somehow, I lost it. Continue reading

Think Fully, Love Fully, Live Fully (Summit Ministries Thoughts)

Think Fully

Uncertainty. Fear. Confusion.

Those seem to be the words defining this generation. We are vividly, violently passionate about our beliefs — but uncertain about what those beliefs are. We claim ideas on which to live our lives, but don’t even check to see if those pieces fit together. We are indeed a generation divided — our hearts and our minds, our logic and our beliefs, our words and our actions, our truth and our love — our questions and the truth are seemly separated by so great an ocean that we haven’t even bothered to get our feet wet.

Just look at what passes for truth all about us. Continue reading

Everywhere and Everywhen, I Need Him

Everywhere and Everywhen

I failed this week.

I was so proud of myself earlier. I had planned, I was organized, I was ready. I started my Facebook page, did all my platforming, wrote an average of 400 words every day, peer-edited with my friends, and — failed.

Because here I am, looking at my blog on Friday night, with nothing to publish. Nothing worth giving you. Not to say I don’t have plenty of articles and ideas lying around in my draft box — I do. And they’re all fine. But if this was in real life, they would be scattered all across my desk, scribbled and crossed out, fluttering despondently in the wind from my empty open window. As it is though in this digital age, they just sit composedly in their nice little list, looking up at me asking, “What is wrong?”

Nothing — and everything. Continue reading

Announcement: Life’s Reflections

Life'sReflectionsAnnouncement

Reflection. I like that word. It has two sides, two facets, both weaving and working together.

Usually when blogs talk about reflections, it’s about thinking deeply, thinking back, being reminded. But reflections can also be about mirrors. About seeing reality. About looking at things differently.

And so it gently delights me to tie both of those meanings to everyday life.

Yes, we should muse on the little moments, the deeper meanings. But perhaps we can only do that when we see the meaning behind everything, the One behind all life.

Jesus used bird and farming and everyday life for analogies of the Gospel, why cannot we view our lives in the same way?

And so I’m starting this new series, Life’s Reflections, to ponder on life, but more than that to ponder on Jesus; because I love analogies and need to remind myself how all parts of life can circle back to the Gospel.

I want to see, though it may be in a thousand removals, the reflection of the glory of God in every mundane moment, to think deeply on every little gift, and to perceive clearly all of life’s reflections.

 

 

Hello ladies and gentlemen, I’m so excited to start this new series and journey with you, and hopefully being reminded of the Gospel in all of life! The first post of this series was actually written earlier (Clean Hands in a Muddy World) before I had a proper name, which I could turn into an analogy about trusting and following even when you don’t quite know what’s going on, — but I digress, this is announcement, not a post!

You may also notice a bit of a new layout for Seeing Everything Else, I’ve been changing the look a little, and have added a new section (conveniently dubbed Series ) where you can keep up with this series, as well as catch up with my previous one. But besides these posts every Tuesday I’ll also continue with my regular thoughts on everything and anything in the Christian life on Saturdays as well. I’m curious, what would you guys think of posts on Thursdays sharing an amazing resource or song or poem or video I’ve found across the web? I haven’t quite decided yet, and wanted your input.

Keep on following after Him!

The Most Beautiful Story

themostbeautifulstory

Days they force you

Back under those covers,

Lazy mornings, they multiply.

Life is mundane sometimes. It’s slow, it’s dragging, it’s the same circle round and round again. The sun rises, and the sun sets, slowly spinning round again, and everything seems much the same. We work. We eat. We sleep. We get up the next morning and do it all over again. Life is reduced to dry facts on a page: breakfast, shoes, car, computer, water.

And facts, well, facts don’t do much of anything. Contrary to what we often think, they don’t command you, they don’t encourage you, they don’t comfort you. They only tell you what has happened in the past, and what is happening in the now. You are here, this is going on, this is all there is, and this is all there’ll ever be. Basic, textbook definitions.

So everything becomes a grey list of steady, unending, unrelenting march of facts. Dry monotones that dull your sense and close your eyes in slumber. Basic, textbook life.

But we were never meant to be a textbook. Continue reading

Dear Younger Me, On Valentines Day

Dear Younger Me.png

I looked back the other day and saw you.

Tired, broken, crying out in loneliness.

Because days are long, the future is uncertain, and the pressure to have your plans all scheduled and written out is terrifying. But that wasn’t it. Those were just the fuel to the smoldering pain in your heart.

No, it was because, near a certain holiday, your social media begins to light up with pictures of couples. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s not wrong. In fact, several of your friends had just began serious relationships, and you danced about and rejoiced with them.

You were happy, so very happy for your friends and their fiancés. But, deep down inside, hard as you tried to quiet it, the whispers rose up. Why not me? Continue reading